I have lost many console friends to PC gaming over the years. For me, I like buying a console as it plays all the games available for the system out of the box as they tend to run a decent six or seven year life cycle. Becoming a PC gamer always felt like a time investment, more of a hobby than something to kick back and relax with. Drivers, graphics cards, RAM – all things I do not want to mess around with too much.
That said, the games selection on PC and backwards compatibility outweighs even Xbox. Often a PC game will come around that will tempt me into firing up my gaming laptop (yes I know, gaming laptops aren’t great but as I pointed out above – it worked right out of the box), a game that friends would be playing perhaps. A while back a few of those friends all seemed to be playing one game on Steam – Valheim.
I couldn’t quite grasp exactly what type of game Valheim was from the descriptions they gave, so seeing it come to Xbox has given the perfect chance to fire it up and see if the hype was indeed real. So let me tell you about my time in Valheim on Xbox, through the current Game Preview scheme.
In Valheim you start as a basic warrior who must craft to survive. Music is pleasant but graphically it screams a little Warcraft on launch day. But never judge a book by its cover as they say, as graphics don’t maketh the game. In all honesty though things could look a tad nicer on Series X as everything in Valheim is murky and Minecraft-like in style.
When you finally take control of your Viking after a journey being carried by a giant crow, you find yourself next to some ancient stones. Looking at each stone presents you with a clue on the beast you must take down. Cryptic, yes, but nothing too brain busting. After a brief chat with a smaller crow (or maybe the giant crow shrank) you’ll be off to try and stay alive.
Wandering around to uncover the fog of war on a map is always exciting, so I liked the venture into the unknown to hunt a mythical beast. I thought to myself this is cool, a Monster Hunter style game with vikings suits me fine! A little further on and I meet the crow again, who tells me to eat food. I find some raspberries and eat them and think Valheim is now a survival game. Picking up wood informs me I can build tools and weapons, so now we have crafting – no wonder I had no clue what Valheim was when asking different friends who played it.
I decided to ignore all these mechanics and explore. Across the map I headed and found some abandoned tree house, went in for a look and heard growls. At first I thought it was a dog till I moved the camera round and saw some ghoulish phantom underneath his treehouse I had just invaded! I ran and jumped my way out of there (boosting my jump skills as I went) and decided to collect some rocks.
Gathering rocks was simplistic and intuitive so I happily collected half a mountain’s worth of stone. And then I slid into my first battle. A lizard paddling at the shallow end of the lake beside me decided I was for lunch. I used the old strafe and whack method to defeat this foul beast – and nearly died in the process. At this point I made the quick decision to actually start crafting the items I was told of by my crow chum.
I had enough material for one hammer and a club. Putting these together was easy enough and down came old Hugin (my crow friend), to tell me I can now build a workbench. After a handful of my previously gathered raspberries I decided I was done crafting and wanted to explore
One thing I have always loved in progression systems is when the game levels you up based on usage of the skill. Like in Skyrim, stand around and jump for a good while and your jumping will improve, while your run skill goes up after running. In Valheim I was beginning to settle back into playing the game.
Stumbling into the ominous Black Woods I was advised by Hugin to turn away as I wasn’t ready yet. Taking his advice lightly I was soon pursued by a swarm of skeletons ready to chop me up. Sprinting till my stamina ran out until I navigated quickly down a cliff face, I soon learned to preserve stamina in the future. Choosing not to enter those awful woods to avoid annoying any more skeletons, I ventured onward as the sky turned dark.
Night had hit on my first day in Valheim and I was deep in another forest. Creepy howls and barks surrounded me, really giving off an uneasy feeling and pushing me to hastily exit the woods through fear of the unknown noises paying a visit. Taking out my torch to guide the way, I came across a snowy mountain, being handily informed that I was freezing I chose to follow the woodland path once more exiting into a wide meadow.
In this meadow boar roamed, coming at me fast with little to no provocation. Taking attackers down I gathered their meat to hopefully cook later on as the sun split the sky. Day two had begun, I had no place to call home, I had built nothing more than a hammer and club, but still felt like I had made progress. And then I died.
Two skeletons that I had spied (and avoided) in the woods had clearly set eyes on the boar I just took down. Swiftly my death was dealt and my first restart of many occurred. See, when you die in Valheim, the Souls-like element kicks in and gear is stripped, left at the site of your death. Hugin gleefully awaiting your resurrection informs you of just this.
Whilst slightly deflating I had realised one thing – Valheim had just stripped hours of my life without me once knowing. You see, Valheim has that ability to snare the player’s curiosity and exploratory nature quickly. Elements of many games are found present and blended together well, and so my initial impressions of the murky graphics faded fast as the hooks of exploration and discovery set in.
Fans of Souls games, Minecraft, Monster Hunter and any survival game will find something pleasing in Valheim. For once in my life I wished I had listened to my PC based gamer friends and jumped on the hype train early. Valheim is a pleasant surprise that will clearly become an afternoon destroyer come full release. Getting this title on Xbox is a huge bonus, very playable for a previously PC only release and is one to check out if you haven’t heard of it before.
I am just at the beginning of my Viking based Valheim adventure, and cannot wait to see what I discover next.
Valheim is on the Xbox Store, playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It’s currently in Game Preview form, so await our full review as a full drop occurs. The fact it’s playable through Game Pass makes it all the more appealing.