Well, it happened. I played Valheim for a couple hours with my friend. As most of you know, what that means is that I subsequently played Valheim with my friend for roughly one week straight before pulling myself out of the satisfying gameplay loop to write this article. I’ll keep this brief:
Valheim is a third-person crafting / survival game. Its Minecraft, but with a little more emphasis on the first person-shooter aspect. Except not at all and honestly, I just wanted to someone’s face become contorted into something dumbfounded, confused, and ugly so I whipped up a Minecraft comparison and you didn’t disappoint.
Valheim is a third-person crafting / survival game set in a viking aesthetic, and there’s really nothing else like it on the video game market today. I say this knowing full well how over-saturated this genre of game is, but I’d like to make a couple arguments to defend my stance on this position (not that I’m likely going to need to, since everyone seems to love this game right now).
The Building Mechanics
are by far the aspect of this game that separates it from the flock around it. The game is very obviously still very rough and in need of a lot of polishing, and yet the building far surpasses anything I’ve played in recent times, and this is very likely due to it’s support mechanic.
You see, every piece of construct you place has a set strength or support. Those pieces tethered to the ground itself are as strong as can be. Place a piece above that, and it becomes slightly weaker. Continue with this process and eventually your constructs will simply destroy themselves altogether unless you properly support them.
This process, which has a mathematical underpinning that hurts my head just to look at, means that each building that is created in-game has to be designed in a (somewhat) realistic way. Players are still tinkering with the process, but I’ve seen impresses structures built with weak materials that manage to get to great heights without sacrificing any structural integrity at all. This dance of function, stability, and aesthetic is testing the creativity of players in ways other games simply haven’t had the wherewithal to do.
This, easily, is my favorite part of the game.
The Gameplay Loop
is, again, an innovation on an old trick. The player progresses through the game by getting resources to craft tools. Those tools allow him or her to gather better resources, which make better tools, and so on. The innovation comes in the form of the end game PVE, which see’s the player tackle a myriad of bosses with unique attributes, abilities, and designs. The bosses award some of the most important loot in the game, and can only be accessed by traveling the randomly generated world in an effort to find their locations, which can be revealed by the study of stones with runic script carved into them, which are all sprawled across the map.
It’s a gameplay loop that’s sufficiently unique and aided by the viking lore of the world, items, and bosses. The combat, additionally, makes for a good time when traversing the world plagued by evil grunts and dangerous animals. It’s worth nothing that, while it isn’t my favorite aspect of the game, the combat serves to carry the purpose for all the mechanics built around it. You’re okay with spending hours upon hours building the best looking, functional house because you need to it store resources. You’re okay with spending hours upon hours farming those resources, because you need them to take on the next boss fight. And, finally, you’re okay with spending all of this time leading up to the boss fight because the combat in the game is just good enough to make it fun to smack some grunts and fire arrows off at a loot-heavy foe.
In short, the combat is likely the thing you’ll be doing the least, but is also the in-game mechanic that makes everything else feel worthwhile. If this was the same game it is now, but the combat was as good as or worse than Ark: Survival Evolved‘s combat, It would flop simply because there wouldn’t be any reasonable goal to drive the player’s towards. A house and armor for protection feels like a waste when protecting yourself with those things is inherently unfun, ya dig?
And That’s Valheim
A viking crafting / survival game that’s nothing like the aforementioned Mienkwaft. It’s better with friends, but can absolutely be played alone, and other than what’s been laid out, there’s not too much that can be said without starting a discussion about the maths behind the game’s programming. And no one wants that.