Valhalla Hills Review – Reaching Valhalla, portal by portal

Strategy games have become very complex. All that micromanagement with dozens of skill trees and thousands of individuals on different worlds … a few years ago they were smaller because of limited ressources of course but still, they were somehow charming. The old “Settlers”-games for example where you could really see every single person working for you placing buildings everywhere. The most complex thing was only to connect multiple buildings to each other so they got ressources from each other (bakeries, always a dozen buildings needed …).
“Valhalla HillS” is one of those “older” strategy games. And it really reminded me of “The Settlers 4”. But what’s different?

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Funny, but the setting somehow isn’t. You play as vikings. Like in “Settlers 4”. But stop comparing those games. “Valhalla Hills” is not a copy. As I said you are the vikings. Their leader Leko is the son of Odin. And Odin is not happy about his son, since all he does is building things and not fighting and drinking like real vikings. So Odin does Odin stuff and banishes his son down to earth where he has to reclaim his right to sit next to his father in Valhalla. That’s the story. If you are looking for a more interesting and deeper plot look elsewhere. Fortunately, strategy games don’t really need a deep plot, but such an interesting start with the son of Odin could have been a cool story. Well, it’s enough to explain a reason for the vikings to get to the portals and reach the gates of Valhalla.

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The final goal of the game is to reach Valhalla. Your vikings do that by walking through portals to new islands and finally after the last portal there will be Valhalla. Sounds simple. But the portals are guarded and the path to them is not an easy one. So we need soldiers. What do soldiers need? Weapons, a camp, something to sleep, something to drink maybe, … how do we get that? And now we got right into the typical building and improving of a realtime strategy game.
We start by building a woodcutter’s hut. With more wood we can build a tent to get more vikings. With more working power we can build a fisherman’s hut for food. And after a few more buildings we start with the military. This part is rather simple, we build a camp turn workers into soldiers by giving them a weapon and voilá there we have our army. This army can finally help us getting off the island by reaching the portal and defeating it’s protectors.
While building everything I recognized something, almost too late. Every viking I have has needs. They want a place to sleep and something to eat (apparently vikings don’t pee). That is an interesting feature that changes the way you achieve your goals because you have an extra part to manage. If the workers don’t have enough to eat they will look for a place on the island to get some food. And if they find berries next to an ice golem I will need another worker. Same goes for sleep. A sleeping viking under a tree far away from the village is an easy prey for wildlife and the ice-vikings, the protectors of the portal. Managing those needs is a cool thing but actually a bit frustrating because I couldn’t really see how much food is available and who gets it. I always had enough fish but most of my workers where hungry. And a bulding to sleep in is visited by only two vikings (I saw four is possible), rest sleeps outside. The vikings should be able to know where to get everything they need. That needs a bit improvement. Or explanation.

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Explanation is a rare thing here. There is a tutorial but it is very very short. There are a lot of things you have to figure out yourself. A few texts about the basic buildings is not enough there should be a more detailed tutorial, which is playable and not only through a text.
With missing information here and there you can have a few moments of frustration, because you didn’t know better.

“Valhalla Hills” is a nice time-killer. Watching your vikings scurry around in an interesting and really cute graphic design and the challenge of reaching all the portals, which are more difficult to reach with every level. But that’s it, it’s more like a challenge. You don’t have the place to build a village for a thousand vikings. Everytime it is only one level which has to be completed, therefore you build for a purpose not only because it looks nice. Fans of strategy games could be divided in two groups here. The group that loves just the building and expanding more and more probably don’t get as happy with this game as people who want to build as effective as possible with new challenges every time. It’s up to you on which side you are on. But nevertheless, a true fan of realtime strategy games (which are rare these days) should be happy with this game.

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