I’m not sure how they did it, but they did. They managed to create a game that feels as freeing as Minecraft did back when it was just a fun little early access game for $15.
Valheim manages to combine pretty much the best elements from each survival game on the market today, BUT takes it to a whole new level. It changes those ideas, adapts them to what it’s trying to do, and through doing that has created hands down one of the best survival game experiences you can have. And it’s all packed into a tiny little 1GB download.
The Open World
Ever since the potential of procedurally generated worlds was smashed open by Minecraft, a LOT of games have attempted to use that technique for their worlds, but typically end up just use it on smaller aspects, such as weapons or abilities. Valheim went full force with the idea of procedurally generated worlds, yet without the blockiness of Minecraft. And it’s absolutely perfect.
The more I play the game, the more I’m amazed at the risks taken by going the extra mile to do something truly incredibly, jaw-dropping even, and Valheim has done the seemingly impossible with this game. And that is making a game that uses the whole “Put your world seed name here” to procedurally generate your own custom world… yet it feels hand made. When I explore my Gandalf named seed world (think that’s how you’d say it properly, haha), I feel like I’m actually running around in a beautiful world that some devs designed themselves. The lush rolling hills, the complexity of the forests, the way you are constantly coming across new and gorgeous areas that makes you feel like a genuine explorer, Valheim not only manages to impress with the way it looks graphically, but at the way it mends it together with these stunning locations. And EVERYONE can have their very own world, completely different from everyone else.
You find yourself exploring these beautiful green pastures, trees flowing where it feels like a genuine prairie field. You head through dark and deep Black forest, with absolutely massive trees and tons of foliage to keep you hacking and slashing to clear your path as you head further in. The swamps are dense and dangerous, the Plains are so open and covered in beautiful gold colors. The Ocean is vibrant blue and completely traversable. You’ll come across random dungeons and crypts, caves for trolls, abandoned villages and castle towers, and each time you can chart it on your map which starts completely empty when you create a new world. And these worlds are absolutely MASSIVE.
I started running around for a couple hours, which turned into 10, then 20, and now 60, yet when I look at my map I’ve HARDLY made a dent into all there is to discover. AT 60 HOURS. Yet I want to keep going, and that’s the crazy part. This isn’t a game you want to put down because the world all just feels the same, no, you want to keep going because you want to see what’s more out there to benefit you, your camp, your mission.
I’m still in awe at the world. It’s so massive, it’s so lush and covered in things to do and places to discover. They’ve pretty much made a survival game into your own custom Zelda adventure, where you need to chart and map out everything, find all the key locations, and the more you discover, the more you’re rewarded. Such a key concept for survival games that most of them miss drastically these days.
One of the key things that is so attractive about Valheim is it’s ability to rethink how survival games are played through the means of creating objectives and pushing the player to explore. In Minecraft, the game pushes you to explore because of riches. ARK pushes you to explore for powerful dinosaurs to train. Conan pushes you to explore to fight and capture slaves. Valheim pushes you to explore because it’s what you want to do. And at first, that sounds really boring… until you realize how much there is out there.
Survival games have always had key elements, eating, sleeping, sometimes drinking or requiring shelter or heat. What I’ve noticed a LOT of in recent years is survival game creators wanting to make these games that are just an absolute chore to play, they go WAYYYY too far with it, and although they are indeed realistic, the desire to play a game that is the equivalent to a weekend house cleaning session on repeat is not always that fun. Taking Vitamins to maintain your characters health, using 50 different types of meds to specifically treat a CERTAIN wound, or having to constantly use your valuable resources to repair your very low durability tools is just too much sometimes. And Valheim took what made all these survival games fun, but cooked it in a NEW way, and served it beautifully on a gold platter.
Valheim pinpoints the important aspects like eating food to keep up health and stamina, maybe grant resistances to certain damage types, but you are NEVER required to eat or you’ll die, you’ll just simply be a lot weaker. Sleep is not needed unless you want to skip the night. Repairs for your currently crafted but broken tools are entirely free at the table they are crafted at. Without heat, you can’t get your “rested’ perk, which you don’t absolutely NEED to survive, it’s just a bonus. You see, Valheim is turning survival aspects into a fun optional choice that, in some cases are a MUST HAVE, but everything you do is to better your character and buildings, so you WANT to do that survival stuff. It takes the chore feeling out of doing these things, because they’re quick, simple, but still things you need to maintain so they feel important and essential! It reminds me a lot of Minecraft in some ways, just the feeling of “This makes me better, so I’ll do this as often as I can,” not the feeling some games give of, “I haven’t drank perfectly distilled water in exactly 2 hours so I am 80% dehydrated due to eating salted pork, which only got my health up 5% to a weak 30%, which I can’t go past because my leg has a sliver the size of a log and I can’t get it out without crafting the diamond salad tongs” sort of experience. If that makes sense.
