Played both ARK (1100 hours) and 7D2D (200ish hours)
I am on day 55 in Valheim and it compares very favorably to both.
No skill trees to unlock. Everything levels up by doing. Running, swimming, fighting, all of it. I love that at first there are no trivial fights or easy kills. But you get better and better as you go.
All unlocked by finding the mats or killing a boss. Just play. It will all come to you. Some faster than others or needing an upgrade to your workstation. All in all I found it very intuitive.
Better than Ark for sure. Snap points are far more defined amd easy to locate. Mistakes can be destroyed for a full refund of mats.
Bosses are summoned to unlock access to special recipes or mats there is one boss for each biome type. There are also “Invasions”. Think Bloodmoon in 7D2D, except randomly timed. Biome appropriate mobs will swarm your base.
-They have used music super effectively. You will see what I mean if you stand in a meadow for a few minutes before summoning the first boss.
-The graphics get alot of discussion. I was initially put off but have come around after playing for a while. While the look simple, the level of reflection and ambience is really pleasant.
-It can be brutal at the beginning. But not oppressive.
-Be versatile. Tactics used to kill a Neck won’t work on a deer. Trolls, boar, deer, skeletons, greylings all take different combat styles.
-World size is staggering.
All in all its a great buy at $20.