Valheim is the latest hit survival game that seemingly came out of nowhere, but ever since it launched in early access about a month ago now, the game’s shot its way up of Steam’s popular charts, and it’s all anyone can talk about. On the surface, it seems like just another typical survival game, but there are quite a few things that make it unique from the rest of its peers.
Here are four features that make Valheim stand out from other survival games of its ilk.
The Viking Theme
Even before the release of Valheim and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla just last year, the Vikings have always been one of the more fascinating groups of people in history, thanks to the (somewhat inaccurate) bloodthirsty image of them sailing all across the world to raid and plunder.
While Valhalla was an excellent story-driven game about the Vikings themselves and Eivor’s quest for expansion, Valheim actually lets you live out your Viking fantasy in-game.
The world is filled with beautiful meadows that are as vast as the eye can see, surrounded by rocky mountains and thick, imposing forests. You fight dwarves and trolls, and the sense of exploration you get is heightened as you discover more mysterious artifacts and ritual stones scattered all over the place.
The Viking world that Iron Gate AB has crafted here is deeply immersive and an absolute joy to explore, even if the trees won’t stop trying to crush you to death as you cut them down for wood.
Not Having to Worry About Hunger and Thirst
The biggest thing I hate about survival games is that you always have to manage some sort of arbitrary meter to keep your character alive.
Don’t Starve is probably the most egregious example of this, requiring you to manage thirst, hunger, and sanity, which can absolutely kill you if you let it drop below a certain threshold.
While it is still important to consume food in Valheim, the focus on eating and drinking isn’t as pronounced, and gives players more leeway to focus on the things that are actually fun: crafting, building, exploring, and fighting.
Yes, there are some irritating factors that come into play with Valheim’s food system. For instance, your character can’t eat the same thing twice within a period of time. But considering that you don’t necessarily have to eat to survive, this becomes less of a concern.
The only time you need to worry about eating is when you’re going exploring or fighting a boss; eating food will increase your max HP and stamina, and also improve your HP regen, which makes combat easier.
But outside of combat situations, unless you’re deep in enemy territory, eating food isn’t a huge concern, and it makes Valheim feel very freeing as a result.
Bosses Help Give Players Goals and Direction
While I do enjoy Minecraft from time to time, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a very creative person. I’m bad at setting goals for myself, and I usually build a house and call it a day. But with Valheim, at least for the first 25 hours or so, the game gives you very specific goals that you can slowly work towards.
These goals come in the form of its wonderfully magnificent bosses that you can fight to unlock more materials for progression. You have a helpful (though sometimes annoying) raven that shadows you wherever you go, offering helpful tips as you discover new landmarks or materials.
Once you’ve collected enough of a particular creature trophy, you can then summon a boss to fight. While the combat mechanics aren’t terribly complex or in-depth in Valheim, the bosses are a real visual spectacle and a joy to fight against. Having the bosses be tied to material progression also gives players greater incentive to explore, and it’s nice having that sort of guidance for players who get overwhelmed easily. Like me.
The Realistic Building Mechanics
One of the most interesting things about Valheim is that its building mechanics are so painfully realistic that trying to construct a house can be infuriating if you don’t know what you’re doing.
My first time building a house in Valheim, I wanted to build a two-storey house, and that went very poorly very quickly.
Structural integrity is something that you have to keep in mind when building in Valheim, and as your pieces stack higher and get further away from the ground, they become less stable unless you support them with wooden beams and poles.
Better materials provide you with more stability as well; wood can go up to four pieces away from the ground, but fine wood and stone will let you build even higher, which makes material progression even more exciting in Valheim.
This sense of realism really sets Valheim apart from games like Minecraft, which prioritizes creativity and lets players build things however they like.
While it can be off-putting to some players, I’ve found that it’s become very enjoyable trying to push the limits of the game’s rules and boundaries to see what sorts of structures you can build within them.