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Valhalla Hills

Score: 78%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Funatics
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ God Games/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Valhalla Hills features cartoony-looking graphics that remind me a bit of Settlers. The graphics do a good job of depicting the village you're building and let you watch the goings on of your tribe from close up or high above, allowing you to focus on small events or to take in an overview of your underlings as they go about their jobs. While cartoony, everything is rendered in 3D, using the Unreal 4 engine, so expect this game to push your machine harder than a casual game; make sure you have at least the minimum system requirements for this one.

The background music is pleasant and the sound effects do a good job of conveying the actions that are taking place. Another nice touch is that the sound effects' volume scales with your focus. When you're zoomed in on something, you'll be able to hear it better, as you would expect.

You also have the ability to customize your Vikings (slightly) by changing their names and selecting what hat/headgear they should wear, from a collection that includes fairly Viking-esque hats to more novelty hats such as bunny ears or a top hat... some of which are unlocked by in-game achievements. In the "Viking" option (this editor), you can view them in their day-to-day outfits or their Military outfit, but your hat selection applies to both.


Instead of being called Valhalla Hills, this game probably should have been called Valhalla Isles, since the maps have your Viking brood struggling to make it on deserted islands surrounded by water. While I get that it's part of the main concept behind the game, I found the limited resources to be extremely restrictive at times, making Valhalla Hills feel more like a puzzle game. (Especially on one level, where if you don't build the woodcutter first, you can't proceed... no available wood.) In other games, such as Settlers or Civilization, this can often be remedied by exploring a bit and finding some new territory with its own mix of resources. That's not an option in Valhalla Hills; that aspect of a 4X game is removed. If exploration isn't your thing, you might not mind, but you'll need to plan your actions a bit to avoid getting stuck and knocking down buildings to regain those resources.

As you progress in the game, you will unlock larger maps, but you never reach maps similar in size to Settlers or Civilization, so you have to make wise use of the resources you have at hand. This is absolutely not a time management game where you want to try to get several things started at once so they get done as soon as possible; doing so will only spread out your resources such that nothing actually gets done. (Been there, discovered that).


So, all of the Vikings in your tribe have died in the normal world and are working their way into Valhalla. As you lead them to glory, some of them will get killed. These things happen. However, since this is the afterlife, you can expect your Vikings to show back up a bit later. This is another aspect that makes this feel a bit more like a puzzle game, to me. While you might hate to see Groa shot by a Guardian or Ingmar mauled by a wolf (none of which is graphic, mind you), you can basically consider your stalwart heroes as resources... and not completely limited ones, at that. That is, until your starting portal is attacked. Once the guardians reach and destroy your starting portal, your game is over. Not, "You have to restart at some save point or you go back to the beginning of the level." You have to start a new game.

I found that, given the limited resources on these isles, I tried to play through levels quickly, building the basic resources and then creating warriors and trying to take out the guardians. That worked for me on the early levels during the tutorial, but when you're into the main game, the enemies are fierce, requiring you to be able to survive longer, and my strategy wasn't set up for a long game. If you look at the videos and screenshots on Steam's website, you can see that the intention is for fairly elaborate villages and, hence, longer gameplay per level. The problem I have had with that approach is that I have a hard time maintaining enough food to keep everybody fed. I've checked on the Steam community site for Valhalla Hills and the inability to keep everyone fed seems to be a common problem, so it's not just me.

Game Mechanics:

The entire game of Valhalla Hills is fairly formulaic: you start out on an undeveloped island, build up your village to produce needed resources and places for your Vikings to live, until you get well established enough that you can build up your military force and challenge the guardians. Win, and you'll have access to their portal, allowing you to advance to the next level. If they take out your portal, however, your game is over.

At least in the main game (after the tutorial), the maps, themselves, are randomly generated. If you're starting a new game, you can regenerate the map until you're happy with it before starting the game. The isles in the tutorial are small, but increase in size as you progress and the types of buildings you can build are metered out as you go, giving you a chance to familiarize yourself with the basics, such as Tents and Woodcutters before moving up to things such as Lodges, Foresters and Geologists. (Yes, Viking geologists.)

Not everything can be built just anywhere, however. Selecting a building to place and then moving around the map will reveal possible building sites, as well as indication of how costly it is to build there; all buildings have a basic cost based on type (such as 2 logs or a brick and a wooden plank), but, in addition, there are increased costs for building on slopes. This additional cost is to build a supporting pedestal. As you progress, you can build on even steep slopes, but this cost is increased even further. If you're not careful, you can easily squander your resources on superfluous infrastructure due to poor placement planning. Not only that, but some of the "cheapest" spots to build on have some pretty hefty "hidden" costs: the local fruit trees. These trees are an existing resource on the isles, and your Vikings will pick a fruit and eat it when they're hungry, taking a bit of strain off of your Fishery, Hunter, Bakery and the like... unless you build those buildings where the fruit trees were. Then you've lost that little freebie forever. You can't plant more fruit trees, as far as I've seen... not even with the Forester, who can only plant trees for your Woodcutter to harvest.

The graphics are cute and the game can be fun, but this game is for gamers who like planning ahead. If you're willing to micromanage a game and wait until each thing is built to make sure you don't steal your resources from a higher priority project, you may enjoy Valhalla Hills. If you're on the fence, watch for a Steam sale.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 7/8 64-bit, Dual-core Intel or AMD, 2.5 GHz or faster Processor, 4 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT or Radeon HD2900 series card or better (DirectX10 card or better) Graphics Card, DirectX Version 9.0c, 3 GB available Hard Drive space

Test System:

[Alienware Aurora] Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3, Alienware Mainboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Two Monitors (Samsung S22C300 21.5" / Gateway HD2201 21'' HDMI), 500 GB Solid State Primary Hard Drive, 1000 GB Secondary Hard Drive, Logitech Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Astro Gaming A30 Headset Black Gaming Headset, Uverse Broadband Internet Access

Related Links:

Microsoft Xbox One Call of Duty: Black Ops III Sony PlayStation4 Sword Art Online: Lost Song

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