What happened to the last couple months!? I was happily working on projects, staying on task and being reasonably focused about getting things done when *BAM*, I got hit by a Viking! Well, a game. About vikings. Sort of.

In early February a new game hit in what’s called Early Access on Steam (for PC only right now) called Valheim. In this game you are a viking and have died and been reborn on the “Tenth World” a brand new and unexplored space filled with monsters and danger, but also familiar things like birds, deer, boars and wolves.

You start out with nothing and have to build everything you need, which means collecting rocks and punching trees to start out, just to make very low quality axe so that you can chop slightly bigger trees or maybe sneak up on a deer and take it out (if the wind is in your face, because deer can smell you otherwise).

Over time, you become more skilled (you get better at the skills you practice, from wielding your axe to running and swimming – my best skill is running, which tells you something about the risks) and can take on bigger monsters, more monsters and face things which would make you run away when you started the game.

This game scratches several itches which I know I have in a game like this:

  • Exploration: Your map only reveals what you can “see” or where you’ve been. And the world is BIG!
  • Survival: You have to scrounge for food to improve your odds of survival. When you start, finding a few mushrooms or some berries can be a big deal.
  • Base Building: As you grow, you can build a base. Initially, it’ll be small cabin, but eventually you can build much bigger, more impressive buildings using better timber and stone. This is where we can get really creative in our design using simple lego-like components to build some very impressive structures.
  • Challenges Scale: Over time, what used to cause you to run screaming just becomes an irritation. What once was a death sentence can now be dealt with with little risk as we become more powerful vikings
  • Networked Play: You can play with up to 10 friends on a shared “world” that you can modify and explore and conquer. You can also just play by yourself if your friends are busy.

It has a few issues, but as the game is still Early Access, that’s understandable:

  • There are five “Bosses” to beat, out of probably 9 or 10 that will eventually be available, so the game isn’t complete.
  • The game does require a fair bit of time spent farming or smelting ores or having to take a boat from one location to another. You can build Portals that connect two locations, but there are some items (metal ores) that can’t be transported through the Portals, meaning you have to put them on a boat and transport them. Most games like this will have things that feel like time sinks and this game is no exception. I may spend a half-hour farming, planting seeds, collecting vegetables, turning them into soups and stews, repairing my tools, checking the progress of smelters and filling them with coal, etc. It’s not too much of this sort of thing, but it’s close.

Having said all that, the game is in incredibly strong shape for an Early Access game and is very, very playable, especially when you consider that the Development Team on this project was five folks. The game blew up a bit, so they have now sold approaching six million units at $20, so I suspect they’ll be able to afford a few more staff, in addition to a few new cars and whatnot.

I have currently played all the content available and do have a few things to wrap up with some friends, but I suspect I will put the game on the shelf for a while, if only to allow them to develop some more content for me to consume. Regardless, if I look at the number of hours I spent on this game (a number which Steam shares with me, but I won’t be sharing with you, if only out of a lingering sense of shame…), there’s no question I got my value out of this game, even at this point.

I’ll close by sharing some photos from the game, which I think is absolutely beautiful in presentation and execution.

Now, off to do something that doesn’t involve doing virtual farming/smelting/work in a game, on a world that exists only when it’s turned on…

Exploring: Just some shots about exploring the world

Out exploring. This is a biome that isn’t ready yet, which is good because it’s creepy.
Similar view, but just pretty!
More exploring in a very atmospheric but terrifying area (at the time).

Base Building

This is a view of my Viking and his base. It sits down on the water and has a gorgeous view.
Weird little things you can do in the game like build a sun-dial to tell the rough time of day.

Emergent Adventures

Games like this offer “emergent adventures” that just arise or we create ourselves. In this case, I renovated a village that had been overrun with monsters and prepared it for a prospective return of more villagers. Mostly because it amused me.
Categories: Personal

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