Gaming has always been among my bread and butter, and today is no different. In this post, we’ll be taking a close look at a new early access survival/adventure title called “Valheim.” Now, for the gamers out there, I get it, “Ew, Early Access.” Oh yeah, I’ve had my fair share of disappointments there too, trust me. However, I would not be calling attention to this game if it was yet another disappointment. Shockingly, the game is far more stable than most early access releases, and contains no shortage of ways to play, from building mead halls and mighty castles, to delving into ruins and crypts, to mapping the vast, procedurally generated world and sailing the open seas, these are just the tip of the iceberg. With sales numbers exceeding four million in the first three weeks, and a consecutive player count exceeding 500,000 in the same timeframe, it’s clear to me that Iron Gate Studios are scratching a very prominent itch for the global gaming community. Not bad for a small team of five. That’s right! The development team started with no more than five individuals aboard. While they have plans to grow, what they’ve managed so far is still an impressive feat.
Valheim is a game inspired by Norse Mythology, which means you are surrounded by environments, aesthetics, and monsters that are straight out of Viking legend. The game’s skybox is even graced by a glowing branch of Yggdrasil, the World Tree! Makes sense since you’re the spirit of a fallen Viking warrior in the tenth world, fighting for Odin’s favor. I will say that it never gets old, looking up at that mighty sight. As you play the game, you’ll be introduced to an excellent music score that shifts with everything from what you’re doing to the time of day or night. Even sailing the seas has its own dedicated score, triumphant and inspiring. The lighting and visual atmosphere looks and feels breathtaking, from the rays of the sun piercing the tree canopies to the glow of sunsets reflecting off the waves in the open sea. The game’s graphics do take inspiration from retro titles like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Minecraft with its pixelated textures and effects, but it melds quite spectacularly with modern graphics mechanics to give the game a novel atmosphere that certainly keeps me coming back.
Survive, Adapt, Overcome
Explorers of Valheim face no shortage of challenges, from foraging and hunting, to taking on the deadliest beasts. From the lowly Greydwarf to the mighty Drake, there is much to surviving and thriving in Valheim, and there are many enemies to overcome. Gather, build, and craft your way to success. Your gear matters. The stronger your equipment, the better your odds of survival. Don’t get cocky though, manage your stamina, and feed yourself to stay healthy and strong. Players who enjoy a challenge thrive in this environment. Every resource counts. Be the forager, the hunter, the lumberjack, and the miner. Explore the darkest tombs and the farthest reaches. For every successful outing, you come back richer with the means to craft and to build. You need to be wary though. You never know what you’ll encounter….. or what trees you’ll need to dodge. Can’t tell you how much my friends and I laughed after my first toppled tree crushed me as I was running away in a blithering panic!
When it comes to building, even in early access, Valheim has a robust system that allows players to design all kinds of incredible Viking themed structures. In my case, I had built a “grand workshop” with an attached dock for boats and longships in our encampment, as can be seen in the above screenshot. That isn’t the only thing that’s been built in this game. From humble villages to mighty keeps and castles, countless players have gone all out as they progress in Valheim. The system for building in this game is intuitive, and not all too demanding save for making sure you have the resources to build. The achievement of completing a project in this game is very gratifying, and gives players like me something to strive for. When it comes to letting you be creative, Valheim has something great to offer.
Now what Viking adventure is complete without the ability to bring friends along huh? I’ve talked about the challenges and the ability to create, but only hinted at the ability to do so with friends. For the moment, the game does have some bugs to iron out when it comes to multiplayer, as with any early access title, but they’re not nearly disruptive enough to diminish the fun. I’ve had a blast joining friends in this adventure, taking on the top monsters as a group is a lot more fun than when you’re on your own. Working together also means you can build bigger castles and face even tougher challenges! Nothing will quite beat sailing out in a group to hunt sea serpents on the stormy seas, and later bringing in trophies and stories to tell as we fill our bellies with mead in our clan’s mighty halls.
The Hunt is On!
Epic metal riffs, roaring gale force winds, and the stench of fear. When I took on the first boss of the game on my own, I instantly regretted it. I was sorely underprepared, barely into building leather tunics and feeling rather insignificant with little more than a flint axe, a crude bow, and wood arrows. You’re gonna want to bring friends, because there are few things quite as metal as taking on a stag with mighty chain wreathed antlers that shoot lightning! Nevermind the fact that this beast can chase you through the forest trying to topple trees on your head! It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once! Unfortunately, it was also the second time I had met my end in this game, forced to make the dreadful walk of shame back to my gravestone for all my gear. Fortunately he had knocked down some birch too, and crushed it into resources I could collect. I now had the fine wood I needed for a finewood bow. I started collecting feathers and flint, made some flinthead arrows for the new bow, and went troll hunting with that new kit for my new trollhide armor. When I felt more prepared, I made my way back for round two. Cue the epic metal riffs. This time, it was very different. The cool part is you can fight this guy as many times as you want, and I made sure to bring friends for round three. Best two out of three. Looks like I win Eikthyr.
Terror From the Deep!
Remember when I brought up sea serpents…..?
I had only just managed to get this screenshot after the bad boy back there surprised me, and boy did it give me a frightening flashback. First time I ran into one, I was on a dinky little raft, sailing to recover my belongings after a troll managed to crush me with a swing of a tree trunk. Just as a storm had subsided, he popped out of the water and with a mighty roar and scared the ever living daylights out of me. With the wind against me, and me paddling my oar as hard as I can, truth be told, I stood no chance. Chomp after chomp he ripped my little raft to shreds….. and I was next. This is what I mean when I say to bring friends. These monsters mean business! The encounter captured above was one I narrowly escaped, but I long for the day when I set sail with my clan of warriors to seek out our triumph and vengeance over these terrors of the sea.
All in all, Valheim continuously proves to be an experience worthy of mighty songs in the halls of Valhalla. My friends and I have been able to do everything from survival and creation to taking on fearsome beasts that completely break from the usual formula of the survival genre. For an early access title, this one has certainly blown my expectations out of the water. It’s stable, and so long as you have good internet, extremely fun in multiplayer. It is challenging, with a fun learning curve, lots to explore, and a striking Viking atmosphere. If you’re looking for a new realm of adventure, this just may be the next game you should check out. Iron Gate Studios has posted a development roadmap hinting at more significant content to be released over the course of 2021. However, they’ve moved most of their news activity to Steam, so if you want to check out their news feed, development roadmap, trailers, and other content, be sure to check out their store and community pages here. It looks like there is a lot more to come, so this review is just the beginning for Valheim on this blog.
- Iron Gate Studios. (2021). Valheim (PC Version) [Video Game]. Skövde, Sweden: Coffee Stain Publishing.
This article is a glimpse at some of the early adventures I took part in as a new player in the early-access, Viking-themed co-op survival game titled Valheim. It is meant to draw attention to a title that has a high degree of potential, and reveal some of the various kinds of adventures players can take part in on this game. It is formatted as an engaging feature article. Writing this article required some critical thinking, a little emotional intelligence, research and analysis, and some collaboration to get a look at the multiplayer experiences in the game. Innovation and creativity were key in my attempt to deliver a meaningful article to readers.
Feature Image is a Title Screen Snipping Tool Capture taken in game.