Valheim Might Not Be Finished, But It Feels Good To Play

Smooth, compelling gameplay and filled with content

Key Takeaways

  • Valheim blends the challenge of the Dark Souls games with the exploration of survival crafting games.
  • Despite being Early Access, Valheim has a ton of content and feels polished in its current state.
  • Valheim’s minimal focus on player-vs.-player is a reminder that survival games don’t need to force PVP interactions to be fun and engaging.
Valheim character exploring the open world

It might not look like much on the surface, with its old-school pixelated graphics, but Valheim is already shaping up to be one of the best games of the year.

Looking at the screenshots posted on the game’s Steam page, it’s easy to underestimate Iron Gate AB’s first game. But, underneath that pixelated surface is smooth, addicting gameplay that’s filled with content, and it’s already started to make waves across social media, Twitch, and even on Steam, itself.

"Download Valheim," Twitch streamer and professional esports host Alex "Goldenboy" Mendez wrote on Twitter. "It’s $20 and is the best survival game made in some time. #NotAnAd I just love it."

Rise Up Warrior

On top of receiving praise from thousands on social media, Valheim currently sits in the No. 1 spot of the Steam top-sellers list. It also holds an "overwhelmingly positive" review rating on Steam, and all for good reasons.

Harkening back to the days of pixelated 3D adventures with its visuals, Valheim has learned a lot from modern survival crafting games like 7 Days to Die. A brutal combat system that forces users to block, parry, and dodge attacks lies at the heart of the experience, drawing inspiration from titles like Dark Souls, known for their difficulty. The result is a smooth combat experience that makes exploring the world feel exciting, while also forcing players to be mindful of where they go.

Valheim character exploring the woods at night while holding a torch

Different biomes give way to new enemies and environmental hazards, like a freezing debuff that requires potions or even new armor to traverse safely. Combined with the deep upgrade system on display in both the weapons and armor, Valheim builds off the same key foundations many other survival exploration games have, and with a good deal of polish smeared on top.

While Valheim is an early-access title, it doesn’t feel like one. There are biomes that are still under construction, and some of the systems can still be weird at times, but it’s smooth sailing for would-be adventurers.

New World, New Me

One of the most exciting factors at play in Valheim is the procedurally generated world, enabling players to set up their own games and servers, all with their own unique worlds. It’s a great way to explore the game’s various biomes and secrets in new ways, and you even can find world seeds that make things more difficult from the start—if you’re looking for more of a challenge.

Valheim character resting at a campfire in the snow

Other survival games also have utilized this feature to keep gameplay and map exploration feeling fresh, though Valheim feels a bit more polished, with areas connecting together without any strange issues. This cohesiveness is important even in games with procedural generation, because it helps keep you immersed in the world.

You can play the game completely solo if you'd like, though the multiplayer co-op is one of its best features. Similar to Re-Logic’s 2011 hit, Terraria, Valheim allows players to drop into your world with any of the items they already have in their inventory. If you’re a player who enjoys playing these kinds of games solo, but you get the itch to jump in with a few friends, the option is always there. It’s also very easy to set up and run your own server from within the game, though a dedicated server may be a better option for some users.

Player vs. player also is an option, though the system is based on player consent. Once enabled in the settings, those players only will be able to hurt others who have enabled it as well. The lack of forced PVP is a huge plus, especially in a genre where games like DayZ and Rust have pushed player conflict as a primary focus.

Usually, when a game comes to early access, it isn’t anywhere near feature complete. Early-access periods often can feel drawn out, especially if the game doesn’t have a lot of content to offer early on. Fortunately for Iron Gate AB, Valheim already feels like a full game. And if the current build is anything to go on, this early access gem could end up being one of the best games 2021 has to offer.

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