Valhalla Hills – Definitive Edition is a building management game featuring the PC version’s DLCs Sand of the Damned and Fire Mountains, as well as a new exclusive map type – The Dwarf Cave. Check out our review below to see if the Valhalla Hills are worth climbing…
Originally intended for release in 2016, Valhalla Hills has finally arrived on Xbox One, giving you the opportunity to assume control of a community of Vikings that have to prove their honour to Odin, thus allowing them entry to the feasting halls of Valhalla. The goal of any worthy Viking. The introduction upon loading explains how Odin feels contempt towards his own son for not acting as a true warrior should, and banishes him to the mortal world to prove himself. This is where you, the gamer comes in.
For those of you old enough to remember a game by the name of The Settlers, then Valhalla Hills will appear immediately familiar. I had The Settlers for my Amiga 1200 back in the day, and spent countless hours building my own civilisation up, exploring the world and claiming resources for my own. So does Valhalla Hills recapture this feeling of accomplishment for me and bring back the glory days of gaming for me? Well to be honest, at first I felt completely underwhelmed by the first couple of hours of gameplay. Not that I expected to rush through and become a master. But it felt as if it was just lacking that fun factor that would drag me in for hours and hours.
To start with, the game gives you a few buildings, and lets you loose on a randomly generated map with up to 10 Vikings to get you started. Not much admittedly, but it’s possibly the best way to begin. You see, Valhalla Hills can be very unforgiving when you first start playing a map. You have a limited supply of logs, planks, sticks and stones to enable your crew of unworthy to slowly build your own civilisation. But it’s more than just slap a few buildings down and hope for the best. Careful planning of what you need in conjunction with available resources is the only way to advance. Run out of materials? Then production stops. No food? Then hungry Vikings will refuse to work. Even down to having somewhere to sleep will affect them. The more you delve into Valhalla Hills, the sooner you realise just how much thought has gone into creating the game experience. The addition of quests is a genius idea, allowing you to unlock new buildings and maps by completing them, and thus being able to create bigger communities. It works, and it works well. From the mundane and easy to the more complex and difficult, these quests test you and your management skills perfectly without forcing you into a corner and inevitable defeat within minutes. You will even unlock tougher enemies the more maps you complete, increasing the challenge.
Two game modes will eventually be available to you, along with a limited customisation choice, giving you the chance to tailor the map to your liking. Classic mode is easy, and requires you to complete the quests to progress. Then comes the much harder Open mode. This rewards you with everything unlocked from the word go. But, and this is where the challenge is, it ramps up the difficulty somewhat. Bigger and badder enemies will thwart you and attack you should you venture to close to each other. Defeating these enemies will award you with Honour. This is tallied up separately for each Viking, and once they accrue 100K Honour, they will be able to ascend to Valhalla where they will feast and party with Odin.
Winning a map is a simple task on paper, but not something that you can do from the start. There is a portal placed on the island, which has 2 prerequisites in which you can choose to enter said portal. Do you build an altar and sacrifice a Viking? Or do you arm you men and women, activate the portal and fight to the death with true honour? The choice is yours. Just make sure you have the necessary weapon to have a fighting chance if you choose to have a good old scrap. I’ve Warriors and Golems can put up a fight and leave you retreating fairly quickly if you’re not prepared.
I would have liked to see a few more buildings, and even bigger maps present in the game. As even with the largest map available, it still feels restricted in size. Although the choice of buildings at your disposal isn’t small, I feel that there could have been some more added to flesh it out some more. However, the option to use a courier network to transport your goods is a fantastic addition and well worth investing in to move produce and supplies around more efficiently.
The camera controls are exceptional, allowing freedom of movement smoothly, whether you want to rotate, alter the distance or angle of view. Not often a game can nail it, and not often it runs as smooth as it does in Valhalla Hills.