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Valheim is better because it rejects boring survival systems

- By rcindyb0
Publish Date : 2021-03-10 11:40:57
Valheim is better because it rejects boring survival systems

Half of PC Gamer is obsessed with Valheim, the Viking-themed survival game that punched its way into the Steam top 10 and sold a million copies in a week, so naturally I don't trust it. How has this seemingly extremely conventional survival game ensorcelled so many people? I stuck on my big beard and picked up my axe, determined to find out. I return begrudgingly impressed. 

The first surprise is how lovely it looks. The distinct lo-fi aesthetic conjures up memories of early 3D games, but elevated by modern lighting and other bells and whistles. Screenshots and gifs don't really do it justice, and what just seems like an old school throwback when static becomes something striking and novel in motion. It's easy to see why it's left people enamoured so quickly. But it's not just its good looks that make it stand out—it's also extremely easy going. 

As Chris noted when he explained why Valheim is making him love survival games again, it's a surprisingly forgiving game, and it's better off for it. Sure, you can find yourself out of your depth, overextended and, finally, dead—this is still a survival game—but these moments don't feel like punishments. In the beginning, there are hardly any threats at all, and when you do venture into more dangerous areas, you're given a clear warning.

Death isn't the only thing that isn't a nuisance in Valheim. There's no thirst meter, and while there is a hunger system, it's one that exclusively provides benefits. No longer will you have to frantically find food because, mid-expedition, you start to die of starvation. Instead, you've got room in your belly for three food items, the combination of which will determine your health and regeneration. There's strategy and experimentation and, crucially, nothing being thrust upon you. If you want to spend a few hours just building, you don't have to engage with the system at all. 

So much time is wasted in survival games just going through daily chores, eating, drinking, fixing or replacing tools—Valheim gets rid of that last hassle too. Bring any damaged item to the workbench and you'll be able to make it as good as new again, at no cost, so you won't have to spend ages scurrying around looking for more resources just to make something you've already crafted a dozen times. When you craft, you're always making something new, or contributing to a new building project. 

In cutting and reducing so much busywork, Valheim's one of the most welcoming survival games around, and the lowering of these barriers is one of the reasons it's currently enjoying huge player numbers—despite the fact that you can hardly move without bumping into another crafting or survival romp. And it loses nothing of value. All the things these systems were trying to achieve, Valheim still manages, without using the stick. All the adventures, risky expeditions and joyful moments where you finally crush another obstacle have been preserved. There's tension and challenge and you can even get squashed by a falling tree—you'll have all the danger and anecdotes you need. But you don't need to go through hours of drudgery first.
 

 

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