Valheim review: Viking survival simulator elevates Minecraft's time-tested formula

Many gamers would give an arm or a gamepad to be able to relive some of their “first” moments in videogames. Ten years since the release of Minecraft, generations of gamers have fond memories of their inaugural achievements in the sandbox survival game. The awe of the first few minutes, when you spawn into a procedurally generated world wholly unique to your gaming system and look around; the emotion of building your first “proper” house and hiding from the monsters in the night; the explorer’s curiosity that takes you through fields, mountains, jungles and seas. Minecraft is an emotion. But over time, its blocky graphics coexist poorly with the thrill of struggle, survival and mastery. After a decade, you are sure to have figured out its mechanics to a point where the wonder may have ebbed. Enter Valheim. A cruel description would be to call it Minecraft on Norse mythology, but Valheim is more than that. Its five developers in Sweden have lovingly crafted an experience designed to make you labour to reach your goals, adding new mechanics and layers to the “Gather, Craft, Eat, Sleep” formula that makes everything feel more worthwhile. A tree you are felling may fall upon you or crash onto another; the wind’s direction could alert deer to the hunter’s presence. In-game life is hard, but worth it. Impressively, the game blends Playstation 1 era textures with painterly lighting and atmospheric effects like fog and mist. Lightning strikes reflect off the wet and glistening trees, sun rays beam through the foliage and sunsets simply overwhelm the soul. Valheim’s graphics are a love letter to nature, giving rise to moments that would make Romantic-era painters weep. However, what makes Valheim worth playing for hours at a stretch is its multiplayer. Playing late into the night with a friend is among life’s finest pleasures, as you share the burden of building a world, battling trolls and skeletons in dark forests, and laughing at haphazard constructions. Coexisting as Vikings striving to earn their place in Valhalla, you may learn more about each other than you ever would over a beer. Despite launching in early-access form in February, Valheim has already sold over seven million copies.

Valheim review: Viking survival simulator elevates Minecraft's time-tested formula

Many gamers would give an arm or a gamepad to be able to relive some of their “first” moments in videogames. Ten years since the release of Minecraft, generations of gamers have fond memories of their inaugural achievements in the sandbox survival game.

The awe of the first few minutes, when you spawn into a procedurally generated world wholly unique to your gaming system and look around; the emotion of building your first “proper” house and hiding from the monsters in the night; the explorer’s curiosity that takes you through fields, mountains, jungles and seas.

Minecraft is an emotion. But over time, its blocky graphics coexist poorly with the thrill of struggle, survival and mastery. After a decade, you are sure to have figured out its mechanics to a point where the wonder may have ebbed. Enter Valheim.

A cruel description would be to call it Minecraft on Norse mythology, but Valheim is more than that. Its five developers in Sweden have lovingly crafted an experience designed to make you labour to reach your goals, adding new mechanics and layers to the “Gather, Craft, Eat, Sleep” formula that makes everything feel more worthwhile. A tree you are felling may fall upon you or crash onto another; the wind’s direction could alert deer to the hunter’s presence. In-game life is hard, but worth it.

Impressively, the game blends Playstation 1 era textures with painterly lighting and atmospheric effects like fog and mist. Lightning strikes reflect off the wet and glistening trees, sun rays beam through the foliage and sunsets simply overwhelm the soul. Valheim’s graphics are a love letter to nature, giving rise to moments that would make Romantic-era painters weep.

However, what makes Valheim worth playing for hours at a stretch is its multiplayer. Playing late into the night with a friend is among life’s finest pleasures, as you share the burden of building a world, battling trolls and skeletons in dark forests, and laughing at haphazard constructions. Coexisting as Vikings striving to earn their place in Valhalla, you may learn more about each other than you ever would over a beer.

Despite launching in early-access form in February, Valheim has already sold over seven million copies.