Valheim is a resource gathering, crafting survival game centered around Viking mythology. Like most survival games, you start with nothing, and your first task is to punch a tree into submission. Unlike Minecraft, the size of the tree matters – you can’t wander up to a mighty oak and start swinging. It took me a few attempts to figure this out the first time I played. That was going to be my original review for this site, but I knew I wanted to play more before writing a proper article.
Based on the date, it’s been a while since I played it last. During COVID my friend Jeremy and I have been playing online games every few weekends (mostly WWZ), but this weekend we gave Valheim a shot. We hadn’t read any guides or documentation so we went in mostly blind. After a few hours, we had a few decent-looking huts built and were trying to master fire before calling it a night.
I’ve compared Valheim to Minecraft quite a bit because it’s the closest thing I know of, but it’s much more than that. Unlike Minecraft, there’s a plot (which I won’t rehash here), and survival feels less “random”. If you’ve died, it’s probably because you did something you shouldn’t have, instead of a creeper randomly wandering in and blowing up your stuff. Because we were new and wanted to test our limits, we died – often. I think in the 3-4 hours we played we each died about a dozen times.
Thankfully your death site shows up on your map, and you can run back there to retrieve your stuff. Just be hopeful the thing that killed you isn’t hanging out waiting for you to return. (I can say from experience that this also happens often). You also lose skill levels when you die, and the explored areas on your map decrease. Essentially, dying in Valheim really, really sucks.
Considering Valheim is still an early-access game, the amount of polish that has gone into the experience is amazing. It feels like a fully fleshed-out game and reminds me of Subnautica when it was in early access. AI creatures act naturally – deer are easily startled and run away, darting left and right. Fish can be found in the rivers and ponds, swimming in schools. The goblin-like greylings, originally tough when attacking from behind, become panicked and attempt to flee when you start to fight back.
The randomly generated environments are expansive, detailed, and make sense geographically. There doesn’t seem to be any jarring out-of-place transitions between forests, beaches, and waterfronts. The day/night cycles are beautifully executed, and when the weather shifts you feel genuine panic. The wind picks up, and a torrential rainstorm rolls in. The environment takes on a wet sheen, visibility becomes difficult and you frantically try to find your way to shelter.
That’s where we left off – in the middle of a downpour, our campfire extinguished by the rain, waiting for dawn.