Our Rating: 9/10
Survival sandbox games are very popular, mainly among PC players. But since Minecraft, a lot has changed in this genre, and great titles stood out for their level of difficulty. And so we have Valheim, the new game from Iron Gate AB that is giving everyone something to talk about, precisely because of its setting and its challenges. The game’s success is surprising: released in early February, the game has sold over 4 million copies on Steam. Considering that the studio responsible for the game is made up of only 5 people, this is a very impressive milestone.
Set in Norse mythology, Valheim does not escape the clichés of the genre but executes them very well. In addition, we have exquisite attention from developers to the game’s physics, climate, and ambiance systems. Everything is very instinctive and fun, even if you die a lot in the process.
In the story of the game, Odin, the infamous “Father of All” in Nordic culture, created a tenth world, which would serve as an exile for all his enemies. This kind of prison world was created apart from the nine kingdoms of traditional Nordic culture. Precisely for that reason, it spent a lot of time on the edge of the gods’ watch… that, the exiles took the opportunity to organize themselves in a rebellion against the gods.
Obliterate the Enemies
After learning that his enemies were growing in strength and power in this exiled kingdom, Thor’s father decides to send humans from Valhalla to this exiled world. Once killed, these warriors could revive countless times until they met their goal of wiping out Odin’s enemies.
This kingdom is precisely Valheim, which gives the game its name. And we, the players, are the warriors sent by Odin to build an army and obliterate the enemies of the Father of All. The premise is very well thought out to give an interesting context to the heart of the experience. Building bases from scratch and getting stronger and stronger, facing horrendous creatures, and trying to survive in different ways.
But of course, the focus of the game is not exactly the narrative, which has a much greater intention of being just a backdrop. But, with some constancy, we received commands from one of Odin’s ravens, who went to Valheim also to help the warriors of the Norse god. It serves to remind us of the reason why we were sent there.
Valheim is a game that proves challenging in several ways. Creatures can kill you with any slip of your attention. Even exploring the world can get quite confusing. This confusion is not a defect of the game, as it is visibly purposeful. It’s easy to get lost in the game world if you don’t pay attention to where you’re going.
Part of this is due to the exuberant and detailed construction of the reliefs, vegetation, and other details of the game’s biomes. It is very common to find gullies, slopes, rocks, and forests of truly dense vegetation. Shrubs and rocks can get in the way of getting around. Ravines can also make you fall and not be able to return from the same place.
The game world follows the logic of Minecraft. A procedurally generated world with some objectives to complete through its exploration. The map is incredibly large and difficult to explore, with very strong creatures appearing after a few hundred meters. In addition, you suffer damage from intense cold, can starve to death, and need to sleep to improve your status.
All of these mechanics are very welcome in a survival game since the game is showing you that you are not strong at all times. You are mortal and if you die, you will suffer losses. You slightly lose your skills when you die. In addition to the traditional mechanics, your equipment is all in your body, needing you to find where you died to recover them.
Crafting and Grinding
The system crafting and grinding of Valheim is very interesting. Nothing to reinvent the wheel here. We have elements of Ark: Survival Evolved and Conan Exiles, both in the equipment construction system and the construction of bases. However, it is important to say that Valheim is much more polished than his two strong competitors. Presenting much fewer construction bugs. With much more creative possibilities than the others.
Remembering the Elder Scrolls franchise’s grinding system, you distribute points on your attributes, to improve them. In Valheim, you use your character’s abilities to improve them. So, the more you swim, run, or jump, the better you will be at these activities. The same goes for combats with a specific weapon, collecting resources with a specific tool, and many other things.
This mechanics that also resembles the nostalgic Tibia Online is a very interesting and immersive factor in Valheim. Your growth is gradual and will require you to improve yourself practically in various situations. Of course, this immersion is not a rule with such mechanics. After all, walking around the map, jumping like a rabbit, or crouching like a frog are ways to train skills too.
Another very interesting factor is being able to modify the terrain as you see fit. With mechanics that closely resemble No Man’s Sky terrain control. So, using a hoe, you can level the ground, make trenches, build plantations or slopes.
Watch out for falling trees!
The cut logs from the trees fall following a very realistic physics system. It causes damage to other trees, buildings, creatures, and even you! Just as gravity influences trees, their jumps, strokes, running, climbing and swimming are also very realistic. Making these mechanics much more immersive and challenging. From the moment you start to understand the rules of this world, you can let your imagination run wild. Start using these mechanics to your advantage, instead of dying or taking damage to them.
The player can very easily have a house all overturned for having destroyed the walls that supported it completely. On the other hand, at another point in the game, you can also use the physics of falling trees to cut down three whole trees by cutting just one. Everything will depend exactly on your ability to master Valheim’s systems and rules.
The Good, the Bad, and the Overall Experience
Along with the physics of the game, we have a very realistic climate system that complements this immersion and challenge. Storms make visibility considerably more difficult, as well as leaving you soaked and cold. Mists make you almost blind, just as night lighting can be quite difficult. Getting on a boat and sailing becomes a challenge apart from taking into account climate changes.
Another element worthy of praise is the Valheim combat system. Recalling quite a few souls-like games like the independent game Outward, their combats are challenging and heavy. Always strongly supported by the defense/avoidance scheme and the coordinated use of stamina. At the beginning of the game, all you have to do is be foolish to face two wild boars at the same time. This will give you a taste of death very quickly.
Even though it seems a little empty at the beginning, the game map is well-populated. Just make sure to take into account this difficulty of the fighting. Try to avoid the crowding of many creatures in a given location. This will make it impossible to overcome the challenge in any way. In this proportion, the bigger the enemies, consequently the more challenging they become.
The game also has several great fighting incentives. It is not so uncommon to find labyrinthine dungeons with undead or other creatures to explore. These dungeons can prove to be quite dangerous from a certain point that you advance in the game. Both for its confusing and tight design as well as for the creatures that can live there.
We also have the “main” objective of the game besides the exploration. It is to complete certain tasks so that you can summon one of the four beasts that function as the game’s bosses. Each is located in a specific region of the game, forcing the player to explore the map to find them.
Valheim is not exactly the most creative of the games of its kind. However, it managed to unite very well the best mechanics of the most influential sandbox survival games on the market. Also, its look is very beautiful, even if it is not very rich in details or textures. Its greatest differential is perhaps the Nordic ambiance. Even though it is common in the industry today, the theme was not directly present in any game of this genre until now.
However, here is one last important comment if you are thinking about purchasing Valheim. Choose to play with your friends (then, convince them to buy too), or else dedicate yourself to colonizing a solo world. That’s because the game still doesn’t have official servers like others of its genre like Ark and Conan. Thus, it is almost impossible to find a world without a password to play online with strangers.
It is clear that if Valheim has achieved such success in sales, it is thanks to a good structure based on Viking battles. The tranquility of exploration generated the word of mouth from which it has derived its fame. Its attractive proposal that unifies the fight against enemies of the gods, with development through its rhythm, establishes it as a game to enjoy, again, as the player wants. There are no chapters. No tense and decisive moments. There are no scenes in which it is recommended to save a game for an upcoming fight the next day. You go your way. In Valheim, you can develop, evolve and prepare for battle with the time you need.