The frequency with which lesser known games from indie developers see abrupt explosions in popularity has been heartwarming to see in recent years. The latest game to enjoy that kind of success is Valheim, developer Iron Gate’s open world survival title, which has already amassed over 2 million players following its early access launch in early February. Given all the attention it’s been getting lately, it makes sense that a lot of people will be eyeing it and wondering whether they should give it a shot, so in this feature, we’re going to talk about some of the most crucial details you should know about the game before you make that decision.
Valheim sees you playing as a battle-hardened Viking warrior who’s been ferried to the titular fantasy world by the Valkyries, with your primary task being to bring order back to a world that’s being ravaged by fantastical beasts and monstrosities. With plenty of lore nuggets dropped throughout the world, the scope for learning more about the game and its setting is greater than what you’d expect in a survival title- but the focus, of course, is not really on story. Valheim has many unique elements that set it apart from most other survival games, with the most notable being how it handles survival mechanics themselves. For instance, while tending to your hunger or your body temperature grants bonuses, ignoring those things doesn’t damage or punish you, which makes Valheim instantly more approachable than most games of its kind.
So what exactly makes up the bulk of the moment-to-moment gameplay in Valheim? Well, your goal is to head out into its dangerous world to take on special bosses and defeat them, in the process making yourself stronger and growing your own presence in the world. You’ll be starting off in the relatively peaceful centre of the world, where you’ll build your bases and gather more resources to power up your character, while slowly heading out into the farther reaches of the world bit by bit.
Valheim’s open world is procedurally generated, though it does have fixed elements. There are fixed biomes in place, an each is ruled by a separate boss, and each is more difficult than the last, from the Meadows to the Black Forest to the Swamps to the Mountains to the Plains. The game’s procedural nature, however, means that certain elements of these biomes – such as their sizes, for instance – can keep changing.
Valheim does have a PvP element, but frankly, right now, it’s pretty barebones. Instead, the game puts its focus on co-op. Though playing it solo is very much a viable way of enjoying the game, Valheim allows you to play in groups of up to ten total players, while the developers themselves have said that groups of 3-5 players are the ideal way of playing the game. Heading out together, taking on enemies in groups, and helping each other build bases and grow more powerful brings out a different (and very fun) side of Valheim, so if you can find a group of players to play it with, that’s definitely the way to go.
Survival games are often bogged down by clunky combat systems, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Valheim. Iron Gate have implemented a snappy and action-oriented system that takes cues from the likes of Dark Souls and The Legend of Zelda, with a focus on actions like dodging and blocking. There are multiple weapon types to use as well, such as axes, bows, and spears, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Given its Norse setting, it’s no surprise that Valheim puts plenty of emphasis on sailing. As you venture further out into its world, you’ll be building your own boats and vessels to help you cross the ocean and reach new locations. Currently, the game lets you build three kinds of boats, each faster and more durable than the last, though of course, scrounging up the resources to build them is a pre-requisite. Sailing itself also presents its own challenges, from navigating the waves and tides of the ocean to making sure that you’re using the wind to provide further boosts to your speed.
As you’d expect from a survival title, building is a crucial part of Valheim, as you establish and expand more bases throughout the world. Building mechanics in Valheim, like combat, are quite snappy and responsive, though they’re not too simplified either. Collecting resources, maintaining structural integrity, protecting wooden structures from decay when it rains, repairing damaged buildings, and more elements work together to ensure that there’s always plenty to keep you occupied.
The biomes in Valheim’s world have plenty of dungeons for players to look for and head into, and the rewards that you get in the form of loot and resources are almost always worth the effort. On top of that, there are several bosses to take on as well. As mentioned earlier, each biome of the world is ruled by a special boss, and these bosses can even be resummoned in case you want to take them on again- so if you’re looking for repeatable content, the bosses have you covered.
Of course, crafting is yet another crucial part of Valheim. Weapons, armours, tools, boats, and more can be crafted and upgraded, while different crafting stations also allow you to focus on different things. The Workbench, for instance, is your primary crafting station, the Forge allows you to create weapons and tools and furniture, and the stone cutter allows you to make stone structures.
Valheim isn’t a particularly demanding game where system requirements are concerned. On minimum settings, it requires a 4 GB RAM, a 2.6 GHz dual core processor, and a GeForce GTX 500. Meanwhile, on recommended settings, you’ll need an 8 GB RAM, an i5 3GHz processor, and a GeForce GTX 970.
EARLY ACCESS PERIOD
Valheim’s been in early access for about two weeks now, but how long will it be before the game gets to that coveted 1.0 launch? Well, pretty long. The developers have said that their current plan is to keep the game in early access for at least a year, and that that period could be even longer based on what player feedback is like and what kind of work they decide to do on the game based on that feedback.
Player feedback, of course, has ben surprisingly good for Valheim. At the time of writing, Valheim’s user consensus on Steam reads Overwhelmingly Positive with over 40,000 reviews under its belt. But there are, as you’d expect, some issues that the developers will want to iron out. There’s the typical bugs and glitches you’d expect from any game, but most importantly, as many have pointed out, the game seems to be a little light on content right now. Some of the biomes – especially the Plains – feel a bit too empty, and dungeons in a few of them can be hard to come by. Of course, this is an early access game, which means that it is, by definition, a work in progress, so here’s hoping those issues are ironed out over the course of its early access period.
EARLY ACCESS CONTENT DETAILS
So, what exactly is the state of the game in terms of content and features? According to the developers, as things stand right now, Valheim is 50% content complete and 75% features complete. There are five biomes in the game right now, most of the core mechanics are in place, about 280 different items for players to use and find, over 100 building pieces to use, over 30 different types of creatures, animals, and bosses to fight and slay.
FULL LAUNCH CONTENT DETAILS
What are Iron Gate’s plans for Valheim in terms of additional content and features? Well, most notably, the developers plan to add four more biomes to bring the total up to nine. Crafting and building systems are also going to be expanded, giving players more options, more crafting recipes, more tools, and more crafting stations. Meanwhile, additional enemies and bosses and weapons will also be added.
Currently, Valheim can be purchased for $19.99, but you should expect the pricing to change eventually. The developers have said that while there are no concrete plans in place for the game’s pricing model, they will probably increase how much the game costs as the early access period progresses. Meanwhile, though they haven’t said much about this, you can almost certainly expect the game’s 1.0 version – whenever it launches – to be costlier than its early access version, as is often the case with early access releases.