Valheim‘s record-breaking success isn’t too surprising, even if you ignore outside elements like the current global pandemic and the game’s relatively low price point. There’s an obvious appetite for survival games on PC, as evidenced by the likes of Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved consistently butting heads on Steam’s most-played list. Yet Valheim also appeals to people like me, who aren’t particularly fond of the genre. There are a number of reasons for this, but chief among them is the fact that Valheim plays down all of the restrictive survival aspects that form the foundations of similar games.
The first structure my friends and I built in Valheim has now become known as our home base. In keeping with the game’s viking theme, it’s vaguely reminiscent of a Norse longhouse, complete with mead and a dining table. Colourful banners and trophies of the monsters we’ve slain adorn its wooden walls, and the outside courtyard features a smelter for refining precious ores and a kiln for producing the coal that powers it. Each person has their own bedroom with a place to sleep and chests to store their valuables, and there are also communal chests for everyone to contribute various resources like food, wood, and stone. Meanwhile, the house’s defenses consist of a spiked fence encircling the entire property and an improvised moat that’s proven surprisingly effective at keeping monsters at bay.
Can anyone argue that constructing our forever home would’ve been a better experience if we also had to worry about thirst and hunger meters while doing so? This has always been my main sticking point with most other survival games, and Valheim removes this prohibitive aspect completely. Food is still a factor, but you’re not going to keel over and die if you haven’t eaten for a few in-game hours. Instead, food provides you with health rather than acting as a ticking clock. You can eat up to three food items at any one time, and the combination of which will determine the size of your health bar and the speed at which it regenerates. My diet currently consists of cooked fish, sausages, and a slab of deer meat, but food sources are plentiful, with berries, mushrooms, and other meat-based treats all available to gather and consume.