Indie survival game Valheim launched in Early Access on Steam this past Tuesday and has already seen an incredible amount of success. The game has broken its concurrent player record every day this week, including today when it peaked at 131,000 players. Valheim is one of the top ten most popular games on Steam and is only getting more popular with each passing day. It’s fair to say that Valheim has had a remarkable release, but what’s even more remarkable is the fact that this massive open-world survival game only takes up 1 GB of storage.
If you’ve played many survival/crafting games, you should already have a pretty general idea of what Valheim has to offer. You begin the game in the middle of the forest, wearing nothing but rags. Once you pick up some branches and rocks you can craft an axe. The axe will let you cut down trees, the lumber will let you build a workbench, the workbench will let you craft a bow and arrow, the bow and arrow will let you hunt deer, and so on and so on until you evolve from a lost soul into an apex predator. As you progress through the stages of the game, you’ll trade in your flimsy bow and wooden shack for an iron longsword and a sophisticated workshop.
This is no short journey, however, and each stage will take you further and further away from your first settlement into more dangerous territory. Crafting resources are scattered across the world in mining nodes and biome-specific enemies. Simply determining where to get the material you need next is one of the game’s biggest challenges, and considering the size of the world, it’s no surprise why.
Each game world is randomly generated, but they all follow the same rules. You always start directly in the center of the map on an island made up of Meadows, the Black Forest, and Mountains. The first island has two of the five bosses, one in the Meadow and one in the Black Forest. After you summon and defeat the first two bosses, you’ll need to build a boat and travel to Swamp to find the third boss. Every game progresses this way, but the shape of each island and the layout of biomes, resources, and boss locations is totally random.
My first island takes about nine minutes to cover from one end to the other. It’s a fairly massive place with multiple Meadow, Mountain, and Black Forest biomes throughout. In fact, the island is so big that I eventually had to build a second house on the opposite side, because it wasn’t feasible to mine resources on the east side and walk them all the way back to the west side, even with a cart. Luckily, I figured out how to build portals so I can quickly move back and forth between my west house and east house. Here is a picture of my island on the map:
And here is where the island is on the map, zoomed all the way out:
After 15 hours, I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the entire map. The outline to the southeast of my home island is the next island over. I sailed a boat around the perimeter and found three new biomes that don’t exist on my island. And yet, the entire game is only 1 GB.
Valheim has a low-poly art style that definitely helps reduce the file size. It’s nowhere near as blocky as Minecraft, and with a touch of lighting and some nice depth of field, it’s actually quite beautiful. The fact that the world is randomly-generated also explains the small file size, but though it is random, it certainly isn’t empty.
There are day and night cycles, weather systems like rain and fog, and other variables like tides and temperature. Everything from trees and structures to the ground itself is fully destructible and influenced by physics. There is a wide variety of monsters and wildlife unique to each biome. There are dozens of dungeons throughout each island, that while simple, are still uniquely instanced environments full of enemies, treasure, and large spaces.
It’s totally possible that the rest of the world beyond the first few two islands are just repeats of the same biomes with different shapes, but even so, it’s remarkable how much game fits on such little space. The roadmap for Valheim indicates that there’s a considerable amount of content coming to the game throughout 2021, which will certainly increase the size of the game somewhat. As someone that has played 600 hours of Ark: Survival Evolved and watched that game blow up to over 300 GB, it’s refreshing to see how much Iron Gate Studios has packed into such a small file.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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