So what kind of a game will make someone who hasn’t posted in seven+ years to revive their blog? Not Minecraft although Wilhelm, myself and others must have spent thousands(?) of wonderful hours there. Not even World of Warcraft Classic which we’ve been enjoying immensely since its launch 18 months ago. While I’ve enjoyed those immensely, I just didn’t feel I had much to say about those experiences.
Valheim is different though. It had all the hallmarks of something not worth seriously considering– a survival game that was a Steam early access title and charging money to boot. Ha! Ula convinced us all to give it a go and the rest is history as Wilhelm has dutifully chronicled being the Venerable Bede of our virtual adventures…
Its been a long time since I really got that “five more minutes” feeling and then slinked off to bed after midnight on a work night. Not posting in seven years also means I’m even less likely to miss my bedtime. So what seems to be working with Valheim? Exploration? Check. Progression? Check. Base building? Check. Skill-based progression? Check. Co-op multiplayer (but not massively)? Check. Private hosted server? Check. Beautiful environment? Check. I’m sure COVID fatigue is certainly playing a role in fueling my escapist enthusiasm, but its not the only thing. It seems I’m not alone in getting sucked in.
If you asked me how I’d improve Minecraft to suit my play style, I think I’d end up designing something very much like Valheim. So much so, it feels like someone has been eavesdropping on my brain.
One of the challenges our small group has always been the varied amounts of time that we all have to play a given game. Progression mechanics tend not to be very forgiving for someone with limited play time. No one likes to feel like they are “behind” or alternatively that they are being held back by the slowest member of the team. Our little group made the conscious decision to carefully limit our progression during our times in WoW over the last fifteen years, as painful as that can be, in order to keep us all at the same level so we can experience challenging and level-appropriate content as a group.
Minecraft certainly allowed players with different time budgets to play together and collaborate, but it was always more about building than true progression. Combat, for me at least, was never compelling and more of an environmental risk than playstyle.
In Valheim, there just doesn’t seem to be a right and a wrong way to approach combat. There are situational choices that are favored– I’m not looking to attempt backstabbing trolls yet– but by and large, there are interesting choices to be made and those can simply be based on one’s taste. Positioning and reacting (blocking and dodging) can matter but its not so twitchy that my age addled reflexes are overwhelmed. Rumor has it that content difficulty is scaled to adapt to how many players are involved. I have no data on that, but if that is true, that may be the killer feature of the game. So far, I can thoroughly enjoy/challenge myself as a solo or with several friends on the same content regardless of relative skill level. Whether this remains the case over the long haul, we shall see, but for now. All is well in Valheim.