I seldom find a survival game that I legitimately enjoy. The ability to explore anywhere and do anything, but also find a way to survive a harsh, cruel world is not something I enjoy. That sounds too much like real life to me. Survival games that have a measure of a story, or a path to walk, those appeal to me a bit more. So, I can follow the story, and soak it in, but if I want a break, or want to grind or explore or farm stuff, I can just go do that. It’s not linear but does have a linear story I can follow, much like a book. So yesterday I explored Valnir Rok with Sebastian Rahmel, Game Director and “Doer of Many Things”. Valnir Rok is a survival/mmorpg set on a Viking-themed isle, where you start off having survived a raid/attack, and are washed up on the shore with nothing but your knickers.
One of the biggest things I had to know right away, was the nature of the servers. Most of these style games are open/free PVP. You can be killed whenever, for no reason, and lose so much stuff, depending on what you had on you/what was looted. However, I did receive confirmation that there will be PVE servers, and likely RP servers too. That’s important to me. I don’t really get into open PVP like I used to, but I can see the appeal for it in this game. On the server I was on (US-East), I learned many life lessons. The most important one is: Do not try to melee down an Elk. It will run, and it is faster than you. It will always be faster than you. This is how my clan crest wound up being a green background with an Elk on it. I can appreciate that kind of sense of humor. (That was Sebastian’s doing, not the game) So, you meet up with one of your comrades, the only one left, and learn how the game works. You start off pretty simple, rummaging through broken homes to find clothes, a crummy axe, and a battered shield.
The game does not tell you to do this, mind. I did it based on my experience in MMOs/single player RPGs where you start from scratch. Sebastian noted that it’s fascinating to watch someone go through his game for the first time, and I have to agree. I imagine it’s a great way to get feedback and to see how a variety of players approach the start of such an open game. I had a pile of quests right off the bat, but I had no idea how to complete them. They were pretty simple though like “Acquire Rope”, or “Acquire X Plant”, things like that. The ability to craft things on the fly, without having a table, bench, house, or kit was a godsend though. This was a very cool system if you ask me. How it works is simple. As you acquire loot from animals, or plants, or chop down wood, you drag the item to a dropdown menu on the right of your inventory. It will then show you the potential items you can make using it. If you click on that item, it will tell you how much of that item you need, but if you haven’t picked up/found the rest of the recipe, you can’t make it. So you have to experiment and figure out which items you need. They are common sense if you think about it. It took me a few moments, but I found out that to make a Healing Potion I needed a particular herb and water. But I had nothing to put water in! The next step was to get horns to make a drinking horn for some water. I also easily figured out the recipe for a Berserker Potion, which was pretty cool. Booze in it makes sense to me.
This is where I learned my next lesson: I had virtually no armor or weapons. Trying to fight a wild boar? Not such a good idea. It chased me about a mile down the road as I furiously ran away from it. There is a much better way to get horns: Go fight a goat instead. Once you’ve killed these animals, you don’t have to go through a skinning process, you just collect the loot, and get the animal skins. You convert it to leather through crafting, so you can spend a bit of time killing weak enemies. So I made my first portions, and things of that nature and continued my exploration. You can craft bigger, better things once you have work benches and stuff, like wells. It will be a lot easier to craft your potions and consumables once you have some land and a private well. I only got to spend an hour with this, so I still have questions and things to learn, such as how to acquire my own land. Do I receive it from the Jarl? Will I have to race other players for it, and defend it from them? Players who are not in your clan can hurt you without reason, and can accidentally hit you in combat (I’ve learned this first hand!) but if you are in a clan together, you have nothing to fear, thankfully. Combat is pretty fast paced, but not being able to see how weak my target is is a little vexing. It’s not a big deal, but I like to have an idea of how I’m doing, especially if I’m taking a lot of damage. It’s easy to see how weak/strong you are, thankfully. At the bottom right, you have a health meter, stamina meter, hunger/thirst meters. I will say that the stamina meter refills very fast; a second passes and you can sprint again. I have a feeling that will get weakened.
So I spent a lot of time really just wondering this huge island, checking out the day-to-night transition, admiring the horizon (it really is visibly appealing), and sacrificing items on a very rustic, authentic altar, and then meeting the Jarl himself! I didn’t have to rush to that, but I wanted to see the town before I logged to stream/work some more. The town was pretty damn huge, but it was a little rustic town. It was more than six huts and four people with no beds, like in a traditional RPG. Each of these huts had a family, and they were milling about, going about their business. There was a fair amount of slowdown here, but I think it was something on their end that they were working out. It’s also in Alpha, so these things are bound to happen. But I proceeded in the main story a little, and after I ended our call I resumed with a little more exploration and killing of defenseless animals. I need their skins more than they did.
Bottom Line: How is it?
I had a lot of fun playing this. I didn’t feel like I was going to get overwhelmed and murdered right away, which might have happened if it was a wildly populated server. This is the experience I would likely enjoy on an RP server or a PVE server. There was also talk of challenging other clans to battles on PVE/RP servers, so there can still be glorious PVP battle if that’s your bag. A lot of the fun for this for me was exploring, finding combinations of items to craft stuff and simply exploring this new world. It didn’t feel like I was going to die right away and lose everything to the first encounter. It has a consistent story and the main quest, written by a current Time Best-Selling author, and while there are some bugs, some I found and some that already existed, I had a lot of fun. There’s the main story, about 45-50 quests I believe, and a ton of land to explore. Life on Valnir will be what you make of it. What I think is interesting, is I don’t think you’ll have to follow that story. If you want to simply carve out a life for yourself on this island and make goods and weapons, you seem to have that option.
Having quests that serve as a type of tutorial that shows you what you can do in the world is pretty awesome. MMO players/casual survival players like me definitely need it. But I have a feeling the PVP servers will have that cruel, unforgiving Viking world that that style of player wants. Valnir Rok is definitely worth a look. They’re crafting a pretty gorgeous world, and I hope you guys will be a part of it too. It’s pretty slow going; what I mean, is it will take a while to truly become powerful, with strong armor and weapons, but I have the feeling it will be worth the climb. It was an enjoyable adventure, from start to finish. There’s still a ways to go and a lot of additions to come to the game, but I’m excited to see where it goes. There are of course things I’d like to see: some kind of way to see my progression in the game (whether it’s leveling, a power rating, something Viking themed like my deeds being told across towns…), multiplayer content would be fascinating. Something like being able to raid other small towns or defend against them with your clan if clans create/own some kind of hold/territory. Whatever comes, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it.