From the get-go, Valheim provides very little in terms of handholding. Aside from the occasional intervention from a raven providing tutorial tips, the player is mostly left to figure out how best to survive in the harsh, procedurally generated world. Whether exploring alone or with friends, resource gathering, crafting and combat are at the heart of the gameplay here; players will need to explore the many biomes of the overworld in order to find materials and resources used to upgrade gear, craft weapons and, ultimately, defeat the five major bosses. Drawing inspiration from Norse mythology, players can also craft authentic Norse armour and build ships to sail the expansive oceans linking the many biomes together.
Depending on the biome the player is exploring, combat can be hit or miss.
The combat itself is fairly simplistic, although arguably it can be made to feel more intuitive with the inclusion of the many weapon types. From bows, swords, clubs, knives and spears, there are plenty of options and attacking styles to take on Valheim’s vast numbers of enemies with. Depending on the biome the player is exploring, combat can be hit or miss. While a biome like the meadows features very little challenge in terms of its enemy variety, the black forest biome features miniature hordes of goblin-like Greydwarfs, which will attack the player on sight. While combat is an essential part of the PVE survival genre, it can be rather irritating having to fight off such large groups of enemies at once, especially when paired with the unforgiving limit on your stamina meter.
Progression in Valheim comes mainly from defeating the five main bosses, each of which provides a considerable step up in challenge from the last. These bosses provide the player with items needed to progress, such as a pickaxe to harvest minerals from the earth. In the 23 hours I’ve played thus far, I have only defeated the first two bosses. Each of them requires that you extensively prepare yourself by utilising the resources that slowly open up as you better your equipment. For example, by crafting a bronze axe, players are able to harvest stronger types of wood, which unlock higher quality items such as a stronger bow. It is this clear and satisfying progression system that gives Valheim such an addicting quality: there is always something to be working towards or something to achieve.
Whether I’m exploring the massively open world, fighting off hordes of mobs or plundering forgotten burial chambers, Valheim presents a fascinating world to get lost in. The surprisingly beautiful low-poly art style and immersive sound design do nothing but strengthen the presentation of the world of Valheim, giving it an almost fairy-tale aesthetic. While there are undoubtedly a few issues with performance here and there, as well as the annoying stamina and eating system, these minor hitches never significantly soured my gameplay. If you’re a fan of exploration, survival or adventure games, this is most certainly not one to miss out on.[Featured Image: @Valheimgame on Twitter]