I don’t post much, but I recently ticked past 400 hours in this game and thought I’d reflect.
I’m in my late 30s and have been an avid gamer since the early 90s. I’m also lucky to still be close to my childhood friends. During lockdown when the game was first released, Valheim presented a way we could get together and commiserate about the pandemic, but also really enjoy this gem of a game in a way we haven’t enjoyed video games together since we stayed up all night in basements drinking mountain dews and eating cheese doritos. Even though we have jobs, SOs, kids, I think Valheim gave a window to that former life at the best time.
First, the vibe of it hits us just the right way. I’ve seen some posts asking what the big deal behind this game is — a big part of that is just the atmosphere: the music, the architecture, the liminal spaces, the sun in the trees.
There are also some solid game mechanics. It was survival enough for us. The stress of the typical survival game did not dominate the experience. You can build all session if you want without worrying too much about your food or fluid intake, or you can explore the absolutely massive map for hours, barely scraping the surface of what your seed has to offer. The combat was a blast, as well, and how all this synergized with the crafting, the exploration and farming and building, all provided niches for each of us. Group synergy happened easily and wasn’t really a source of stress. It’s a massive world. If you want to go off solo for a while, or if your East Coast hours don’t align with a West Coast buddy some of the time, it’s not a huge deal — but one of our favorite memories is hitting the bronze age together for the first time and creating a massive mining industry in the Black Forest, with carts running on torchlit paths, erecting a massive log industrial outpost, burning forges, delving deep into a hillside. Later, fuling village raids are a peak PvE experience.
Our dedicated server has become less busy throughout this spring and summer. We did spend a couple months post-Yagluth playing close to daily, continuing to build, explore, and raid fuling villages, but eventually life picked up again. I just started a solo seed, as well as one with my son, and having spent so long in the endgame on the dedicated server, I remember how fun the progression is. When Hearth & Home hits, we will reseed and do it all again.
For us, this is one of those games you don’t “beat.” You just have fun with it. Not only is it still early access, but as a nearly 40-year-old gamer who’s seen a lot of games over the years, this one really stands out. It had impeccable timing with the pandemic, and considering what it did with the genre, our social contexts, and our interests, it is exactly what we needed.