Valhalla Hills [official site] is a settlement-building game in which you must lead your viking tribe back into Odin’s warm embrace by building upon and harvesting from procedurally-generated worlds. It looks like the early Settlers games, all green grass and mostly-peaceful building. It’s now exited Early Access after a brief stint and is available to buy from both Steam and GOG.
The final release comes with a new set of updates to the game, including adjustable map sizes, tribes of AI-controlled dwarves who’ll compete with you for resources, and a number of smaller tweaks and fixes.
Those dwarves sound interesting, because it seems as if the danger they pose is in the resources they might deplete more than in any dwarven weaponry they might make. I like building and management games where there’s little sense of threat, so I’ve always been disappointed by The Settlers increasingly unsettling focus on taking up arms. Valhalla Hills sounds more up my street, although from what Marsh had to say about it when he prematurely evaluated it in September, it maybe went too far the other way:
“This is, however, is one of the only moments of friction I’ve encountered in the game so far. The process of urban sprawl is pleasing to watch as its systems interlock and resources are sought, harvested, consumed or transmuted by its colony of busy workers. It expresses a modest amount of strategic thought, too – realising you should put the mason near an outcrop of rock is no particular intellectual challenge, but being exact enough in your placement that you can easily supply the rest of your village, or leave enough viable land on a particularly inhospitable island, requires at least momentary consideration. But a lot of the micro-management is simply taken out of your hands, and beyond choosing where to build the things you will inevitably build, there are not a huge number of decisions to make. Get into combat with wandering monsters and it can be hard to extricate yourself – the emergent machinations of the AI luring the enemies closer and closer until your entire tribe piles in regardless of your desires or how well equipped they are to deal with the threat.”
The game has charged quickly through early access since then, of course, fixing bugs and adding new features including a new game mode which makes the experience more challenging. I’ve yet to try it to see if it adds the greater feeling of friction Marsh was pining for, while still maintaining the peaceful village expansion I crave.
Valhalla Hills will cost you £24 ($30 USD) on Steam and GOG, though the latter currently has a 10% discount. Here’s the launch trailer. Stick around and it’ll even show you the game: