Viking: Battle for Asgard puts gamers into the boots of the immortal warrior Skarin, a young warrior who is tasked with saving the land from the Goddess Hel and her army of undead warriors. In a war to end all wars you will step over the dismembered limbs of your fallen foes as you turn the tide of war against evil.
Viking: Battle for Asgard (Viking:BFA) follows the immortal Viking, Skarin as he walks in realm of mortals on a mission from the gods. Viking is an action adventure styled game that could be compared a stripped down version Xbox classic Fable. In appearance and in the flow, Viking:BFA takes the feel of the Fable's world without the role-playing statistics, inventory and items, negative or positive effects of being evil or good. In its place Battle for Asgard gives us Vikings, Norse gods, and a bucket full of brutal and bloody combat to make up an original action/adventure game.
Even with the plot line featuring some strong ideas of death, rebirth and destruction Viking: Battle for Asgard never feels heavy. The developer (The Creative Assembly) casually tells the story of gods fighting over the land of Midgard. Getting into the drama, Viking: Battle for Asgard tells the tale of the daughter of Loki, The Goddess Hel, Odin and Freya, all wrapped in Norse lore. For specifics, Hel has released an army of evil forces that are marching across the land searching out the legend of Ragnarok to destroy the gods. Under command from the Goddess Freya, it’s up to Skarin to save mankind and prevent Hel from obtaining her apocalyptic dream. In short, Viking: Battle for Asgard is all action, amplified to involve a ferocious Viking and bunch of bickering female goddesses and a whole lot of dismembered body parts.
Mixed Reviews? Kill Em' All
Amongst the gaming press Viking has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews. Straight across the board you can see both sides of the coin. Viking:BFA will certainly appeal to a large lot of gamers who enjoy hack n’ slash styled action games, and will probably shrugged away by the more serious gamer who was looking for a more involved experience. Viking shouldn’t be disregarded by its action alone; Viking is fairly involved in its plot and multi-objective free flowing gameplay. If you judge Viking from the first hour of gaming, then Viking might come off as a little weak. I found the more you put into the experience the more it gives back. There is certainly a lot do in the world of Misgard from exploring the countryside looking for minions of Hel, taking on different missions, or simply searching for loot, Viking is a rich experience that can be enjoyed without too much thinking.
Viking is based on the open sandbox concept with highlighted points of attention on the overview map. Like any good sandbox games there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore while you build up the objectives to conquer the main goal of the map. Main goals in Viking always focus on Skarin leading an assault on the enemy strongholds that hold control of the land. Before you can do this you complete a few quests that involve clearing out enemies of key strategic locations like clearing rock quarries, distilleries and prison camps. These activities become a bit repetitious over the course of the game, but they can’t be avoided. This is Viking's major downfall and criticism which is understandable.... however like racing games, all you do is race, as a Viking all you do is kill.
If you Hack, You must Slash!
Even though I mentioned the other activities in Midgard, the only core gameplay element in Viking is hacking and slashing you way through waves of enemy troops. There are a few areas of the game where you will have to use a stealth approach, but the final word always comes down with a strong blow to the head. The combat in Viking is straight forward with a number of basic combos to utilize, magical power ups along with a two long ranged attacks (throwing axes & firepots). As you progress in the game the abilities will unlock and ones you don’t gain normally can be unlocked for a price at training areas called Battle Arena’s on the map.
The armies of Hel aren’t the quickest minions in Midgard. Most enemies despite the boss battles and a few sneakily placed assassins are easy to deal with. The combat controls make it easy work to help you take down multiple foes at one while keeping your eye on the prize. The only time when the combat seems out of control is during the end battles when you’re contenting with hundreds of soldiers on the screen at once. Viking includes some brutal animations that can be activated right before an enemy solder is about to die. These include splitting the enemy in two by slicing through their abdominal area, or how about the brutal chop of the two arms and then the head. Viking earns its "M"ature rating with ease. Also included in Vikings onslaught are "God of War" like takedowns. You know the ones... Slow motion movements, a sequence of button presses leading into combat animations. These are thankfully slow enough to catch and bring in some wildly violent kill sequences that usually conclude with Skarin mashing his sword into the opponents face multiple times.
Always Carry a Light Bulb on your Back
The different islands you will visit in Viking are considerably large and impressively rendered in one load. Traveling around the lush terrain goes from ocean from beaches to rocky mountain passes. Viking has a good a great look to the game filled with a lot of vegetation and atmospheric effects. One of the best parts in the game is how they utilize lighting. Besides the light bulb that is attached to Skarin’s back, you encounter some dark regions in caves or the witness the brightly lit hillside over looking the crashing waves of the ocean. Viking also using lighting to show where evil is located. When you clear a region of an area the sun will come out and everything will liven up, when you start to leave “safe” areas and wander into the unknown the skies will darken and the game will put a foreboding shadow over everything. It’s really a cool concept that works wonderfully in the game.
Did Viking have Dr. Scholes?
One problem with Viking is that you will be doing a lot of walking around. Viking has a “leystone” teleportation system worked out in the game, but it rarely gets you close enough to objectives. You’ll find a good majority of Vikings game time has been spent walking around the countryside. This becomes more annoying when you’re doing a fetch mission, or jumping back and forth between locations. I know the developer wanted players to soak up the beautiful visuals in the game, but Viking really suffers from not have a run function.
I See... But I don't hear
While I’m on problems, Viking has some questionable audio production levels. The audio mixing in Viking jumps in levels between the background music, in game action and voiced over dubs. It’s not going to ruin the experience in Viking but it does have an impact on the level of emersion into the world. All I kept thinking about when I entered the massive battles, or fought a giant enemy beast is, how cool would this be with some bone crushing audio production? In the options you can’t adjust the levels independently which makes this problem one you’ll have to live with. The voice-acting has its moments of good and bad, with the “gods” playing a good role and then some of the towns folk bringing it back down. It’s no good having a monstrous dragon a pal and over-the-top action if you can hear the impact. Compared to the visual standards in Viking, the audio portion can’t even begin to compare.
The Big Assualt, Dragons Included
If you’re looking for mojo, Viking has a lot of memorable moments past the dismembering of limbs. The sweetness of Viking is controlling the massive dragons that you acquire though accomplishing quests in the game and the large scale battles at the end of each level. Dragons are essential to bringing down the enemies strongholds and can be activated using a frozen top down perspective. Using dragons corresponds with gathering stones that can be snagged up from defeating the biggest and badest in Hel’s army. When you have enough stones you simply bring up the menu and select and area for the dragons to attack. The only downside to the use of Dragons is that you can't directly control them.
These major assaults on the enemy strong hold can take several minutes to complete and definitely have that larger than life epic feeling. It’s unfortunate that they all play out the same, only with less or more regions to clear. Defeating the enemy strongholds points you against the origin of spawning with are evil sorcerers. These sorcerers spawn are candidates to the world of Hel and pump out the enemy forces faster then you can kill them. Taking too long to take out each sorcerer in a map will end in defeat so its best to use your dragon if you can, or sneak up and try to take them out without being noticed. Although it’s impossible to kill the sorcerers with one strike, you have to do your best to take down the sorcerers defences while fending off a few minions. Once all the sorcerers are dead in each partition of the end battle, it’s the big boss battles that are no-brainers and easy to defeat. A good doge/attack strategy is all that is needed.
Viking: Battle of Asgard is a great game for what it wants to accomplish. The storyline is appropriate along with the simplistic nature of the games objectives and combat. Viking has a few sore points attached to this addictive and fun experience which can be blamed on its repetitiveness. The missions, combat, a final skirmishes all are brain dead activities that don’t require a lot of thinking and feature the same event happening over and over. Viking also tests your patience as you have to a lot of footwork in the large open world The Creative Assembly has created.
Despite a few setbacks, Viking is a remarkable hack n’ slash based game that accomplishing its goal of being a fun and addictive game. Hopefully, the numbers are good enough for Sega and Creative to start working on a follow up to Battle for Asgard. The core mechanics have been built and I would love to see this concept flushed out in another episode in the brash world of the Nordic Viking. Viking: Battle for Asgard is a must have purchase for gamers who love the hack n’ slash genre. For all those who are wary, I can confidently recommended this game as safe rental for any gamer who wants to see what the Viking life is all about.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 04.07.08