The poor little Vikings need your help to reach Valhalla.
It may sound like an ambitiously named Nordic cemetery, but Valhalla Hills is actually a strategy building game from Funatics and Daedalic Entertainment. Valhalla Hills arrives on Steam Early Access today, August 24th, and the fact that some members of the development team were also involved with The Settlers series will undoubtedly grab the attention of Settlers fans.
Valhalla Hills is, as the name may suggest, a game about Vikings. Odin, for one reason or another, has refused entry into Valhalla to Vikings who have not gained enough honour. The player takes the role of Odin’s son Leko who has been cast to Earth to help these wandering Vikings to gain more honour, through building and fighting, and claim their place at Valhalla.
To do this, players will simply have to move their Vikings from island to island, via portals, until they reach the top of the mountain. Did I say simply? Okay, it’s not that simple.
Considering that Valhalla Hills has not even arrived on Early Access yet, the game is surprisingly polished. Built with the Unreal 4 Engine, and packing in very nice looking procedural environments and individual Viking models so that each Viking looks different, the game already looks really nice.
So, the player begins with a few Vikings on a small island, with the goal to build a woodcutters hut and reach the portal at the other end of the island. At this early stage in the game, the player can also build a hut for the Vikings to sleep in. The Vikings will automatically take on roles and get on with life. Once you reach the portal, play can continue or the player can head to the next island.
A tutorial slowly guides the player, along with handy notifications at the top of the game screen. This is one place that the game will need some improvement during its time in Early Access, as some things are not explained, or not explained well, and I was left to a certain amount of trial and error.
New features are unlocked as the player progresses and moves from one island to the next. Reaching the second island, the player will be advised that the portal is now guarded. To overcome the guardian, the player will be able to build either war camps to make Vikings into warriors, or an alter where the player can make sacrifices to calm the guardian and let them pass. A day and night cycle will change the way both the Vikings and their enemies behave.
Moving on, the player will have to cater to their Vikings needs by building the likes of fisheries and hunters huts. Placement of these buildings are important as they need to be near the resources they require. As the terrain changes through each successive island, building costs can increase, giving the player further food for thought. Other things to consider, such as building war camps near a weapon smith, brewery or goldsmith will increase their effectiveness in different ways, and buildings will unlock expansions that can be built next to them to offer further resources, keep the game changing as the player progresses. Then there is the building of roads, that gives the Vikings more direct and quicker movement. After only a few islands, the player will be building quaint little Viking towns.
Playing Valhalla Hills, even at this presumably early stage, has been an absolute joy. There are a few places where improvements can be made, but given the game is only just coming to Steam Early Access, there is plenty of time for things to improve. I am excited to see what else is added to Valhalla Hills before the official launch, and anyone with a passing interest in building strategy games, such as the early Settlers games, should check this out on Steam Early Access from later today.