VIKING: BATTLE FOR ASGARD / Sega / PC
 
 
It's clear from the start that Viking basically wants to be God of War or Darksiders, except with vikings. The game it actually reminded me most of was Brutal Legend, due to the open-world style with various subquests strewn about, and a bit of a "strategy" mode thrown in where you lead an army. It doesn't have even a whit of Brutal's sense of humor or great soundtrack, however, and the "strategy" element makes even Dynasty Warriors look complex by comparison.
 


What's not clear at first is how to properly play the thing, even though it's a fairly simplistic hack-em-up. You're told to go to enemy encampments to reclaim them, but doing that initially just gets you surrounded and hacked to pieces by a hundred mooks. You need to adjust to the slow, very defensive style of combat when fighting groups, but you also need to make use of the game's janky "stealth" to try to slip through these areas to where your fellow Vikings are imprisoned, then free them quietly and let them do most of the dirty work for you.
 


The game doesn't bother to explain a few other things up front, like how to use items, or that the only way to get new moves is by fighting your way to a Battle Arena on the coast that's initially behind enemy lines. Or that health upgrades will just sort of arbitrarily pop up in the shop. But even with all that, once you get the basic hang of combat, the game is almost without challenge. If you do happen to die, you're auto-revived back at the village instantly with no apparent penalty at all.
 


The plot is that overly self-serious grimdark crap aimed at adolescent boys, along the lines of the aforementioned games or the "300" movies. You play as a burly viking named ... Skoal or something, he never talks and has no personality or characterization to differentiate him from the other generic warriors, so I already forgot his name. Anyway, this zombie apocalyspe is ravaging the fjords or whatever, and in the course of fighting it off Skoal gets run through by Death Adder. But as he's laying in the bushes dying, some goddess decides he'd make a great champion and revives him, then gives him the task of leading the viking armies to restore the land by conquering the undead invaders.
 


The game is divided into three self-contained islands. The pattern on each is to run about freeing vikings and collecting various items until you've amassed enough of an army to attack a fort. There's usually one small fort locking off half the island, then a much larger main fort after that that completes the island once conquered. You occasionally get to direct your army at other targets, but in all cases except for the final battle of each island, it's just a matter of first amassing enough troops then watching them auto-overrun the enemies for you for the most part.
 


The penultimate battles are where things really fall apart. The game tries to impress by having tons of mooks milling about, but all they really do is cause massive slowdown. There's no strategy whatsoever, the enemy just has X amount of sorcerors summoning fresh troops for them behind the lines somewhere, and you run around everyone like Bo Jackson to get to them and take them out. I can't say that process is difficult, but it is irritating in that you're soloing a big crowd of enemies while in Slowdown Mode, and trying to hit these magical poles around the sorceror while the game's auto-target fidgets back and forth constantly between the poles and the mooks.
 


The rest of the game is easy-but-slow combat against the samey undead hordes. It tries to liven things up with a variety of decapitation finishing moves, but you do the same ones so often to the same character models, it quickly loses any spice it had. Skoal is inexplicably slow and clumsy, taking forever to execute any move except defending (which you'll need to spam almost constantly) and also taking his languid time to recover from anything he does. Boss battles copy that irritating God of War style of making you hack away at some unresponsive giant with a huge weapon radius until a QTE kicks off, and if you mess up even one button press you start the process over again. Oh, and it also does the God of War thing of forcing you to obnoxiously mash B to open any door or chest you come across.
 


Hardcore fans of All Things Viking might be interested anyway in spite of the bad gameplay and repetitive objectives, but it really just sprinkles some token names and themes on top of a generic action framework, don't expect to be delving deep into Nordic lore or feel like you're immersed in the life of Erik the Red here.
 
 
 
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