When I think about Vikings, I often think about huge boats, long beards, heavy metal, and axes, but did you know they picked raspberries, too? Valheim, which hit early access on Steam earlier this week, covers all aspects of Viking life, allowing up to ten players to live out their Norse fantasy across a procedurally generated world.
As far as survival games go, Valheim is pretty typical and features all of the base building, weapon crafting, and resource management we've come to expect from other games in the genre. That is until you come across a giant stag that plows through an entire forest after you and your group of Viking friends. In its current state, Valheim is exciting and could shape up to be one of the best survival games on PC, and I'm excited to see where it ends up after a few updates.
Earn your place in Valhalla
Valheim (Early Access)
- Valheim is a Viking survival simulator with crafting, farming, and survival elements.
- The game hit early access on Steam, priced at $20.
- Taking inspiration from Norse mythology, there are many interesting environments to explore and difficult bosses to defeat
- There are some performance issues throughout.
Should you buy Valheim? Some optimization issues aside, Valheim is in good shape, and it's poised to only get better.
A pleasant purgatory
The game starts as you are ferried into the tenth Norse world by a giant bird. Once you're dropped off, a talking crow explains that you're essentially Odin's custodian, and you're tasked with hunting and killing the savage beast of myth and legend to prove yourself to the Allfather. After that, you're on your own, and the only help you'll get are hints from the same talking crow and runes marked with old Norse wisdom.
In its current build, Valheim features 5 biomes, though I have only explored two so far. The environments are quite nice and are densely packed with things to collect. The visual style is simple, and it reminded me of World of Warcraft - circa 2004, if you can remember how chunky those characters looked.
What did stand out to me was the weather effects. The wind blows violently when storms approach, and torrents of rain are accompanied by lighting. When we built a shelter on an island, I was surprised to find a particularly nasty storm actually pushed the tide up into our home.
There's also a vast ocean to explore, though we didn't sail too far into it thanks to our tiny raft. We managed to sail a bit before marooning on an island and being quickly overrun by the locals. Valheim comes for you quick, and if you're not prepared, you'd better get used to the long walk of shame back to where you died to pick up your supplies.
Epic beast of myth, legend, and folklore, oh my!
Valheim takes inspiration from Norse Mythology, and there are plenty of giant, unruly beasts from Viking mythos stalking the lands. We came across plenty of Necks, Trolls, and even some spooky skeletons, but things really started to get wild when we summoned Eikthyr, the giant stag.
This is Valheim's saving grace, and these battles turn the typical survival simulator into something much more metal. My group panicked as the giant stag shot lightning from its antlers and toppled giant trees as it chased us through a forest, all backed by Heavy Metal riffs. When we finally cut it down to size, we earned a trophy, and once we placed that trophy on the corresponding mantle, we earned a power-up. Even nicer, the power-up is permanent and shared among your group.
In addition to the skills earned by slaughtering giant beast, players will improve their skills by doing just about anything. From running and jumping to chopping down trees, players will quickly level up various skills to improve their Viking's chances of survival.
A welcome surprise
Valheim is in a very playable state right now and is incredibly fun when you're playing with a large party. There's still plenty of work to be done, however. Performance starts to drop in busy areas like the Black Forest, and there were occasional moments where the game would freeze for a frame, only to pick up again shortly after. The developers have already laid out an extensive road map, which lots of new features, including new biomes to explore.
Overall, I enjoyed the few hours I spent with Valheim, and I'm looking forward to spending more time in its world. Whether this Viking simulator can differentiate itself from other survival games remains to be seen. However, as an early access game, it works well, and it's definitely worth a look, especially if you're a fan of Assassins Creed: Valhalla or the recent God of War reboot.