Valheim First Impressions

Valheim is the latest indie hit to blow up on Steam following the likes of Fall Guys and Among Us in recent months. Valheim is a new survival game currently in early-access that came out at the start of February 2021 and has taken the world by storm. Activities range from building a camp, hunting, fighting wild boar and also world bosses too. There’s something very approachable about Valheim and players are flocking to it in droves.

Valheim can be played with up to nine other friends on a server, and it’s probably best enjoyed with between 2-5 other people. When the game first starts you start out with pretty much nothing. You start off simple by cutting down streets and punching poor animals to death to turn them into a tasty dinner later on.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Valheim is the stylised graphics. It’s similar to an Xbox 360 era type of game, but in a good way. There’s a certain amount of nostalgia for open-world MMO’s back then and Valheim does a good job of reminding us of days gone by. It’s not quite a low fidelity as Minecraft, but it’s a few levels up. Even with its lo-fi style, it’s a beautiful looking game with atmosphere, sunsets and a wide array of scenery and creatures.

In the early game, you start out simple. Build up your tools and your home base, cook, hunt and generally settle into your surroundings. Later on, when you are feeling confident you can venture out by boat (which you can make yourself) and it gives the game a sense of scale and wonder. There are many other games like this out there, but Valheim seems to have captured the imagination of many.

One of the reasons why it’s popular is because of the world boss battles. These are similar to Dark Souls fights, where you encounter an unusually large enemy wandering about between the trees. The Trolls that you come across in-game can be a terrifying experience. They’re big and they want to smash you into tiny pieces, but these world bosses are a lot of fun when encountered with friends.

Valheim’s procedurally generated worlds have a habit of creating compelling storylines. It looks simple from the outside looking in, but it does things very well. It’s easy to create an instance with friends, the crafting system is straight forward but has depth and the hunting and boss battle are really fun. It’s easy to team up with friends and the whole experience feels rather polished, which is surprising for a game that’s still in early access.

This was originally announced at the PC Gaming Show in 2020 and went by with little mention. The team behind the game is a small 5 person team in the form of Iron Gate Studio based out of Sweden. The game has had an incredible start to its life and no doubt the small team behind the game will expand given the popularity. It’ll be interesting to see whether Valheim can sustain the momentum it had now. Fall Guys had a similar explosive start back in Summer 2020 but failed to maintain it’s position as Among Us came along and took over the top spot. Valheim is doing a similar job at the moment already selling 3 million units on Steam since launch on February 2nd 2021.

This early-access version of Valheim has five bosses to encounter at the moment, with nine planned in total for the final game. There’s also Dungeons full of monsters and secrets. It feels very Legend of Zelda, Skyrim and Dark Souls all mashed together with a great social element. So far it’s a winning formula with no sign of the pace of sales slowing down anytime soon.

Much like other survival crafting games, there’s a certain amount of grind to it including collecting materials like ore or metal to craft some armour. As you progress through the game and reach the later areas you’ll need environmental consumables to help you survive the frost or poison and this takes a fair amount of preparation. The amount of preparation does serve as a nice build-up to going out on an expedition and motivates you to get things right, but it can be very time consuming so be aware of that.

Cooking and recipes come into play too with stamina and health related to the food you eat. This means finding new ingredients in the environment and trying out new recipes as well as trying to have the best diet possible. Remember to eat your vegetables as combinations of food will provide some nice benefits.

When you’re not out there hunting, fighting a world boss or cooking then you can build your own little village to hang out in. You have an array of tools to manipulate the environment around you, but if you’re used to something like Minecraft then this had a little way to go yet – but that’s exactly what early-access is for. Base building has it’s moments and you can create yourself a nice little Viking abode to chill at the end of a hard day. The amount of items at the moment to build with is a little limiting, however, it all looks like it’s come from a world inhabited by Vikings. I am sure Iron Gate is gathering tons of feedback and they’ll add some more options into the final version of the game.

Valheim came out of the blue for me and it’s had a really strong start. The world you inhabit is a beautiful one and the adventures Valheim throws at you are fun, unique and immersive. The game is better with friends but offers a nice chilled experience if you want to fly in solo. Visually it’s got its own style which harks back to MMOs of days gone by and Valheim’s mechanics may be a collection of simple activities, but when they have put together this well and simply work as they do, then this adds up to a very satisfying experience. Check it out in early-access on steam now.

Developer: Iron Gate Studio
Platform: PC via Steam
Release Date: 2nd February 2021