Basically, Valheim has created one of the greatest survival adventures possible, without the bore and chore that so many feel essential to have or their game won’t be “fun”.
Crafting, Taming, Gardening and more
One thing that I’ve been frustrated at with a LOT of games is how easy it can be to just run from spawn and never look back. Valheim, although allowing you to travel a VERY long distance before running into trouble, manages to highly encourage the player to create multiple houses and to do some of that tough outside work. I believe I have 4 main villages and 10 small camps around the map I’ve currently discovered, and that still takes a long time to get to each, from one to the next. Typically I’ll start at sunrise from one, and end at the next with the setting sun. But it’s fun! I feel like I’m creating some sort of province or state, all marked by my custom made towns, some of them more beneficial with crafting stuff than others, but most are just a good place to stop and sleep for the night!
Now, Valheim has a GREAT way of encouraging the players to craft and explore all the options to what you can make, as it doesn’t exactly gatekeep you from certain things, but it gets you fighting and exploring to unlock new items by looting them off of enemies or out of chests. Through that, you’ll learn all the various tools, weapons, armors, building pieces, and more that will only help your towns and villages flourish. My wife Sindy already has this massive house property, with a fully fenced pen filled with (WERE) wild boar that are now tamed and breeding. She also has these massive gardens filled with various vegetables that are used to craft some pretty decent foods and drinks. My personal bases are filled with all the stations I need to craft the best possible gear I can. Not to mention the fermenter for the more potent beverages.
On top of all the cool stuff you can have, the building itself is fantastic. It took a while to get used to, as any base building game does, but Valheim allows you to really dive in and make some VERY unique structures. Of course, you can make your 10×10 block house with a pointed roof, OR you can make a fully slanted and leaning Viking longhouse, with a massive near circular guard tower, stairs perfectly running up around it. They’ve give the player heaps of options on ways to build EXACTLY what you want, but with the cool (at least I think it’s cool) addition of support beams. Adds a lot of realism to how you build your structures, because without the proper support from the ground, your house will absolutely crumble to pieces. At first it can be frustrating because you just want your house, but you’ll soon realize the great looking architectural designs you can achieve through properly placing your support beams. It’s a very interesting system!
Valheim’s crafting, in every regard, just hits so good. It doesn’t make you waste heaps of time, it doesn’t feel like a chore, it just feels like a very well done system that makes YOU feel great after accomplishing something cool.
A REAL Video Game... if you know what I mean.
The more we go further into what video games CAN be, I think we’ve drifted pretty far away from what they SHOULD be. So many games overcomplicate and force controversial topics into their titles as some form of enticement, but as we’ve learned in recent years, that typically doesn’t end well. A cool concept still won’t sell a poor design… or maybe it will, but the feedback and support will hurt its image. So many games can tell harsh and heartbreaking stories, but they’re “fun” enough to play and finish. Other games manage to be more of an artistic styled game, slow and not action packed but crammed with fun content without the agenda. Yet still, others will try to be SO MUCH because they think more is better, and in the end you’ve sold an idea that there’s so much, not necessarily that there actually is. And the fun factor is totally missed in development when focusing on MORE.
Valheim manages to be everything a video game should be.
Valheim is bold and daring, it’s mechanically engaging and involves a LOT of thinking mixed with exploring. It manages to entice by using simple little things that just make the whole world go round. It focuses on the finer, more tiny details, and through that it creates an entire world of possibility. You’re a Viking warrior on a mission, but you need to build up your strength, your shelters, and you need to survive the harsh world to get to your end goal. This isn’t trying to be controversial, not trying to sell you an opinion, it’s just genuine fun. The kind of fun that makes you not want to put the game down, that turns 8:00pm into 3:00am. The kind that makes you want to get back out there even after you die 10 minutes walk away from your house. It’s been so long since a game like this has come out, where the adventure and mystery of what you can do next just feels endless, but it’s done in a way where the journey and exploration is so emphasized and well developed.
Valheim is truly a game you DO NOT want to miss. It feels so perfect, although still only in Early Access.
Valheim Guides and More!
If you’re thinking about picking up Valheim, or you need some help learning some of the systems, check out our Valheim guides by clicking the picture below!