In Valheim, players take on the roles of Vikings, slain in the course of presumably honor-laden battles, who are on their way to Valhalla. In order to enter, they must first prove themselves worthy by eliminating several of Odin’s enemies. Of course, doing so is no easy task, as players start with nothing and must figure out how to survive Valheim’s lands first. Once they feel up to the task, they summon these formidable enemies one by one in ever more dangerous areas. Valhalla awaits, but only the strongest will pass through its gates!
If any part of this premise sounds exciting, then Valheim is probably the game for you. I admitted a couple weeks ago that, despite my lack of experience in survival games, it actually sounded exciting to me for reasons that I could only relate to Fallout 76. (Talk about a leap in logic!) After releasing on PC in 2021 and being available through PC Game Pass for a while, Valheim made the jump to to Xbox Game Pass just last week, and I was right in line then to download it. As a self-described “brutal exploration and survival game,” I expected to have a rough time with it and just hoped that I wouldn’t uninstall it just as quickly as I had downloaded it game. (Not having to shell out any money helpfully quelled any initial feelings of regret.) After making my Viking, Brynhild, and my own world, Alfheim (so creative on both counts, I know), I set off to make something out of nothing.
To call my first hour or so in Valheim “embarrassing” would be an understatement. While a small part of me would have been happy to have some support from other players – Valheim can be played solo or with up to ten people – I was mostly okay that no one was around to see me fail so heavily at learning the ropes. As I said, I went in Valheim with very little know-how, so the basics of survival games, like punching trees for wood and animals for food and leather, evaded me at the beginning. Instead, I wandered around gathering branches and berries, and I avoided just about anything that moved. Action in the game was mostly self-directed, but thankfully, there were also guides, of sorts. For one, a raven named Hugin was my greeter, and it explained the basic premise in the game’s beginning region called the meadows – I was to prepare myself to battle with the first of Odin’s enemies, Eikthyr. As well, scattered round the world were guidestones that provided useful information about the land and its creatures.
It was good few hours before my internal embarrassment faded; but eventually, through both in-game and Internet help (the game’s wiki really did help me feel less lost at the start), I “conquered” the meadows. I learned how to gather resources, build (and recycle) bases, craft gear, and fight off baddies (tricky creatures called graydwarves). I also learned that losing all my stamina (a.k.a. dying) stunk and resulted in the loss of my equipment, which I had to retrieve. If there’s one single mechanic in the game that might affect my long-term investment in Valheim, it’s that one. Yes, I know this is a thing in survival games, and it’s the one thing I really didn’t look forward to in this one. Yet, as I progressed, grew more confident in my abilities, and learned when to run (THE most important thing!), I became less worried about dying. Oh, it still happened plenty, but I also started to see how to use the world to my advantage in making multiple bases and saving the world state frequently so that death was less of an ordeal.
Rounding out my weekend in Valheim, I summoned and defeated Eikthyr, and it felt good. It was in that moment that I saw Valheim’s value within my own library of games. It wouldn’t replace the hole left by Fallout 76, but it did provide me with that same feeling of “from nothing make something” satisfaction. That’s key in survival games and likely why they are so popular. You become your own hero in your own way, and that’s definitely the case in Valheim. When I revisit it, it looks like I’ll be learning how to forge, and I’ll have a new region to explore, the Black Forest (which I happened upon early on only to have Hugin tell me to “turn back now!” I did, but not before dying to an ambush of graydwarves.) It’s too early for me to know just how long I’ll stick with Valheim – it will be another slow burn, like with Persona 5 Royal – but I enjoyed my time with it much more than I thought it would. In other words, I have no plans to uninstall it yet!
All images, including lede, were taken by author during Xbox gameplay of Valheim (Game Preview), © Iron Gate Studios.
Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:
What’s a weekend in a survival game to someone’s who’s barely played survival games? It’s kind of a big deal! Or, at least that’s what my recent weekend on Valheim felt like, which I wrote about on Virtual Bastion. Talk about a game with ups, downs, and everything in between!
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