By February 24th, merely 22 days after Valheim’s release on Steam as early access, the developer, Iron Gate Studio, gladly announced that the game sold four million copies already. At the time of writing, a month after release, Valheim ranks third in terms of current player count, just below Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2. So is it worth it? Well, with a very convenient download size of only 1GB (considering our internet here) and a somewhat cheap price of Php 449.95, it might be the game that you and your squad can have fun together.
Arrival on Valheim
Before being brought to the tenth Norse world to vanquish Odin’s enemies, one thing that caught my attention was that the game’s graphic, although not mind-blowing, was actually good considering the file size. However, the optimization left something to be desired, as I quickly realized that I had to reduce the graphic settings to get a decent number of frames per second.
After the character creation and world selection, your character will be physically transported by a Valkyr and dropped off at the spawn point.
This is an important location since each boss that you will have to face will have a respective stone here. This is where the game really starts and the first thing that you can do is familiarize yourself with the controls, check the game performance to adjust it as necessary, and talk to the crow named Hugin for tips although it is not really required to progress in this game.
Craft, Fight, and Explore
Like with most survival games, you will start your first day of survival by picking up stones, woods, and some food you can pick up. Pressing the tab button on your keyboard will let you access your inventory and craft basic tools. However, to craft more advanced tools and armors, you will need a workbench that can be crafted with a hammer. And this is the moment where the game baits people in.
You see, for the workbench to work, it requires you to build a house with a roof. And as expected, I spent an hour or two just cutting wood and building my first house even though I know that enemies do not care whether I got a great house or not. After getting smashed by a lumber of a tree I just cut down, I realized that I need to be more careful and I need armor to be tougher. However, crafting the most basic armor requires leather, which I can gather from killing boars. So off I go hunting boars until I stumbled upon the altar of the first boss named Eikthyr. However, to summon the boss, I need to hunt deers, in which I need to craft some bow and arrows since they are too elusive. And crafting bow and arrows requires a lot more leather, which means more boar hunting. And this is the cycle of crafting survival games that can keep you busy for countless hours.
Valkheim got a progression system in which you can unlock more crafting and area only after killing bosses. For example, before killing Eikthyr, you will have no access to a pickaxe, which you will need to mine copper and tin for the next set of armor that can be used to have an easier time with the second boss. This can be good since people who get lost on what to do on games like Minecraft are somewhat guided, but at the same time provides a very linear progression in which all armors and weapons that you can access are just straight-up better and provides no gameplay variety.
After killing Eikthyr, offering his head at the spawn point, getting a skill, and being able to craft a pickaxe, the game told me to find the Black Forest to kill The Elder. With no hint and pointers on the map unlike the first boss, I just went on and explore. And this is another element of the game that can grip you in, traveling takes time so you need to stock up on food, extra weapons and discover new places. And exploration actually feels like an adventure as you get to discover stronger enemies, traverse new biomes, etc. And since I am tasked with going to the Black Forest to kill The Elder, I just went to a place that looks like a forest and is somewhat dark. And a glowing stone actually told me that I am now entering the Black Forest. And as a welcome, a group of Greydwarf ganged up on me and I had to fight not only for my life but also for the gears and loots I am carrying.
Mine, Smelt Ore Then Mine Again
After getting access to the Black Forest, I discovered that I will need to create a new makeshift base because I need to mine a lot of copper and tin to smelt them to bronze. Crafting my helmet, body armor, and leg armor took a little bit of time since I needed a considerable amount of bronze. Mining ores while fending off a number of Greydwarf was surprisingly fun. However, my most notable event was when I got attacked by a Troll out of nowhere while mining. I instantly felt that they are dangerous due to their size and seeing my arrow barely do a pixel of damage on its health bar confirmed it.
Being confident with my kiting skills, I tried killing the troll even though I know that it will take a lot of time. However, my bow durability ran out even before I could get its health bar to half. I tried running back to my base in order to repair my weapon but it caught up to me, killed me, and destroyed my makeshift base in the process. However, the good thing about the game is it is more forgiving since I just went back where I died and collected my gears that dropped.
Should You Play It?
The short answer is, yes, you should play it. And better yet, go get your friends to download the game with you, create a server and have a blast together. Exploring is fun, you get to delegate tasks, and killing a boss together is satisfying. You could even assign a friend to tank the bosses so it gets way easier.
Another thing that makes this game so popular is that even though it is a survival game, it removed most of the nuisance that plagued the genre. For example, even though it has a hunger system, it is very manageable and you do not have to think about it as long as you gather berries, pick up mushrooms and cook the meats you collected while gathering leathers. Gears can also be repaired for free, unlike other games in which crafted items will have limited use before being destroyed permanently. Due to this, players can actually focus on things that they enjoy like endlessly expanding the house and adventuring.
However, the game is far from perfect. There is a performance issue, the game’s GPU usage is a little unreasonable for its graphics. Weapon balancing is also an issue, for example, playing solo means that you have no choice but to use the bow to kite the boss and other strong monsters, and due to the game’s skill system, in which you get better at doing something as long as you do it frequently means that there is no incentive to change weapon, therefore, reducing gameplay variety. Some parts of the game like the stamina system, which works well in combat, just feel like a nuisance while gathering crafting materials. And the linearity of the game means that there is no replay value. But the good thing about this is that this game is just in early access, meaning the developers will definitely be able to do something about the issue/s it is currently facing. However, I know that it will only get better, so get your beard on, equip your horned helmet and have fun.