What Is Valheim?

Valheim is an early access survival sandbox game by Iron Gate Studio. The player takes on the role of a Viking in the afterlife where they must craft tools, build shelter and defeat enemies. The game can be played solo or with up to 10 friends online with the option to toggle PVP or PVE.

It was released on 2nd Febuary 2021 and by March 2021 it had over 5.7 million sales and was listed 39th on Steam’s all-time bestselling games.

Personal Interest 

I purchased the game on 12th February and have accumulated 150 hours play time in just 3 weeks! I have been playing on a server with friends where we are following the storyline and progressing to kill the 5 bosses. I also have a lot of hours in my own single player server where I have been exploring the building mechanic and creating my own island settlement using the game’s primitive creative mode.

I heard someone describe this game as a cross between Minecraft and Skyrim – two of my favourite games – and it explains why I love it so much.

User Interface

Keeping in mind that this is an early access game, there are a few bugs and mechanics that need refining. My least favourite part of the game however, is the UI. It is functional but the aesthetic is lacking and I personally feel that the layout is a little off. Somehow I am always struggling to find what I want in the HUD and locations seem counter intuitive. I think this is because it does not follow the layout of the majority of popular survival games. Whether this is a design choice or simply lack of time with the game being in early access, I thought it would be an interesting project to redesign.

Here is the standard HUD in Valheim. In the lower left we have a health and hunger bar along with the current equipped boss blessing. The lower right shows some basic movement controls. The upper left shows the player’s current toolbar with 8 keybound slots. The upper right shows the minimap and any passive buffs that the player is currently effected by.

Here is the chest interface. When a player opens a chest, their full inventory drops down from their toolbar. The chest contents also drop down below that to allow players to transfer goods between the two. On the right we have a menu interface. The top section is split into 4 and contains the player’s learned tutorials, their skills, their collected trophies and a toggle for PVP/PVE. Below this is a crafting menu where the player can see tools they can make with materials they currently carry. On the right it also shows the stats for each tool.

This is the workbench menu. Similar to the image above, it shows the crafting menu. Players may switch between crafting and upgrading from materials they currently carry as well as seeing the stats of their creations. There is also a hammer symbol to allow players to repair any damaged equipment they have.

This is the menu popup for previous tutorials. Throughout the game, the player will be given instruction from Odin’s raven, Hugin. All of the previously accessed tutorials from Hugin can be found here if the player needs to refer back.

This is the skills menu, it shows what the player’s current level is in each learnable craft or tool. To increase levels in any given category, the player must simply practice with that tool by using it more often.

This is the trophy menu, it allows players to see which enemies they have defeated and which trophies they have yet to collect.

When using certain tools such as the hammer, hoe or cultivator, a bar will appear at the bottom of the screen. This shows which structure or terraforming tool is currently selected and the resources are required. This selection can be changed in a larger popup menu,

This is the menu that allows the player’s selection with the hammer, hoe and cultivator. The player can switch between categories to find which item or terraforming tool they need.

This is the menu for the trader, Haldor. Once found, Haldor will trade certain valuables for upgrades, collectables or rare commodities.

This is the HUD for sailing. On the rudder is a wheel, this shows the current rotation of the ship’s sails and the height of the sails. On the right is another representation of the sails, showing no sail, half sail or full mast. Below this is an indicator of wind direction as this effects the speed and direction of the ship at varying sail heights.

Finally, this is the map. It is a larger version of the minimap on the standard HUD and shows the exploration of the player. It allows the player to toggle their map visibility to other players on the server and to pinpoint special locations on the map with a variety of symbols.

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