A month after the release, Valheim has been sold in over 5 million copies. 5. Million. Copies. Let that sink in for a moment. "Is it a super hyped AAA game made for Xbox Series X and Playstation 5" - you ask? Nope. Only available on PC. "It must've been made by one of the most celebrated and well-known gaming studios, right?" Nope again, Valheim was made by Iron Gate Studio, a Swedish gaming studio based in Skövde. "Ok, but the team must've been enormous, at least?" Wrong again. The team consists of only 5 people!
The story of Valheim is still being written, but one conclusion can already be made. Valheim is a BIG hit. Topping the Steam sales charts since its release, introducing a ton of new players to the genre. With a record of almost 500 000 concurrent players and hitting the Top 10 chart on Twitch - Valheim is something special. AND, it's still only in Early Access. The full game isn't even out yet!
So, what is Valheim? Valheim is a single/multiplayer (up to 5 people) survival crafting game set in the mythical world of... you guessed it: Valheim - one of the realms of the norse mythology. You, the player, is sent there by Oden, the God of Gods, to eventually (after you get your bearings) hunt down and smite his foes. The realm is what you can expect from a magical viking survival game. Nordic animals, benevolent magical beings and terrifyingly epic bosses.
From the get-go, you'll notice that Valheim is beautiful. Bright, pastel colors mixed with earthy tones comes together in a stunning way. Iron Gate has cleverly made the environments look epic by playing with mist, blurriness and focus, and without actually demanding players to have the "latest" computers (the game also takes up minimum space). Objects are pixelated and the "crisp" not what you might be used to in games released in 2021 - but, it's visually stunning in a charming and enchanting way. The haunting blurriness of the meadows and swamps makes it incredibly atmospheric and the far-away surroundings looks like paintings. The stuff that matters is, simply put, pretty.
The combat mechanics is simple, but simple in the best possible way - meaning that you have to learn how your enemies attack, when to dodge, when to block and when you have to attack. No fancy combos, death blows or tricks. In a world where it seems that every game is trying to reinvent the combat system with harder combos and more complex mechanics, it's refreshing with a game that keep it simple and focus on the more important things. To beat the tougher opponents (I'm looking at you, Bonemass), you need to learn their attack patterns - much like Dark Souls - which is surprisingly rewarding - once you win that is...
Together with the immersive music and the natural sounds of leaves rustling, wind traveling through trees and all the other sounds of the forests, lush valleys, misty meadows, snow-covered mountaintops and deep-blue oceans, makes the world feel alive. The huge map is randomly generated - so you won't play the same adventure twice. The map consists of several biomes with a heavily varied theme in each of them. So, you won't get tired of exploring in a monotone landscape.
The crafting and building aspect of the game is also quite simple, but yet again, interesting and satisfying. The developers have focused on what's important rather than to overcomplicate things, and remembered it's not a sandbox game in its core, it's a survival game. You can create tools and building material from resources in the world around you. To progress and build better stuff, you need to defeat bosses and travel to other locations to find other resources. Valheim motivates you to explore and progress, without sacrificing the joy of "being in the moment".
Like many other survival games, food and the elements are factors. However, not in an annoying way. Food boosts your stamina. The better the food (and interestingly enough, a varied cost) the better the boost. At night, you might get cold, but building a shelter with a fireplace will mitigate the effect. You'll notice that you'll prefer to sleep during the dark hours, and go on with your adventure during the day - when you actually can see and benefit from the stamina boost while well-rested.
So, what is it about Valheim that makes it stand out? Why have over 5 million people downloaded it? The easy answer is that it's fun. Plain and simple. It's just really enjoyable to play. It's like playing a game that mimics your childhood fantasies about defeating monsters, building a fort and going on adventures - resonating with your inner child. You can even bring your friends with you on the adventure!
Valheim is not revolutionary. It doesn't bring entirely new aspects and mechanics to the table. What it does though, is to implement bits and pieces of great games into one. It's easy to be reminded of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when exploring the vast world, of Dark Souls when fighting huge bosses and learning their patterns, of God of War when observing the amazing mythical world around you and Minecraft when base building and crafting. Valheim is not mimicking these games, it's implementing the best parts. That's a big difference. It makes Valheim feel like a totally new experience.
The best part? Valheim is still only out in early access. The devs will add even more biomes, items, enemies, bosses - more of everything! We can't wait to play the full release - we got a feeling that 2021 will be the year of the epic viking sagas.