I generally avoid EA games. There are very few cases where something of quality comes out of it (Hades, Slay the Spire, Darkest Dungeon are notable). I was aware of this game, and the general hype here was that it was in a better space that some games at release. The blogs I follow all seem to have nothing but good to share on the game, and at $20, it’s less than I’d spend at the pub (if it was open).
First things first, the game is still in EA. While I’ve never had a single crash, or found any bugs (amazing!), it’s rather clear there are some rough systems and placeholders present. There’s a breadth of systems here, no question, but it’s relatively shallow in the current state. You’ll always be knocking down trees, needing ever increasing amounts of wood to get things moving. You’ll always need food, which is always cooked the same way, and provides the same boons. Inventory management is painful. It looks like you’re playing Asheron’s Call, which is a really weird vibe with things sort of ‘blending’ visually. So with these rough edges, what’s getting people to play? A few ideas.
- The freedom of building in 3D space is a big one. This isn’t Minecraft where you’re in an X/Y/Z block model. Valheim lets you design free-form, which results in some extremely impressive options.
- There’s zero PvP. Aside from No Man’s Sky, there are few free form options without PvP. I could do without the greifing in ARK/RUST.
- Repairs are free! This is likely just an EA feature, but wow does it feel great to not have to worry about harvesting back up material to repair something. It’s grind work that defeats the exploration parts of the game.
- It’s hard. You’re likely to die in the first 5 minutes. And then multiple times as you go forward. You vs. 5 enemies = you’re dead. Bosses are very hard to defeat.
- Death is an annoyance, not a punishment. Your gear hits the ground and if you get back to your corpse, you get all your stuff back. It’s a corpse run, with all the fun that comes from that.
- It’s long. You’re not going to beat this game in a sitting. Heck, you’re not likely to see the first boss in a sitting. It feels incremental rather than revolutionary in terms of progress gains.
- It’s balanced. This is a weird statement for an EA game, as there are clearly some tuning aspects required. What I mean here is that there’s no one single way to fix any given problem, multiple viable paths exist. Is a bronze mace better than a club? yes, but not like 20x better, forcing you get that to move forward.
- ‘One More Turn’. It is stupid easy to lose track of time here, cause there’s always something else to do. Civ and XCOM spring right to mind on this.
I’ll keep plugging away at it. The Elder is my next target, requiring a boat to reach and a whole pile of bonze to properly gear up. I can easily see myself here for a solid 40-50 hours, which is a great return for $20.