Valheim has been taking Steam early access by storm with over a million downloads in the eight days since it launched and a peak of 160,000 concurrent users. Perhaps more importantly it is sitting at 96% positive reviews from nearly 21,000 users so far. You still might be a little skittish to drop $20 on it, early access can be a roll of the dice with some games petering out even after a strong start.
Here's a look at everything that we know about the game so far and why it seems to be such a massive hit right out of the gate (via IGN).
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What is Valheim?
At its most basic, Valheim is a Viking-themed exploration, survival and crafting game. You are a Viking that was slain in battle and is now tasked by Odin himself to bring order to the tenth Norse world, Valheim and by doing so earn your place in Valhalla. The vast world of Valheim is procedurally generated, so while elements will remain the same between playthroughs you will get a different experience each time. Exploration will take you from meadows to snowy mountains and across bodies of water in rafts and ultimately warships.
The world is populated with both real and mystical creatures, some are passive denizens of the world, but most are hostile including the five bosses that progress you through the ages of the game.
What is gameplay like?
As is typical of the survival genre, gathering materials and crafting are major components of the game. This starts with building a simple club or bow to hunt and ultimately will lead to smelting more sophisticated weapons, building entire villages, farming and building boats from basic rafts up to Viking longships. As previously mentioned, the game's progression takes you through different ages as you defeat the bosses so your crafting capabilities advance with your character.
Crafting your food is no less robust with the ability to mix and match to stack a variety of buffs depending on your needs at the time.
Exploration is naturally another significant element, both on foot and by raft or boat, as you search for both crafting materials and the bosses that you need to defeat.
What is combat like?
Speaking of defeating bosses, combat is naturally another major component of this Viking warrior game. Combat is a mix of attacking, blocking, dodging and when necessary retreating. Stamina management becomes fairly crucial here as you are reliant on it to do any of the above.
Weapon options are pretty standard fare including knives, swords, spears and bows. Fighting the random creatures you will encounter in the world is reasonably straightforward, but the boss battles are drawing some comparsions to Dark Souls.
This is mainly due to the need to discover the attack patterns necessary to take down these often massive enemies, rather than speaking to the difficulty. While many due seem to require a few run throughs to take down a boss, they don't appear to be quite as punishing as many find Dark Souls to be.
Is it multiplayer?
Yes! While you are absolutely able to play Valheim alone, the game really shines as a co-op experience with up to ten players in a group. The developers recommend at least a few players for the best experience, but the difficulty scales for your group so don't worry about steamrolling through everything if you have more or less. There are no PvP elements to Valheim so it is strictly cooperative multiplayer.
Multiplayer does require either that you host a server on your PC for you and your friends or the developer recommends G-Portal as a server rental option.
When will Valheim be out of early access?
The developers have offered a four phase roadmap for the rest of 2021 with updated features, areas and some aspirational updates depending on how things are going. There's no official word on when to expect it to emerge from early access just yet. If you can't wait and want to get in on the ground floor Valheim is available for purchase on Steam early access now for $19.99 (opens in new tab).