For the past 3 weeks or so, I had been noticing the name of a particular viking-themed game showing up in my various Internet outings. From Reddit to Youtube, to all points in between, Valheim kept showing up. Naturally, I just assumed that it was a game aping off of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla in some way, and never gave it much thought.
However, when I recently saw that the game had sold 5 million copies within four weeks of first going on sale, I felt that I should probably have a more in-depth look at what this Steam “Early Access” title was about. (Not that I’m one who’s easily swayed by argumentum ad populum, but sometimes where there’s smoke, there’s definitely fire.) Obviously, the game’s official trailer seemed like the best place to start:
From there, I watched a couple of other clips on Youtube that went over gameplay, and that fired me up enough to visit the game’s page on Steam, where I promptly made my purchase.
The moment the game had begun, I was drawn in. Taking on the role of a resurrected Viking warrior and embarking on my journey to find a way into Valhalla, I began hunting & gathering food, gathering materials, crafting tools/weapons/armor, and restoring an abandoned house. The immediate goal was to not only keep myself alive, but to also prepare myself in such a way (via skill and item progression), so that I could take on the first of five bosses in the game, which have to be individually summoned and defeated.
The combination of basic survival and progression of skills are expertly done in Valheim, and regardless of what activity I was doing or what goal I was trying to achieve, the game never felt like a slog to me. This is one of those games where you plan to play for an hour or two, and the next thing you know, you’ve been at it twice as long as you had planned. It’s simply one of those games where you constantly find yourself saying, “Let’s play for just a little bit more.”
A lot can be said about the game’s stylized and low-res (yet lovely) graphic style, the brilliant crafting, amazing world, fun combat, and phenomenal sense of adventure, but let me just tell you that this title is GREAT. Honestly, I haven’t been this taken with a game in quite a long time. I know there have been survival-sim games o’plenty over the years, but Valheim simply does it right; the game is challenging and tough, but never feels maddeningly frustrating. Every defeat had me doubling my resolve, eager to work at my goal with a different approach in order to achieve victory. And when those victories happen, they feel very rewarding.
Right from the outset, I knew that I was dealing with something special in Valheim. (Gaming for 40+ years kinda gives you that superpower.) Even though the game is in “Early Access” and is very much still in development (astoundingly, by a five-person team at indie developer, Iron Gate Studio), it’s incredibly feature-rich, solid and quite easy to recommend.
If you have even the slightest bit of interest in this title, I implore you to pick it up. I suspect you’ll find it to be the best $20 you’ve spent in gaming in quite a while.