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Wednesday | March 22, 2017
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Viking: Battle For Asgard

Viking: Battle For Asgard

Viking: Battle For Asgard is set in the era when the world was ruled by the Norse Gods. Created and developed by SEGA/Creative Assembly, the game puts you in the shoes of Skarin a barbarian style viking warrior who wields both a battleaxe and a sword.

The game starts with Skarin mortally wounded and on his way to Valhalla however his imminent death is stopped by Freya, Odin’s daughter in exchange for his loyalty. She asks him to go after her arch enemy Hel, Queen of The Underworld. Obviously with very little choice, Skarin agrees and this is the backbone of the game storyline.

The main task in the game is to amass an army large enough to take key points in the world of Asgard, because it is impossible to complete the game as a one man army.

Your Viking brethren have been taken captive by Hel’s undead minions and a large portion of the game time is taken up by roaming the countryside to find your countrymen held captive in giant ribcage style prisons or tethered to poles. After you free your colleagues they normally ask a favour of you, such as eliminating a traitor, then they join your army.

The Map is accessed by the back button on the gamepad and is broken up into many sections with icons for various tasks and locations scattered around it.

This is where Viking: Battle for Asgard differs from many of the 3rd person view battle games already available on the market. The majority of the game you play as a sole warrior, however once you amass enough warriors to join you, then there is a huge battle with Vikings versus the undead: the goal? to take over a key point in the current map.

Once you have met all the conditions for these huge group battles, it becomes unlocked on your map and you can enter it by simply pressing a button. These fights are extremely impressive, with literally hundreds and hundreds of warriors on screen from both armies. Each battle starts with a cutscene of your men parading to the location, with dragons flying overhead and the enemy warriors and shaman handling their own preparations for battle.

Even though most of these visually impressive battles are handled by the AI, your Vikings fight well and try to give you support as you take out the enemy Shaman, who annoyingly have magic to resurrect their fallen soldiers (as do your own shamans).

Basically this section of the game follows the same formula throughout, you are left to deal with the leaders and elite warriors (Giants and Shamans) while the grunts battle back and forward alongside you. Once you battle further the territory you will be in a position to have your own Mage take over the base’s central point and win the day.

While the game has a little depth the basic principle is to follow the pointers around the map, free your friends, complete the objectives and improve your combat moves and abilities by training in the arenas, until you amass enough men and complete the tasks required before attacking the enemy stronghold and taking over the territory, to then push on to the next area controlled by Hel’s Minions.

The battles are strewn across three large maps which have environmental climate changes depicting the control of the territory. If you are in a territory controlled by Hel, it will be dark, red, or raining, and once you liberate it, it becomes bright and sunny and you even hear birds chirping once again. This sounds rather lame, however it does work well when you see it in action.

On the surface, fighting camp after camp in the game sounds repetitive and rather boring, however I found the exact opposite to be true, sure, near the end it becomes a little tedious, however for the most part I was highly entertained when playing Viking: Battle For Asgard. So much so I completed the game across a 2 day span (around 12 hours in total)! Not only do you have to fight a plethora of enemies but with certain missions (especially later in the game as it gets a lot harder) you need to do some preplanning rather than just running in willy nilly, because while Skarin is the virtual game equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, even he has limits to how many enemies he can take on. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, the undead don’t all stand around and let you take them out one by one, they hit you from all sides, so it won’t take long before you end up in a body bag. Especially if there is an Undead Horn Blower to alert nearby troops to your location.

This is one of the strengths of Viking, in that there are many ways to beat the tasks at hand. I was struggling with one of the camps later in the game and after many times of charging in head on, I decided to walk around the rear and take out the guards one by one until I reached the ribcage prison. Avoiding the line of sight of a nearby Giant, I managed to free the trapped Vikings, who then all rushed to my aid, and together we defeated the camp. I had a great sense of achievement completing many missions in this game.

This game is gory ! you have a wide variety of attacks, with many more able to be learned (bought) from nearby arenas. You can hack off heads, limbs, even splay foes into multiple chunks…….  the blood count is very high. This is one of the reasons I loved the game, after all how many times have you taken control of a wonderful character to find that hacking an enemy with your sword just results in him vanishing in front of your eyes?! Many times I was reminded of Severence Blade Of Darkness on the PC. Yes, entrails galore. My favourite attack is to pound a foe into submission, enter into slow mo (yes, more bullet time)…. then lop off his head followed by both arms, leaving a disembodied torso laying on the ground. Viking: Barbie Workout, this is not.

It all sounds extremely positive so far, however unfortunately it isn’t. The game can be repetitive, there are really only 2 attack buttons and Skarin cannot run, meaning you can rarely get away from anything if you have to. This aspect alone is very frustrating.

The story line while promising a lot has never really been truly developed, granted what there is, is great, however it has never really been fully fleshed out. While Skarin looks great and has some powerful moves at his disposal, for a considerable portion of the game I felt more like a delivery boy, than a leader of Vikings with everyone ordering me to do the most mediocre of tasks. After all if you had infiltrated an enemy camp, slaughtered 30 undead then freed prisoners only to be asked by these prisoners to perform another task "before we trust you", would you not just reach over and pummel the guys face into the wall? I know I would.

The graphics in the game are just short of stunning. I say this because while great attention to detail has been paid to the environments and character creation (even though many of the units are cloned), I think the game developers have just pushed the hardware beyond its limits. Some of the huge battles have framerate issues (from the second map on), even on the Xbox 360 and while they don’t ruin the game, I felt a little more testing and optimisation (even the removal of some units) might have helped the game to remain more immersive. The Playstation 3 version is worse all round yet again with the graphics hardware apparently struggling even more to maintain acceptable frame rates. Unfortunately this isn’t the only problem with the Sony version, as the colours are much less vibrant and some of the effects are totally missing. Very disappointing if you are a Playstation 3 owner to have, yet again another sub par release.

While both 360 and PS3 generally have great environmental attention to detail there are times when texture pop in is apparent, again it is not enough to ruin the game, but it is rather noticeable.

With regards to audio, I found the game rather disappointing. Skarin’s footsteps sound at times like a horse running and the ambient noises could have been improved. I also found that when teleporting, the sound would cut out and I would have to pause and unpause the game for the sound to reinitialise. Music is sparse and rather too middle of the road to be even vaguely memorable.

Viking: Battle for Asgard is a very good game which falls just short of being a highly recommended title due to many niggling issues and somewhat repetitive gameplay. The combat is enjoyable and the level design is excellent. At the end of the day however all the little problems put a dampener on the atmosphere and game enjoyment. If you are interested, a rental would be a wise choice because it would be a shame to miss out completely on such a fun title.

Gameplay
80/100

When it is good, it is great. Some great ideas nicely executed. Some issues ruin the overall score however.

Graphics
Xbox 360
84/100
PS3
75/100

Overall it is a great job, the PS3 version suffers with worse framerates and missing effects.

Sound
75/100

Nothing at all to remember, apart from the fact our hero can sound like a horse on certain surfaces.

Value
80/100
Shortlived, but enjoyable while it lasted.
Overall
(not an average)
Xbox 360
80/100
PS3
75/100

A fun game, if you can live with the little niggling issues.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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