Valheim charged onto Steam’s storefront last month, already amassing global attention and a base of almost six million players. It has broken records left and right, attracting gamers with its rich mix of fantasy world and vaguely Soulslike combat. With so many eyes on this promising new title and a full roadmap of promised content updates throughout 2021 and beyond, it seems like the sky’s the limit. Could this massive new survival game have an Esports circuit in its future? First, we’ll need to take a look at just what Valheim has done differently to become such a massive success.
SO WHAT DOES VALHEIM DO DIFFERENTLY?
Valheim’s approach to the survival genre is a little bit different. It’s impossible to starve to death – one of those inconvenient realisms that can really hinder a lot of its genre-fellows like ARK and Rust – nothing like taking a break from an intensive build to go and cram your face full of hastily roasted meat. Food acts as a vital buff in Valheim, boosting your stamina and health limit/regeneration. By default, other players are not your enemy – although PVP can be toggled on and off. You might face competition for resources, but as it stands the game is definitely a co-operative experience first and foremost.
So what exactly are we co-operating for, besides the chance at eternal glory at Odin’s side? Valheim’s world is populated by a range of diverse enemy types, fiercely guarding the precious resources you need to progress through to the harder biomes. To master Valheim, you’ll have to build a base, claim vital metal ore to forge superior weaponry, and eventually take the fight to massive, impressive boss encounters that hold the key to your next adventure. The game can be played alone or with up to ten people per server, scaling boss health appropriately for the player count.
The addition of mobs is really what brings Valheim to life. The world feels hostile and unpredictable. You might have just got your build right after literal days of work, and all it takes is one random troll spawn event to undo all that hard work and send you right back to the start. The RPG elements make death slightly less infuriating, though – you learn new recipes by picking up the relevant ingredients, and your abilities – running, blocking, fighting with swords and shields – all increase as you use them. It’s an incredibly deep and rewarding experience once you’ve mastered the punishing combat.
This artful mix of RPG and survival genres makes for an incredible co-operative game. The thrill of setting out on the open seas with your buddies at your side, knowing full well it took you hours of time to amass the wealth necessary to make this journey in the first place, and it could all be gone in a heartbeat. It’s great – but is Esports in Valheim’s future?
DOES VALHEIM HAVE ESPORT POTENTIAL?
Frankly, probably not – all we have to do is look at past games in the multiplayer survival genre. Does Rust have a thriving Esports scene? Not exactly. People have found ways to run tournaments, sure – but none of them really stand head-to-head with the sport’s biggest names. You certainly could make 5v5 battles in custom built arenas, littered with chests ripe with loot, and it’d probably be very enjoyable – but it certainly wouldn’t have the longevity required to build an Esports scene around it.
It’s certainly possible that the developers could expand upon Valheim, enriching the multiplayer component enough to set it apart as a competitive game. The roadmap for 2021 hints at “multiplayer improvements”, and the second major update – Cult of The Wolf – is supposedly adjusting player battle encounters. In all honesty, it’s still much too early to say if Valheim could make it as an Esports title. If you’re looking for your next favourite game, stay tuned with the biggest esports picks – Valheim’s future as a competitive game might be unsure, but there’s still plenty to choose from.
All we have to do is look at past evidence of wildly popular survival games to make an educated guess as to Valheim’s Esports potential. While it’s not impossible in the slightest, it’s certainly very, very unlikely.