Review: Viking: Battle for Asgard
Fighting/Hack & Slash
Yet more hacking and slashing on the 360.
Vikings. Sure Barbarians are great, Celtic warriors are great, Native Americans are great and even Roman Gladiators are great. Vikings are greater. Long before someone (ahem – Ed) tried to make Vikings (oily or just the vanilla kind) a running theme/joke/lifestyle-choice here at Peoww, I still thought Vikings were great. Not the raping and pillaging kind of course, but rather the noble warriors who have some of the most kick-ass gods out there. Aside from the occasional appearance on a TV sci-fi show or the random movie that contains â€œevil hoard of bad-dudesâ€ you don’t see the Viking culture and mythology in the media often enough, least of all computer games (come on Too Human!).
So is this attempt as sweet as suckling mead doused all over a busty wench in Valhalla? Or rather the sour taste that comes from the defeat of the old gods at the hands of the giants during Ragnaraok? By the hammer of Thor, the truth will be known!
Viking: The Battle for Asgard has you playing as Skarin, a bulbous looking fellow and Viking warrior (therefore badass) as he battles the evil undead forces of the Goddess of the Underworld, Hel, who has decided she wants a fight and Midgard (mortal realm of Earth) is her target. Unfortunately Skarin falls in battle and things are looking bleak until he is resurrected by Freya (Goddess of war). Freya makes the lad her champion and sets him the task of saving and reclaiming the world. The story is minimal to be honest and I’m pretty sure has plenty of Mythological inaccuracies.
How does one save the world then? By hacking and slashing the enemy until it is dead of course. When I started playing the game it had the feel of a â€œreconstruct-the-world-em-upâ€. You know, the game where you start of with practically nothing but you have to go out and do stuff to get more people to join you, build up your allies/forces, add to your home surroundings etc. Unfortunately this game never did feel like Dark Cloud/Chronicle or even something much simpler like Overlord or personal fave, Digimon World. While certain conditions (‘Set free X number of Viking clans’ or ‘Recapture the wood mill to allow siege weapons in battle) allow you to progress to the big battles of retaking the enemy base it never really did feel that I was reconstructing the world or that my actions were making a difference other than reduced enemy numbers and lighting changes (an area goes sunny when you retake it). This was my own foolish expectation.
One of the major features of the game has to be these big battles I’ve been talking about. Essentially this is where you have an infinite supply of Vikings playing away to an infinite supply of enemy undead (seeing such a large number of troops should teach KOEI a few things or too ). The battles do look very impressive with mayhem all around, in particular, a dull QTE event to defeat a giant becomes lots more fun when you see allies and enemies in a deadly struggle all around.
The infinite number of troops are pretty much there to get in your way and in my experience you can’t really fail these large battles. Men will shout messages of despair but I never failed a battle even when I took ages to kill the. Complete these objectives and you earn the ability to call in some particularly cool looking dragons. This was always very cool do and enjoyable to see because of course dragons are very cool (my fifth favourite mythical creature behind xenomorphs, vampires, Dizzy and Jesus)(now that’s a game I want to play – Ed).
Wow colour me totally surprised! After the dual disappointment of Devil May Cry 4 and God of War: Chains of Olympus this has rekindled my love for the 3D-beat-em-up-platform-adventure genre thingy. Playing through it was a joy not a chore with those games, with its opened structure that lets you attack tasks in your preferred order along with straight forward combat that doesn’t require you to memorise and then perform on queue a ten-button combos just to get a simple decapitation or forcible amputation.
Sure, the story is no great shakes and the music is pure aural wallpaper but it plays well and is perfect for a quick hour or so of playing to rescue some prisoners or liberate a captured village before ignoring invites to Flatout or Halo 3. It won’t be everyone’s cup of mead but I found it to be a panacea to all the other under-performing or just plain dull genre games released this year and dutifully played by yours truly. Sleeper hit of the year? No, I don’t think so but a real hidden gem in the making.
So pillage yourself a copy before they all go to Valhalla (how are all these Nordic references going for you?).
Secondary Score: 8/10
On your islandular exploration you find ley-stones for easy teleportation between island locations, worth particular mention has to be how this teleportation is instantaneous and that once your island is loaded you will not see another load screen – not even any pop up on your travels. It is quite impressive standing atop a high point and staring at the wonder of Midgard. While the later islands it don’t encourage you to wander past a certain midpoint where there may be an enemy base, there is always a way to sneak through. Sneaking through bases is worth a mention because of how fun it can be. It’s not the frustrating â€œonce you are seen it’s game overâ€ stealth but rather â€œQuick! Bludgeon that demon before he sounds his hornâ€. Good stealth! So you do have a great deal of freedom and non-linearity as to how you complete your objectives.
While the combat is simplistic (it makes Dynasty Warriors look Like Virtua Fighter), it is palatable and fun. The biggest combat problem comes from your main man Skarin. He just has not been designed well enough to take on more than six enemies at a time and in a game where big battles and being swarmed by enemies is a major feature, this ain’t good. His attacks are pretty slow, some of these dudes take quite a lot of pummelling and you know what, the developers probably knew how difficult it would be for you to play which is why they made him immortal. Didn’t I mention that? Freya thought it would be a good idea, so that any time you die you will re-spawn back at your camp ley-stone or near a shaman if it’s during a big battle.
This game is totally pick-up-play-jump-in-jump-out gameplay and filled a nice little void (despite the number of hack-n-slashers I’ve been playing/reviewing lately). What I would like to see is Creative Assembly expanding upon the game and really adding in some solid RPG and strategy elements. War! What is it good for? Population control of courseâ€¦ and twatting the English (yes, because that traditionally works out well for you – Ed), stealing oil, erasing a country’s national identity, claiming land for yourself, slaughtering the inhabitantsâ€¦