If you had to describe a Viking climbing up a ladder, what would you say? I reckon they’d probably look like they’re moving a bit slow, right, but they’re actually just doing three rungs at a time, lurching back to gain extra leverage every time they propel their hand up to a seemingly unreachable height. They’re stamping on the rungs because a) it causes them to fall off, meaning the Viking can’t be followed, and b) it looks cool as hell. Once they get to the top, they haul themselves onto a platform, pick up the remaining rungs, craft them into spears, and hurl them at anybody stupid enough to challenge them after witnessing their incredible feats of dexterity and strength.
Valheim has slightly different ideas about how Vikings climb ladders. It’s more like a nervous hopscotch where you kick your leg an inch forward while having your arms tucked firmly into your sides, sort of like a particularly bad Riverdance. It looks awkward and gangly and I constantly feel as if I am going to fall through the ladder and bang my head. Valheim’s Vikings are more like modest acrobats, focusing on their centre of gravity without delving into any of the fancy backflips and stuff.
The weird thing about this is that such modesty doesn’t translate elsewhere. Have you ever studied your jump in Valheim? As in, rotated your camera sideways and watched as you leap into the air like a confused gazelle with the back half of its body missing? It’s quite something. Earlier this week I just sort of ran around jumping like a frenzied bullfrog, seeing if there were alternate animations for the half-dropkick I did every time my feet left the ground. Nope, always the same.
Maybe it’s a martial thing, Vikings pouncing forward with their toes pointed out as some kind of spear kick. I soon realized that this wasn’t the case either. Every time I jumped at a Greyling it simply punched me, exposing me as the idiot I was for assuming an aimless jump could be as effective in combat as a wanton club-swing. I haven’t even mentioned Valheim’s robotic breaststroke, which would put a robot specifically designed for optimal performance in water to shame.
For what it’s worth, I love Valheim, and I know it’s still in Early Access. I’m just having a bit of fun here – I actually wrote about why I love when developers don’t patch out bugs the community takes well to not so long ago. When I’m playing Valheim with my friends and laughing at the ladder animation, it’s not malicious or designed to rip the piss out of the game. It’s because the game is so well-made and polished, even in its early state, that the existence of rougher animations and features sticks out like a Viking at a techno party. Yes, I’m talking about that Viking, who stuck out and has since become universally beloved for it – that’s how I see these weird hopscotch and dropkick movement animations. To be honest, I’d genuinely love it if they remained in the game, if only so after a tough shift of hunting deer with great AI in the lush and gorgeous grasslands I can have a bit of a hearty laugh at the fact my Viking lad climbs ladders like a penguin.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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