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Valheim Early Access Review | Surviving Norse Mythology

Updated: May 25, 2022


 

Title: Valheim

Development Studio: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

Genre: Open World, Survival Sandbox Crafting, Indie, Norse Mythology, Exploration, Singleplayer, Multiplayer.

Rating: Very Promising: Look forward to playing the full release!


There is something calming about a thunderstorm and I suppose that's why it's called the calm before the storm. Valheim gives me a similar feeling, with the atmospheric weather and cinematic landscape, it provides great adventure and peaceful enjoyment.


Despite Valheim being in early access, it solidifies its position in the open world survival genre with its eye for stylized aesthetics and Norse themes. I have some insight into Valheim’s experience after 70 hours of playtime if you have been thinking about getting into it.


Summary

Note: All of Valheim’s content is subject to change before full release, this review is looking at early development cycle content.


As with any Early Access game, the best way to make up your mind on buying the game is your interest in what is already released and faith in the developers. With that being said, let's look into what Valheim has to offer so far. After you customize your character, the game begins with you being dropped into an expansive unexplored forest. Five standing stones with imposing images surround this spawn area, detailing the five bosses that need to be killed to progress in the game.

With this knowledge, the next step is to start learning how to start upgrading your gear within the crafting system. Overall, many of the systems in place are very enjoyable for being early access, with a solid foundation that will sure to be amazing once fully complete.


Story

Because Valheim is still being created, the story is still very rudimentary. From what I have gathered, it revolves around dead warriors being sent to the world of Valheim to prove their worth through combat. Little pieces of lore can be found on standing stones inscribed with anything from another warrior’s tale to information on draugr. As with most open world crafting games, the lore is not always the most important aspect, but I think with the right implementation, Valheim could create a satisfying story.


Gameplay

The gameplay loop in Valheim is incredibly fun, and surprisingly deep for what appears to be a simple upgrade/crafting system. These systems are split into four different categories; building, refining, crafting, and upgrading. The building system is quite unique, and allows for some incredible build variety.

The Valheim development team actually picks a build of the month from players to showcase if you want to look at what is possible. Link here. Returning to game mechanics, Valheim has a set criteria for what a building should be; a floor, multiple walls, and a roof. These objects require a certain type of crafting workbench in order to use it. Structures also have a hidden structural integrity, if you build too high or too far they will break. If the structure is too heavy such as stone or metal, it requires a stronger foundation to place. Wood will slowly rot when placed in water or when it is raining unless you have a roof. You are also only capable of building near a specific workbench, with things like stone and metal requiring unique crafting benches. Like I said, it is a very complex and unique system that makes the building both challenging and entertaining. Gathering the materials required for these tasks is a large chunk of the gameplay loop, and requires that you explore the world to find new biomes that contain ever-increasing levels of loot. The starting area only contains starter materials; stone, wood, and hide. Varying types of metal are found in increasingly difficult zones which require refining stations like smelteries to use. To be able to fight the monsters that make those zones their home, you have to spend some of those materials to upgrade your equipment RPG style. All of this culminates into a fun grind to deck your character out in cool gear so you can cut down the boss of each zone.


Graphics

Rugged and stylized, Valheim has a way of making rough-edged graphics work to its advantage. The forests in the distance look mysterious, the grass hills you stand on feel calming, and the storms on the ocean are threatening. I believe that Valheim’s graphics are utilized in such a way that it truly is the definition of less is more. Despite the low-poly textures, everything feels like it should look that way. One thing I do hope gets an animation update, which most likely will happen, is some of the bosses lack a variety in their animation movesets. The slime boss in particular is in need of another attack move other than the arm swing attack and slimethrow. Other than some minor nitpicks, the game looks incredibly atmospheric despite the lower budget, and I would say it improves the gameplay rather than hindering it. Hats off to the talented design team.


Is It Fun?

I would highly recommend playing Valheim with one or two buddies that want to dedicate the time to it. My friends and I had a great time going through the game - building, exploring, and fighting. The grind feels satisfying when you bring back a huge haul of wood from chopping down a forest while your friend mines metal from a big deposit. Then, when you bring it all back, you are able to kit yourself out in cool armor and weapons while building a big house that holds all your loot.


Should You Buy It?

Valheim is an early access game, but it's a very fun early access game. Curtis and I got around 70 hours of gameplay up to the last boss created so far, and I still believe I would have a blast playing more. I know I will be going back to playing the moment the Mistlands update drops, and I will certainly re-review Valheim for the full release. If you enjoy great single player or co-op survival crafting games, I would highly recommend giving Valheim a try even in early access.

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