A little while back when the hype was still pretty fresh Libby and I were playing Conan Exiles with the gang but just weren’t really feeling it. Despite it being ‘our’ sort of game it was a little too hardcore, and being the members of the group with the least spare time we found ourselves a little left behind so we started looking for something else.

Valheim looked like a good option. Fairly similar but just a little more friendly, so we took the plunge.

We were dropped, by a giant raven, into a stone circle surrounded by rolling fields with the sea to one side and some light forests to the other. A raven appeared with a glowing exclamation mark over his head, and told us to start looking for wood and stone with which to begin to make tools. We were off.

Before long we had found a nice spot and had built our first (very small) house and were really starting to enjoy ourselves. The game strikes a fantastic balance when it comes to guiding your progress. Giving you a gentle nudge in the right direction while mostly leaving you to explore and work out the details for yourself.

It also has a wonderful blend of objective based vs. freeform gameplay. There are currently 5 (of a planned 9) bosses in the game to serve as an objective for each biome. These give you an overarching purpose while leaving everything else completely up to you. This really helped me as I’ve struggled with sandbox games in the past. I don’t get on well with just being dropped in to a world and told to have fun. These made a huge difference for me as they also encourage you to keep exploring, going to new areas, building new bases and so on.

The progression is pretty standard. Each biome has a range of materials you can gather and use to craft things. Once you’ve crafted a full set of equipment from that biome you should be ready to take on the next, in which you will find newer shinier resources. And repeat.

Some of the biomes are better than others. We absolutely loathed every minute we spent in the swamp. We had more deaths there than the rest of the game combined, I think. Poison is absolute bollocks. The others, though, are all pretty ace. Terrifying when you first arrive, but ace.

It’s not perfect by any stretch. It gets a little grindy towards the end, the combat is a little janky at times (especially on any kind of incline), and sometimes the stamina management is a bit of a pain in the butt. However, overall it’s an absolutely glorious game. The visuals are colourful and lush, the soundtrack is fantastic, the building mechanics are bloody brilliant. It’s a fantastic game to play just as a couple, and I think it would scale pretty nicely up to 4 or 5. Highly recommended.


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