We have killed the fifth and, for now, final boss of Valheim, officially marking our end with the game until more content is released. At $20, the 136 hours I already have with the game have been well worth the cost. Certainly the best gaming surprise so far in 2021.
I’m trying to get into the flow of Red Dead Redemption 2, and its especially rough coming off Valheim, as the games are almost complete opposites from a core design and gameplay perspective. DDR2 seems hell-bend on having a different UI and way of doing everything in the game (and being a console port doesn’t help), while in Valheim you interact with everything using the E key, and combat controls are the same all game long. It just feels terribly bloated in DDR2, and makes me appreciate how clean things are in Valheim. I’ll say it again; the core reason why Valheim is so enjoyable is its the World of Warcraft of survival games; its not that it has one key super-awesome feature, but instead that the core of the game is so clean and works so well, and if Valheim is WoW, then DDR2 and games like it are EQ2; just clunky and worse-off but hey look, so much ‘stuff’!
Focusing back on Valheim and its gameplay, I think I appreciate two major things about it. First is that the game is consistent from start to (current) finish. You explore more biomes and use better gear, have access to some more utility, but the core loop of explore, fight, collect is always there, and it remains fun. The other is that while not perfect, a surprising amount of the games ‘stuff’ remains useful. You always need more wood, stone, and other basics. Because of how food works, many of the early game mobs are also still needed later into the game, as is going into earlier biomes like meadows and the forest to collect resources. Too many games have an open world in theory, but you still transition from area to area in those worlds, with the older content becoming obsolete. That’s not the case in Valheim.
The early biomes staying relevant is important because exploration is so key to the game, and so enjoyable. The world generation is top-notch, and in all those hours I never tired of cresting a hill and seeing what lies beyond. Sailing around exploring was also a joy in its simplicity and in how impactful the wonderful weather effects are. Nighttime and fog means you can barely see the front of your boat, and that more than once resulting in unexpectedly running into land, which then required some pickaxing to get the boat going again. A storm with huge waves and rain FEELS like a storm, and the water level raising because of that weather effect is also a nice and impactful touch.
I’m sure I’ll play more Valheim as the game sees content additions. It has a lot of room to grow, in a lot of directions. But even as it stands today, its an incredibly easy recommendation for basically anyone. Just a fantastically enjoyable game.