Here's why you should try out Vulkan in Valheim

Valheim in-game screenshot of a steep bridge and boats in the water
(Image credit: Iron Gate AB)
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Valheim Stagbreaker war hammer

(Image credit: Iron Gate Studios)

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If you've been playing Valheim as much as most of us lately, you're probably wondering how to get past one of the many, now frightfully difficult, bosses. You also might be wondering how to improve performance and stability. Well, it looks like the introduction of the Vulkan API may help you out a bit there. 

What is the Vulkan setting in Valheim?

Vulkan is a 3D graphics API built by the Khronos Group, a consortium of tech and gaming industry leaders. AMD, Apple, Epic Games, Google, Valve, Intel, Nvidia... you name it, they're all chipping in. 

The API itself is an open alternative to Microsoft's DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 APIs, which are the most popular APIs used for games. But it's not just another alternative, in its own right Vulkan promises to be a low-overhead and efficient API, and even has full ray tracing support nowadays.

It's a great API, no doubt about that, and with the introduction of patch 0.146.8 for Valheim, developers Iron Gate AB have enabled the Vulkan API for use in its incredibly popular survival game. 

To enable Vulkan in Valheim you can do one of two things: Either pick it from the options popup when you boot the game in Steam or set the launch command "-force-vulkan" in the game's launch options.

Valve launch commands window for Valheim

(Image credit: Valve)

Should I use Vulkan in Valheim?

Short answer: You should give Vulkan a go in Valheim. The API has a decent track record for performance and it appears it's no different when traipsing through Valhalla.

To what extent you see an improvement in-game will depend on your graphics hardware. The API helps the game better communicate with your hardware, but ultimately, that hardware is still a major part of the equation. That said, most modern GPUs are Vulkan friendly and should see a moderate gain with the Vulkan graphics API enabled.

I've jumped into the game for a little benchmarking to see what that equates to in in-game performance.

Test rig

GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti 8GB
Intel Core i7 10700K
Motherboard: MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi
RAM: Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro @ 3,200MHz
CPU cooler: Corsair H110i RGB Pro XT
Chassis: DimasTech Mini V2

Is it a momentous performance uplift? No, at least not in terms of average framerates. Yet those 99th percentile gains at 4K are nothing to turn your nose up at, and I think that's worth the price of admission for Vulkan alone.

There are other reasons beyond raw performance for picking Vulkan over the older DX11 API, though. Valheim's developers say that the Vulkan API could help fix some random crashes related to GPU drivers in the game.

If that's something you're experiencing then Vulkan is absolutely the way to go. If not, then give it a whirl, anyways.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.