Valheim PC Review

Valheim, an indie masterpiece in itself, has made wonders not only for the Vikings as a core concept but managed to improve on the almost depleted survival sandbox genre.

By SnowWhite, Posted 19 Oct 2021

Valheim is a sandbox survival game in the third person, with a procedurally generated world to explore. As a dead Viking, we are transported to the fictional 10th real within the Norse cosmovision; all other nine realms are imaginary too, but Valheim is one created by Iron Gate, the devs behind the title, as a new yet familiar setting within Norse mythology. This 10th realm is dreadful, and even gods are afraid of it, but we are tasked with cleaning duty, and it is our goal to fight its monsters and rid the world of the many bosses within the world to make it a more suitable home and, also, to advance in age.

For instance, when the Valkyrie, which looks suspiciously like a Shinigami from Death Note, drops us off in Valheim, we, as in any survival game, are entirely defenseless and have limited access to tools and technologies. We are living in a literal stone age. As we progress and fend off bosses, we will advance to the next age and get access to metal tools, making our journey much more accessible. Still, the world and its inhabitants become deadlier also, so it becomes a well-paced balance between player progression and difficulty increase that manages to feel like a constant challenge, not so complex as it becomes a deterrent for players and not so easy that it becomes dull and predictable—the right sweet spot.

Valheim, PC, Review, Cover, Gameplay, Keyart, Screenshots

Speaking of difficulty, the combat system. It is as simple as it gets to understand, but dominating it is the real challenge. Valheim takes a page from the Dark Souls book for its combat mechanics. We attack using left-click and defend using right-click, but we can also roll-dodge and parry. As with any game with this mechanic, it becomes essential to dominate the parrying system, as more brutal enemies are almost impossible to beat without a perfect understanding of the parries. But once you grasp the combat system, it is fruitful and enjoyable in its simplicity and becomes almost second nature to you.

Another critical aspect difficulty-wise is construction. Whereas most games have a pretty straightforward construction system, Valheim puts a lot of weight on its foundations. The game takes into consideration the structural integrity of the building, starting with its foundations, as smaller ones will result in tragedy. Still, as with life itself, solid foundations will support any given structure. Now for the actual constructions, the best part of the game is that it will not punish you for making mistakes and experimenting. Yes, if you want to change a part of your building, you will have to destroy it and build it again, but you will not lose a single flint in the process, as all materials are returned to you in integrum.

Now, for the elephant in the room, the game does not look up to par with modern installments, even within its genre. But it does not have to. Valheim was developed by a reasonably small team at Iron Gate Studios, so, understandably, it looks like something that came out of the PlayStation 2 Catalogue. Nevertheless, character designs, set dressing, world-building, and ambiance are charming, immersive, and elegant in their simplicity, so there is no actual reason to diss Valheim for this. Quite the contrary, as, with all its shortcomings, the game feels like a fresh take on the survival genre and offers us a world we want to get lost in.

Valheim, PC, Review, Cover, Gameplay, Keyart, Screenshots

We are Vikings, but we are not all mighty. And every day feels like a new adventure. And every adventure entails unique risks. Therefore, we must prepare, adapt, and overcome every time we set foot outside our home. And the game rewards readiness. That makes it much more immersive than a 120FPS 8K resolution, and that's precisely where the magic of indie games lies. And if we happen to fail, we fail hard, as we are returned to our beds, fully naked, stripped down of our weapons and armor, no matter how far we were. So, recovering our precious equipment might be a new adventure, and that's a good thing.

We are encouraged to plan and to think on our feet in a world that feels alive. You never know when a troll is going to stumble upon your camp far away from home so, if you want to keep your adventure and not return home in the game's equivalent of a nasty hangover, you will need to think on your feet and be prepared for anything the world throws at you. Finally, there is no Viking without sailing. Valheim understands this and makes sailing as much part of the journey as adventuring in firm land. Like in the Norse myths, sea monsters are present, and many mysteries beneath the waters will keep you on your toes.

Valheim has sold an additional 1.1 million units between April and June. Since its Early Access launch in February, the game has sold an incredible 8 million copies. These statistics demonstrate that the game is still quite popular among PC gamers and remains a commercial success. Perhaps this is partly due to the popularity of the Vikings era in the entertainment industry. With Hellsblade, God of War, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and now, Valheim, Vikings have been raiding our collective imagination and made their way back into gaming in a glorious fashion over the last couple of years. Not to mention the original Netflix series, Vikings, and the upcoming Vikings: Valhalla.

Valheim, PC, Review, Cover, Gameplay, Keyart, Screenshots

Valheim, an indie masterpiece in itself, has made wonders for the Vikings as a core concept and improved on the almost depleted survival sandbox genre. Yes, Valheim is standing on the shoulders of giants such as Minecraft and Rust, but there is something about this small indie game that could make us keep coming back for more.

With more than 8 million players since its debut in early access, Valheim is a massive success. Several months later, the game keeps offering content, a promising roadmap, and an expanding world that will entice new players and veterans alike. If you're into the new Viking age in gaming or want to try a new spin on survival games, give Valheim a go. Glory awaits.

Asura Kagawa,

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Coffee Stain Studios, Coffee Stain Publishing
Developer(s): Iron Gate AB
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Survival, Adventure, Shooter, Sandbox, Fighting
Release Date: 2021-02-02

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