Valhalla Hills - Introduction
There is something whimsical about spending an afternoon micromanaging map after map of Vikings and that’s where Valhalla Hills comes in. Valhalla Hills is an interesting mix of The Settlers, Settlers of Catan, Tropico, and anything Vikings. You start the game with very little unlocked and a very small map and work your way up, map through map, entering portals with your Vikings unlocking additional content. While you may just start with lumber and stone, you’ll quickly move up to fire and metal, outfitting your Vikings with better weapons, armor, and lodgings.
Towns are made map per map and Vikings require a few basics: food and a comfy place to sleep. While they can eat berries and sleep under trees, it’s not nearly as efficient as providing them everything they need in a go. So you’ll need to manage pathways and supply chains to make sure your Viking empire is properly fed and equipped, while expanding your way to a portal which is guarded by anything from a few ice warriors to massive ice giants. You can go the peaceful route too, and sacrifice some of your gains on the map to peacefully move on, otherwise you’ll need to duke it out.
Valhalla Hills - Positive Marks
The game is a lot of fun for what it is. You’ve got the weird Settlers of Catan / Agricola need to provide everyone with food while attempting to gain resources, and The Settlers style production chain management system. Vikings need to move resources efficiently throughout the map to keep the warriors supplied as you attempt to move up the summit. Any mistakes down the production line and you’ll have Vikings starving to death, which is rewarding in the sense that if you can walk away from the game and come back with everything running fine, then you’ve done well.
There is a lot of fun to be had in just making cities. The combat is cool and done well enough for this type of game, but it’s really fun to see your Vikings move around happily. If you’re wanting to just have an idle game where you can check in on some happy Vikings, then this is definitely a way to go, because the game has a strong value in just watching your Vikings run around going about their business.
The courier system is really well done and provides an easy way of transporting goods. It’s also really fun to establish trade routes and build mini-settlements. One of my favorite things to do is just to make a network for food, a network for resources, and a global network to make sure tools can reach around.
While in early access, there is a ton of interesting elements going on in the game and replaying map to map is a lot of fun (although you can get fatigue). Sometimes it’s really cool to just fail, run out of wood early on because you built a sawmill instead of a woodcutter or you forget to make a toolmaker early on. You get the option to restart on the same map, which means if you like the layout you don't have to reset it.
I found my time to be very enjoyable and a lot of times it was a really nice game to run in the background. Setup things for my Vikings to build, poke a few things here or there, and then check the weather and come back. Later, it takes a lot more time to get a city stable, but that's all joyous Viking management time.
Valhalla Hills - Average or Neutral Marks
The color scheme is hit or miss. It’s easy on the eyes, but things can easily blur together.
Roads don’t have a cost affixed to them and make a huge difference. I enjoy this mechanic, others might not. They provide a massive benefit in speed and efficiency and are required almost everywhere, including within forests, to speed up your Vikings. A cost would be too hard to hash out, but at the same time, they do provide a huge boost. I'm really okay with this.
Valhalla Hills - Below Average or Negative Marks
The AI is rather good, but in a busy settlement you can quickly run into major issues that prevent your Vikings from living and you can have random Viking die-offs because of improper supply lines. The most susceptible to this are warrior Vikings who require food and rest, but can easily be placed outside of reach of either. Without food properly organized, Vikings can become inefficient taking long routes to eat food or choosing to eat berries before anything else. Later in the game, when the Kitchen unlocks, it helps route Vikings to good food, but it requires some time to get there.
After you’ve unlocked everything, the only goal that remains is fight the portals and/or get Vikings enough honor for Valhalla. It’s not the most interesting mechanic in the world to draw your attention to playing, although, having a successful city running can often to be a reward within itself.
The repetitive gameplay, while fun, does run a little short of new things to do. Once you’ve unlocked the vast majority of features in the faux campaign mode, you do run out of new things to try or new challenges. Dome Dwarves and hardcore mode make the game more challenging, but beyond that, the only thing to draw you back is the random maps. You can make some crazy map configurations to add even more challenge, but at the end of the day once you have food and a brewery going, and enough resources for weapons, you’ve pretty much won a map.
Maps can also be very short, which can be frustrating if you want to send a Viking to Valhalla. Before you unlock tougher enemies, you can often set-up an alter and discover the portal and be done with a map very, very fast. Later on, it gets a bit more challenging, but the hardest part isn’t dealing with the portals, it’s dealing with the wolves, bears, and skeletons that Vikings love to run to.
The combat could be deeper. More classes, maybe skills, more weapons. I'm sure these will come later, but, as of now a few beers and some axes and you'll probably still lose a viking or two, but not much is super challenging.
Conclusion and Final Score
Valhalla Hills is a fun game that any fan of The Settlers or any similar game would enjoy. If your'e a strategy fan, then this wouldn't be a bad buy, but if you're not into managing cities or if early access turns you off, then this might be something to wait awhile for. I enjoyed my time so far into the game and as someone who has played a ton of similar city building / strategy type games, it for sure gets a pass. There are a few things wrong with it, Vikings might really love to eat a bit too much, and there isn't an absolute ton of content, but for what's there it's definitely a great experience.