Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Valheim - First Thoughts and how to find your perfect world

For once I am playing what all the cool kids are playing these days, which is Valheim, on Steam. It is an indie "survival" game is Early Access, which doesn't sound like much. But it spread like wildfire on Steam, because it is so very good. People tried it, liked it, streamed it on Twitch, and then everybody who saw it wanted to play as well. So now it shot up to third spot on the Steam charts, with more current players than PUBG, Rust, or Apex Legends. Not bad for a $20 indie game in Early Access!

I don't normally play many "survival" games, because they tend to be designed for you to *not* survive. Many of these games are unnecessarily harsh, and the multiplayer versions are frequently about unlimited ganking PvP. Valheim is a "survival" game only in as far as Minecraft is. You don't die of hunger, thirst, or cold. But you do want to have food and warmth and a place to rest in order to gain buffs to health and stamina, which makes doing everything much easier. And the multiplayer version is cooperative by default, players need to turn on PvP if they want to.

So in the end, Valheim plays more like an open world adventure game, with some hints of a lost branch of MMORPGs: Games like Ultima Online, A Tale in the Desert, or Everquest Landmark, which are more about exploring and settling an open world than doing endless quests. You improve your skills by practice. You craft, you hunt, you gather. Finding new materials unlocks new crafting recipes, giving you better tools, weapons, armor, and buildings. There are animals and monsters to hunt for loot, there are occasional events of monster armies trying to invade your base, and there are boss monsters that unlock the next "age" of your tech tree. For example the first boss gives you material to build your first pickaxe, which moves you from the stone age to the bronze age, by allowing you to mine copper and tin.

All this is done on a huge procedurally generated map, which is the true brilliance of Valheim. In spite of the procedural generation, the created maps tend to all work quite well, and are interesting. Maps can be different enough to lead to different strategies. For example the “islands” can be more or less connected to each other, and that affects how useful ships are. In a great design decision, your character is stored independently of the world, so you can go and visit different worlds with your character. Each map has a “seed” code, so you can create a world with a map recommended to you by someone. You can also make a new copy of the same map, which is something I did to “reset” dungeons.

I am currently playing on a nice map, which you could reproduce by using the seed “Tobold0026”. And yes, I created maps Tobold0001 to Tobold0030 to find the one I liked best. For that I used the built in cheat code to reveal the whole map after creating each world. As maybe my personal selection criteria about what constitutes a good map are different from yours, you could do the same. Probably start playing with a random map to learn how to play, and then move to a new world if you find some aspect of your current world sub-optimal. In my case the random map I started on had relatively small “Black Forest” zones on my starting island, so I moved to a new map with bigger Black Forests. Every map has different “biomes”, starting with Meadows for the stone age, then after you kill the first boss, you can find some of the bronze age resources in the Black Forest. However, you always need resources from previous biomes too, so a good world has a good mix between everything.

Besides just landscape, mobs, and resources, each biome also has special points of interest. That can be abandoned buildings, runestones with messages, or dungeons. There are also above ground burial sites, which you can dig out with a pickaxe. Somewhere in the Black Forest you can even find a trader, who buys the treasures you found in the dungeon, and sells you magic gear or fishing equipment. The whole world is filled with enough interesting features to make exploring interesting, while being large enough to avoid the problem of running out of resources. The abandoned buildings you find give you a good idea of how to build a simple house or shelter. But depending on how much time you want to put into this (including gathering the wood or stone required), you can build much larger houses. The necessity to have a fire poses a challenge, if you want to build a functional chimney. Starter tip, you can build the fire outside the house, and protect it with an overhanging roof from being extinguished by rain, which is a lot quicker than building a chimney. In addition to your house, your base will also grow to include storage areas, livestock enclosures, fields, and extra buildings like a smelter to turn ore into metal.

The overall feel of Valheim is very much like living in a world of adventure of your own making. It’s a sandbox, but game mechanics like the tech tree, and the bosses gate the content in a way that you always have an idea of what to do next. Even without quests. It somehow makes me a bit sad that MMORPGs haven’t evolved a bit more into that direction. My recommendation is to check out Valheim, it is a very good game for just $20. And for once, “Early Access” means a game that is already more polished than some “released” games, with an apparently quite active development team, and a lot of promise for the future. Recommended!

I bought the game and tried it briefly. I got as far as the first night, realised I had no idea how to make a fire and then got distracted by some other game. Perhaps I should give it another go or at very least watch some of these lets plays.
To make a fire, you just need 5 stones and 2 wood. Equip your hammer and right-click to see everything you can build without a workbench.
In general if you make 1 of each item (not necessarily all weapons and armor), you will find the the directions you can progress. and how to do almost anything.
How does it compare to stuff like "The Long Dark" or "Don't Starve" or "This War of Mine"?

Because my exploration of the survival genre has, for now, been quite negative.... so I'm not really ready to spend 20E for a game which I may dump after 1 hour of play.
@Helistar: I put "survival" in quotation marks because it doesn't play like a survival game. It is far more player-friendly, and you die rarely. Also the death penalty is mild, you lose a bit of skill and have to do a corpse run. I would compare Valheim more to games like Minecraft or Ultima Online (albeit with far less players per server).

The "will I hate it after 1 hour?" problem is probably best solved by watching a Twitch stream or YouTube video for 1 hour for free. Or this much shorter version.
According to the video, it looks a bit like conan exiles on a pve and low population world. Anyone can confirm (or not) ?
I can't remember if you posted about this game or not but I recently started playing No Man's Sky and thought you would enjoy it. I know early reviews were bad but I've been playing on the PS4 and don't encounter too many bugs. It crashes occasionally (couple times a month) and there's the odd weirdness here and there but it's extremely playable. Here's some of the things I think you would like.

* Sandbox game of billions of galaxies to explore but still has some main quest lines to get you started.
* Economy system that's decent, although pretty easy to beat once you get going.
* Crafting. You can grow or mine raw materials to craft expensive items. To get the recipes you can follow some early quests. Later you have to go to certain buildings and solve a small puzzle to get more recipes.
* Three alien races where you have a mini game of learning each language by interacting with them or special ruins.
* Variety of spaceships to own and upgrade
* You wear a suit that you can upgrade
* You own a multi-tool that lets you shoot things, mine things and other stuff that you can upgrade
* There are ground/water crafts you can drive around on planet surfaces
* Missions from the space station to gain reputation with races/guilds as well as missions from a special summon-able space station for other currencies.
* Base building, some people make amazing bases
* Combat but only if you want it

I'm sure you've heard of this game just not sure if you got into it. I love it to just relax, you get to choose what you do for your sessions. I like going to different star systems and checking out unique planets.
Did you know that my blog has a handy search box in the upper left corner? I typed No Man's Sky in there, and half a dozen posts that I wrote about the game. I didn't buy it when it came out, because of the bad reviews, but bought it a year later, when the game had improved. I played it for 25 hours, before I got bored with it.

Apart from the different setting, I think No Man's Sky and Valheim are comparable in gameplay. Gathering resources, crafting, and base building in procedurally generated worlds.

The main difference is that Valheim is already very polished in Early Access, while No Man's Sky started out very bad and got better over the years.
My apologies, I guess I could've searched. It must have been some time ago, I don't remember reading much about it. Yeah, it can get pretty repetitive depending on your goals. I'm nearly at 300 hours and still find things to do. I only started playing several months ago so I wasn't around for the bad years. I did hear the reviews which kept me away for awhile but then started reading about how the game company issued free updates fixing their game a little at a time.
No apologies needed, it was just a public service announcement. :)
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