Here's why Valheim is as good as everyone says it is.
Okay so, right after getting this site up, I started playing a certain video game that everyone else appears to be playing:
So here's my probably-ill-informed take on it based on my personal experience so far.
For reference, I started playing on February 26 and have 36.4hrs on record. It's also worth noting that the game is in the "early access" phase so this review may not accurately reflect the final product.
Valheim is a Norse themed open-world survival game with a plot and progression objectives. That last part is incredibly important for me. I've played some open-world survival games that just pit you against the environment or maybe other players and that's it. Valheim comes with the tale of a fallen warrior who's been given the chance to prove themselves in Odin's eyes by working their way through the realm of, well, Valheim. In order to do so, they're given a series of bosses they need to overcome. Each boss defeated opens up new potential for the game. It feels completely free to do whatever you want but at the same time, the skeletal structure keeps me on task and working toward a goal.
I was first introduced to the World of Warcraft subreddit r/WoW. Someone had replicated the (in)famous Goldshire Lion's Pride Inn. It was incredibly well done which lead me to checking out the Valheim subreddit. The more and more I saw of what people could do with it, the more I wanted to give it a shot. The ambiance alone was a serious attraction.
This Steam comment pretty much summed up the experience (and sold me on picking up the game):
There's something about starting out in Valheim that just feels so... good. You always start by picking up rocks and punching trees for wood in these kinds of games, but somehow, it never once felt tedious.
Worlds are procedurally generated so no two experiences are the same. Even with all the random factors, my world feels completely natural. Everything flows so smoothly together and no matter how random it is, it never feels awkward or out of whack. It almost feels handmade.
Combat is a lot of fun. I've taken to the stealthy boyer type and my brother plays a heavy armor shield warrior. It's been a blast. The difficulty always feels just about right for where you should be storywise. For example: We just hit the Black Forest part of progression (we're a bit behind but we spend a lot of time on gathering, crafting, and building). We got to a point where even the trolls (big guys who hurt a lot if you're not careful) were pretty easy to knock down. So, in search of our next boss, we set sail into the open ocean. Landing on a mixed biome island we were met with the familiar Black Forest sandwiched by Swamp to the south and Plains to the north. Swamp was just challenging enough that we started dying again, but managed to explore the biome well enough. This seems completely on par for where we were with progression. On the opposite end of the island was the Plains. Beautiful zone, but those killer bees... (I didn't catch their actual names as they murdered me in two hits). Clearly, we didn't belong there yet but our progression was far from stymied by this unfortunate discovery.
The death penalty is pretty good. When you die you lose some experience in your skills as well as drop all your belongings in a marked cairn that will be marked on your map. You can run back to collect them, but if you die on the way, your death marker will be replaced with the new one however your old cairn will remain so if you remember where it was, you can still collect your goods.
Crafting is just... So much fun. I don't usually like this part of a game. I tend to be the hunter/forager and let someone else do all the crafting. Not this time. Crafting is so well designed in Valheim. Even gathering is a lot of fun. I found an area that was chock full of copper and while it's a pain to mine, I set up a little shack I could sleep in and just lived out there for a few days while I cleared up all the nodes. Somehow I didn't feel bored even once as I ran between my cart and the nodes to deposit my loot.
I haven't done much of it, but my brother, being formally trained, admired the sailing mechanics as well as the ocean behavior so there's that.
I learned that the whisps you see around you as you travel the world are indicating wind direction. There's also an arrow on the minimap to assist with that. Also... I learned that wind is not only helpful for sailing, but for aiming your arrows. Yes. The wind affects projectile trajectory. I was floored when I discovered this.
This category matters a lot to me. As mentioned before, the ambiance is stunning. Sometimes I find areas where the sunlight comes through the trees just right so it looks like something out of a dream. Looking up you can see the majestic World Tree wrapping its way around Valheim. The sky is always beautiful with its warm yellows and pinks during the day and starry speckled nights.
Lighting is outstanding. As I just mentioned, you can find some incredibly picturesque locations as you play the game. More than once I've stopped and just taken in my surroundings.
Sound design is also outstanding. From the music that plays in the background, to the way your pick hits a node... Everything was clearly carefully designed. The music always seems to match the biome and is far from overwhelming. It eventually fades into the background as you play, but it makes the world feel alive. Even when you become less aware of it, you know things would be far starker if it wasn't there at all.
Building. Valheim has one of the most robust building systems I've ever seen in a game like this. I'm not very good at planning and my first "house" was a silly little wooden lean-to I built into an existing ruined building on my starting island. It worked until a troll came and obliterated it. Since my brother joined me in the game, I've left the structure fabrication to him. I tend to build little hovels I leave scattered around the land as I explore and gather, but he builds awesome little houses. I'm always impressed with what he can do.
I've seen some incredible things people have made in this game and just from seeing what my brother can do this early on, I'm excited to see what we can pull off down the line.
I can't stress enough how much I love this system. Even my silly little hovels aren't half bad. They're not amazing, but they're cozy.
It's $20. If ANY of this sounds even remotely interesting to you, and you have the money, get it.
This game has no right to be as good as it is at the price point it's set at. The developers have done an outstanding job and they deserve EVERY penny they're getting from this. It's been a long time since I've bought a new game and even longer since I've enjoyed playing one this much. Even in its early access state, Valheim is an incredibly robust and "mildly" addicting experience. 10/10 would definitely recommend.