With its recent expansion of “Hearth & Home,” Valheim continues to show why its formula of action adventure and cottagecore crafting, the aesthetic of building cottages, has drawn in nearly eight million players.
Created by indie developer Iron Gate AB, Valheim originally released into Steam’s early access program on Feb. 2, 2021, and gained one million sales in its first week. A great success for a game studio born in 2019.
Playing the game, it’s easy to see why.
A Norse warrior opens the door to their humble homestead, shaking off the rain from their battle-worn armor. They light their hearth, hanging sizzling venison over the fire. They lean back into the chair they crafted themselves and relax with a tankard of mead in hand.
Valheim captures the feeling of coming home from a grand adventure and the game sails with that feeling to the edge of its world.
Every warrior needs a bed to sleep in, and Valheim encourages its players to make their own little cottage nestled away in a peaceful corner of the world. With its intuitive building system, that’s an easy thing to do. From safe shelters to lordly halls, the limits to what can be built is what the player can imagine, and their ambition to achieve it.
Well, that and game progression.
The drive to progress the story is directly linked to Valheim‘s crafting system. No matter how much a player makes, only an area boss will have the final ingredient to build the next stage of advancement.
Thus players are left with a choice: hunt down these ancient entities at the bidding of Odin, to fulfill their duty as a custodian of Valheim, or beat up that giant walking tree because they really want that new, shiny table they saw in the crafting menu.
Either way, a-questing they shall go.
Adventuring through Valheim takes a player though a number of different environments: dark forests, dreary swamps, frigid mountain, deceptively dangerous plains, and, of course, The Ocean.
Waves crash against the warrior’s leaking vessel, Thor’s hammer sends lightning sparks falling all around. The warrior fights the rudder to steer the ship against storm winds when a roar breaks their focus. A sea serpent rises from the depths below. The storm has just begun.
Each area of Valheim provides its own unique challenges as the player tries to work through them. Adventuring into unexplored lands requires preparation, and Valheim is not afraid to smack down players that get overconfident.
All that is found on the road is eventually brought back home, and that’s the payoff in Valheim. Building a little community with some friends and watching it grow from a haphazard village to an established settlement brings a sense of progress to Valheim‘s experience.
The graphics lend themselves well to this aesthetic. Using purposefully low resolution, the finer details are left for the player’s mind to fill. Even if made from the same materials, each player may view their community differently.
Because everything is made by player hands.
So grab your sturdiest shield, put on your warmest cloak, and call your closest friends. Valheim is in need of brave warriors, and it calls to you.