As soon as it launched for PC in early access a little over two years ago, Valheim became an instant phenomenon, almost overnight. Iron Gate Studio’s survival title has been held up as one of the best games the genre has seen in recent years, and has continued to go from strength to strength in the time since its launch. And while there’s no word yet on when the game will launch in full, it will be hitting a pretty major milestone soon nonetheless, with a Game Preview release on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One coming up in just a few days’ time. If that will be your first time jumping into Valheim, there are a few things that you should know about the game that we’ll be going over in this feature.
SETTING AND STORY
As its name suggests, Valheim is set in a world inspired by Norse mythology. The titular world of Valheim is a place between life and the afterlife, where dead Vikings go to prove their worth as warriors before they can pass on into the halls of Valhalla. Players step into the shoes of one such Viking, and have to rid the world of Valheim of their evils to prove their mettle.
PROCEDURALLY GENERATED WORLD
Valheim takes place in an open world setting, though each world is procedurally generated. Certain elements – like the biomes that you’ll be exploring (more on this in a bit) and the bosses that you’ll fight – will remain constant, but how the game arranges them varies from world to world. The game also lets players load into different worlds using seeds, which you can do while carrying over all of your unlocked skills and your full inventory.
Valheim’s world is divided up into multiple different biomes, each coming with different enemies and bosses, unique resources to find, and different challenges to overcome, and depending on which biome you find yourself in, you’ll find yourself prioritizing different things as you play through the game. Interestingly, all nine of Valheim’s planned biomes have been present in the game since day one, though at launch, only five of them had any meaningful content to engage with. As it stands right now, two of the nine biomes – the Ashlands and the Deep North – are unfinished and still in development, though the former will be fleshed out with the game’s next big update, which doesn’t yet have a release date.
MORE DETAILS ON BIOMES
So what are the seven biomes that the game does have fully fleshed out? The five that it launched with were: the Meadows, which will be the starting biome for all players; the Black Forest, which is crawling with Greydwarves and skeletons, and is currently the only biome in the game where you can find Haldor the Merchant; the Swamps, where you’ll find Draugr, wraiths, abominations, and more; the Mountains, which are covered in ice and snow; the Plains, which are a vast stretch of grasslands; the Ocean, where you’ll find no shortage of aquatic beasts to fight; and the Mistlands, which were added to the game with an update in December.
Speaking of the Ocean, the only way to traverse it is with a boat, with sailing with a full-featured mechanic in the game. Currently, Valheim lets players operate three different kinds of boats, each sturdier and more difficult to build than the last, with rafts, karves, and longships. Interestingly, sailing in Valheim isn’t as easy as just floating out into the water either, since players have to contend with the wind, manage the sail, and more.
Your main goal in Valheim is to take down the big boss in every biome (barring the Ocean). Known as the Forsaken, these are unique, deadly foes that put up a stiff challenge, and there’s a different one of these in each biome. For those who haven’t played the game, they’re best discovered on your own, so we’re not going to go into too much detail abut what to expect from them, but the game does an excellent job with their design and how varied they are from each other.
Multiplayer gameplay is the heart and soul of playing Valheim. You can play the game solo if you really want to, but at the end of the day, it’s an experience that’s best enjoyed with other players. Not only is it a bit too difficult when you play it alone, it also loses a lot of the interactivity and co-op-centric design that makes its mechanics sing. Valheim can be played by up to ten players together in a single world, and having a group of at least three of four is really the best way to play it.
Above all else, Valheim puts the bulk of its emphasis on co-op play, and while that is definitely that the game is primarily built around, those looking for PvP gameplay will find that option in here as well. PvP is restricted to specific servers in Valheim, and it isn’t as fleshed out as the rest of the game is, but players who want to duke it out with each other, attack each other’s bases, and steal each other’s resources have the option to do so.
One area where Valheim differs quite a bit from most survival games is managing meters- in that there’s only one to manage. Other than health, stamina is your main currency in Valheim, dictating actions such as sprinting and attacking. Eating food is one of the primary ways of restoring your stamina, and the quality of the food you eat also determines how much of it you restore.
Like any survival game worth its salt, crafting is a massive part of Valheim’s core gameplay loop. Players need forage, hunt, and mine to collect resources with which to build new tools, weapon, armour, and equipment. All of that is used to progress further and deeper into the world, where you can find better and more resources with which to build even better and stronger things. It’s the sort of loop you’d expect to find in most survival games, and Valheim implements it to great effect.
There’s a vast variety of weapons that can be crafted and used in Valheim, and depending on whether they’re one-handed, two-handed, dual wielding, or ranged weapons, they all have unique attributes. Weapons available in the game include the likes of axes, clubs, swords, spears, knives, magic staffs, bombs, bows, crossbows, shields, and more.
Alongside crafting, building is something else that survival games often tend to place a great amount of emphasis on, and Valheim is no different in that regard. Using resources that you find in the world, you’ll be building all manner of buildings and structures, starting out with simple and modest huts and slowly making progress to the point where you are building entire settlements with their own defenses and what have you. Building is a crucial part of the gameplay loop, and Valheim makes it a ton of fun.
The cycle of collecting resources to craft better equipment and build better structures is what drives your progress first and foremost in Valheim, but there are other, more traditional forms of progression in the game as well. There are a variety of different skills in the game that players progress through by earning experience. Each skill has a maximum of 100 levels, and each determines how effective specific actions are or, depending on the skill, how much stamina they consume. These include the likes of blocking, sprinting, uses different kinds of weapons, using stealth, swimming, cutting wood, and more.