We got our first look at the Viking survival game Valheim last year at the PC Gaming Show, shortly after which we declared it one of the most exciting games we'd seen during the not-E3 period of 2020. We were iffy on the low-poly visual style at first but it grew on us over time, "and when the camera pulls out, the secluded green glades and seascapes look lovely."
That shouldn't be taken to suggest that the game is idyllic in any sense, though. In fact, publisher Coffee Stain emphasized in today's Early Access launch date announcement that Valheim's cold, hard world will kill you—often.
"Valheim is really tough. You will die, a lot. Your friends will die, a lot. But we hope we’ve managed to strike that balance between being needlessly brutal, and offering a rewarding and challenging experience," said Richard Svensson, CEO of developer Iron Gate Studio. "The world we’ve created is huge and varied, and there’s room for so much more."
"Exploring the world of Valheim feels like being outside, rather than being in a virtual world," he continued, echoing the sense of "spaciousness and freedom" we got from our first look at it. "When many of us are stuck inside, meeting people virtually, this is such a breath of fresh air, and exactly what we need right now."
The game actually begins in "the disarmingly peaceful center of Valheim," but no true Viking hero would ever settle for the quiet, contented life, and so it is that you'll eventually push out through the surrounding forests and mountains—a "procedurally-generated purgatory"—in search of resources and raw materials that will enable you to build weapons, armor, strongholds, longboats, and more. Players, alone or in co-op groups of up to ten, will do battle in "punishing dodge-and-block" combat as they quest to reclaim the realm from the enemies of Odin.