First Impressions of Valheim

I call this a “first impression” post, but seeing I’ve put 15.5 hours into the game this weekend, I’m not sure if that’s legit. I’ve heard about Valheim from various bloggers who were trying it out last week, along with a few game sites that reported on it. Seeing how highly it’s rated on Steam on top of that, and for a fairly cheap price, I pitched it at Syn on Saturday and we decided to pick it up. The hope was to eventually introduce it to the Posse if we liked it and they were interested.

While I’ve played my share of survival games, this is the first time I’ve played a fantasy themed survival game, one that’s based on Norse mythology. It’s a nice change of pace from zombies, and also nice that it’s a flavor of fantasy that I don’t usually play.

You may have already heard about this game, but just in case you haven’t, I’d say it’s a nice blend of a lot of different survival and RPG mechanics. It feels a bit Minecrafty with a touch of Landmark, and a smidge of ARK. But on the RPG side, you have a nice skill learning system similar to Ultima Online or Dungeon Siege (oldie, but that name got tossed out there over this weekend). Syn also likened it a bit to Diablo, though less about the hordes of monsters and maybe more about the monster design.

I know that some people rag on Valheim because of its graphics, but I found it quite lovely in its stylistic way. The character model leaves a lot to be desired, but after playing 7D2D for many years with a lower quality character model, I can be patient about such things.

Overall, despite being early access, the game plays fantastic. Not to mention that it clocks in under 1GB in size – which was a selling point to one of our fellow Posse members – and it does so much with such a small footprint. What a huge improvement over survival games of poor optimization and huge download sizes (ARK, I’m looking at you).

I’ll just say… if this is what Valheim’s early access release looks like, I’m super excited to see how this game will continue to develop in the future!

If you’ve played any survival games, the beginning of Velheim will feel similar. You get dropped in the world with nothing but the clothes on your back. From time to time, the raven Hugin appears and acts as a light tutorial, giving you clues and hints about what to do next.

Aside from that, there really isn’t any hand-holding to speak of. The game focuses on discovery and experimentation, which I like quite a bit.

Like most survival games, you’re tasked to use resources around you to craft what you need. These resources, however, are somewhat gated by the tools you have. For example, we learned quickly that unlike 7D2D, you can’t just go up to a big tree or rock and punch it with your bare hands to get stone or wood. Instead, picking up stones from the ground and punching smaller saplings was the way to go to make your first tools.

As you pick things up for the first time, or craft items from resources, you discover new recipes linked to the tools or resources. It took us a little bit of time to sort through how the crafting menu worked, and then to figure out how to make the workbench functioning.

We discovered the workbench has a radius which is outlined in white whenever you have the hammer tool active. Within that radius, you can build the larger structures such as walls and roofs and floors… You can craft additional workbenches to extend that radius if needed.

We then discovered that until the workbench is properly “sheltered” that it doesn’t function as a crafting station directly. Thus, my first attempt at a shoddy little structure was born.

Poorly crafted roof, but it worked for what we needed

As you might note in the picture above, I was walking around in my skivvies for a bit. I died the first night to several boars who gored me as we were making our way out of the dark forest into a more open stretch of land in the Meadow biome. I was able to make the run to get my stuff back (this game has corpse runs – what a flashback!), but it took a while for me to figure out how to equip armor.

I kept looking for a paper doll system that didn’t exist. Instead, I discovered all you had to do is right-click the tunic in your inventory to put it back on. You do have to do this every time you die and make a corpse run, as a note. It’s a simple system (like many systems in this game), but that also means that gear takes up some of your inventory slots and adds to the weight you carry (you can get encumbered if you carry too much).

Anyhow, once we’d figured out the basics of building and crafting, I set out to build an actual house. I knew from some of the tips I read that you needed:

  • A fire inside to keep warm and get a rested buff
  • Beds somewhat near the fire, but not too close – you can set yourself on fire if you don’t take care
  • An opening to vent the smoke from the fire or you will start taking damage from breathing smoke
  • A wall surrounding the base because I heard there were enemy attacks

I tried not to spoil too much for myself before playing this game, but I’d already run across that kind of knowledge and put it to use.

The start of a new house

From there, we were kinda on our own for a bit. We knew that we could craft better gear and tools from things like leather scraps and eventually bone fragments. We also started looking into what it took to upgrade the workbench – that allowed us further upgrades to our stuff.

I experimented with different weapons, collected flint and learned to take care when chopping down trees. Physics is a thing in this game and trees can kill you if they fall on you (or bounce back and hit you). I’ve died to trees more than I’d like to admit.

The battle system is really straightforward, too. One button to attack, one to block and middle mouse button to do some other kind of attack (I rarely use middle mouse button for anything, so I didn’t think to use it often). I discovered I liked the axe the best starting out.

There’s also a sneaking skill. While I rarely use sneaking in games, I discovered it was very handy when hunting deer. Deer are super skittish and will run off at the sight of you, so while you can hunt them with a bow, I had more fun sneaking up behind them and taking them out with one blow.

You learn really fast that you need a lot of leather from boar and deer in the early stages as it’s used for just about everything. And the meat that they drop is also much needed.

We learned that the food system in this game was different from others. You can eat up to three different kinds of food at any given time, which expands both your health bar and your stamina to max. Without the food buff, you don’t starve, but you have a very limited health bar until you do eat. You certainly don’t want to stray too far without food buffs.

In the meantime, I worked on getting a wall around our outpost. I’d heard that you could get attacks on your base, though we didn’t actually see an attack until much later into the game. Oh, and the storm/rain weather is pretty epic as you can see below:

About that point in the game, Syn had discovered two other things: a nearby biome called the Black Forest and an altar to what I knew was our first boss fight. Though I knew of the fight, I wasn’t spoiled for any mechanics on it. I just knew we needed to make sure we’d upgraded as much as we could before taking it on.

Seeing that this post has gone on long enough, I’ll talk about that adventure in the next post! We’ve spent enough time in this game that I have had lots to write about, and I’d like to break it up some! See you next time for our boss fight!