Valheim. I had not even heard of the game until late Saturday afternoon when Ula mentioned it in Discord.
I didn’t have anything going on that evening and made that most egregious gamer purchasing decision, which is buying anything after 8pm when you’re feeling a bit bored.
I have many an unplayed or underplayed game in my Steam library due to such moments.
But Valheim… is pretty good.
In the game you are a Norse warrior who has died, but rather than finding yourself in Valhalla, you end up being dropped off in Valheim, the neglected tenth world, by one of Odin’s pet ravens, Huginn. Or Hugin… for Norse copyright reasons? In order to make it to Valhalla you have some work to do there in order to gain Odin’s favor.
But you’re wet, tired, naked, it is probably night time, and there is stuff out in the darkness that wants to kill you. And so begins the classic “start with nothing to build an empire” trek.
At this point Valdheim will seem fairly familiar to games like Medieval Engineers, H1Z1: Just Survive, Amazon’s New World if you’ve been in any of the testing phases, or even Minecraft or RimWorld in their own ways. You start with next to nothing and have to survive, then build up, then begin to master the world.
So off you go to gather some wood and some stones to make a stone axe. With that you can chop some trees for more wood… and start killing the local boar population for meat and leather. Then you can make a hammer which unlocks the start of your building options. Soon you are working on a bed, a fire, a workbench, and a place to house it all.
As noted above, this probably sounds like a somewhat familiar formula. So what makes Valheim special?
For openers, it works. Well. A $20 game that has been in early access on Steam for a week has no right to be this solid. It is in danger of making people think that early access isn’t some shit tier for devs to try and make some money from their broken, half done game ideas. My first two hour play session saw nary a glitch.
It also looks good. Better than it should. When you get a close look at things they can be pixelated and the polygon count becomes a bit obvious, and the distance is taken care of in a soft focus sort of way, but in between, which is where you spent most of your time, the world looks really good.
Again, better than fresh $20 early access game ought to. And the atmospheric effects in the passing of the day, the darkness of night, the wind and rain and fog… it is all very good.
It also runs, full screen, on my widescreen 34″ monitor without complaint, looks good, and doesn’t make me motion sick. A triple bonus.
And it is kind of fun. There is the sandbox like ability to just run off and do what you want, but there are also some goals and a story for you to play through if you want, with Hugin showing up to tell you what is going on when something new springs up in the world, like if you die.
Death is a transitory experience… you are dead already after all… but if you want your stuff back there is a corpse run involved. Your respawn point is your bed, which is very Minecraft.
And the big story, your mission in the game, should you choose to accept it, is there waiting for you. You have trophies to acquire for Odin’s pleasure.
Accomplishing Odin’s mission means exploring the world, and it is both large and dangerous.
Oh, and there are boats. I built a raft pretty quickly and was able to set sail.
So some of that world exploration will be done afloat.
And the whole thing is multiplayer co-op capable, allowing 1-10 players in a world. And the worlds are all procedurally generated from a seed value, so can be quite varied.
It is still in early access of course, and a work in progress. Some aspects lack as many options as one might expect. Character creation is very simple.
But it seems very solid.
The UI is typical FPS in that you move with WASD and point/aim with your cursor. The UI conventions are different… especially if you’ve been playing a lot of WoW Classic lately… but are simple, robust, and clear once you get used to them.
Based on my scouting out the game and the glowing reviews it is getting on Steam, Skronk and Ula have also picked up a copy. My next post will likely be about our attempts to play together in Valheim.
And it seems we won’t be the only ones playing. The game appears to have grabbed some attention.