The Vikings terrorised British shores over 1200 years ago, with the first raids recorded in the early 790’s. The Vikings raided England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales and they must have loved these shores as they kept coming back for more. The most recognisable invasion was the Norman Conquest in 1066 - some of you will remember this from History at school. I could go on giving you a lesson about the Vikings, but truth be told, this is about a particular Viking - Skarin, in Viking: Battle for Asgard.
For centuries war has been bloody and relentless between the Underworld and Asgard. The Underworld, led by Hel, Queen of the Underworld, has her merciless soldiers who are known as the Legion, to destroy the realm of the Gods, Asgard. The reason for this is that Hel is looking for the God-killing weapon that can break the chains of Fenrir, Wolf God and brother to Hel. Legend believes that whoever breaks these chains starts Ragnarok; Fenrir will rise into the sky and swallow both the sun and moon, and most importantly creating a new age to be ruled by the person who initialises Ragnarok.
With Hel’s reasoning for her war, Freya, Goddess of Light and Asgard, calls upon you to stop the evil Hel from initialising Ragnarok and calls upon you, Skarin, to battle Hel, Drakan (Hel’s Harbringer; as what Skarin is to Freya), and the Legion of the Underworld. So, your journey starts, Skarin must defeat Hel and her evil Legion.
Starting off in typical videogame style with an FMV, this shows Skarin on his knees as his life drains from him, while the soldiers continue fighting the Underworld. As his life is draining away, Freya, daughter of Odin, King of the Gods, gives you a clean bill of health before stopping the fiery fires and the Underworld slaughtering the Vikings. After this, Skarin is given Freya’s amulet, Brisingamen. Now that the game is about to start, you’re put in the now beautiful and sunny Midgard.
Skarin’s job is to build up an army by completing quests set by various Vikings around Niflberg (the name of the island where you first start). You’ll be sent to search for soldiers who have been captured by the Underworld and when you free them other quests will be set by the leader, which you’ll have to complete in order to get a specific item or get more Vikings for your army. On your travels you’ll find different villages, enemies out in the open, items that can be traded for gold or to complete an objective, and the most important item in the game, gold! Gold lets you buy items, upgrades, maps and so forth; I’d recommend buying a gold map for a few hundred pieces of gold as this shows where the gold is on the island, so it’s a very good buy.
The amulet that got given to you by Freya, the Brisingamen, is practically a map that can be accessed by pressing the select button. By doing this, you’ll see where items are to be found, different villages and Leystones - these are points which you can transfer to - from one Leystone to another and they are handy if you’re unlucky enough to die. The Brisingamen is also displayed at the top right of the screen and is very useful. Bringing up the main map by pressing Select, you can the select your destination by pressing square and when you return back to the game screen, they’ll be an arrow pointing in the direction you should travel to reach your destination. The Brisingamen is not only used to show you where places are, it’s also used to get you information. When walking/running around, dots will appear on the Brisingamen: white appearing means that there might be some helpful information here; green means they are you allies; red are your enemies. Not all your allies and enemies show on the Brisingamen, just the ones who’ll be helpful, or the main enemy who needs to be killed.
Playing the game is very simple and although it starts off slow, the game goes through its paces of collecting items to full bloody battles with a huge army against the Underworld. Controlling Skarin and using his weaponry is very easy. Controlling him with the left analog stick and moving the camera with the right analog stick, the other two buttons that will be used a lot throughout the game will be X and A - both attacking buttons; using both will use Rage mode where Skarin uses his power bar to produce devastating damage to your enemies.
With the attacks in the game, upgrades can be purchased with gold. Each move will be upgraded in levels, becoming more powerful each time. So you’ve got slow-rage attack (X x1), and the level 2 of slow-rage is (X x2) and (X x3) - it’s easy enough to get used to. While X is the slow-rage attack, the fast-rage attack is using the A button. Other attacks come in the form of jumping and hitting enemies, which is most effective when your enemies have wooden shields as the power in this attack will break the shield and give you a clean swipe at the enemy. While the attack buttons are very important, one button is just as important - L2. L2 is used to block and you’ll need to be using this quite often especially when in big battles.
As you progress through the game, you’ll get the chance to control attacks from dragons. You collect the stone needed to awaken the dragon and the dragon can be used in battles - it’s very handy when fighting the bosses on each of the three islands. Speaking of bosses, the bosses are very easy to beat… if you take out their armies scattered around their hell-hole (Ed - That is not very nice, they might like it there). To beat the main bosses of each of the islands, you have to hit the ‘flamed poles’ that appear around the boss. In between three and seven hits at the pole should destroy the pole and you move on to the next one - but beware, the boss is still spawning soldiers around them to stop you killing them.
Graphically, Viking looks very good, even if there is a bit of slowdown during the bigger battles. It’s not the fighting or characters that do it, it’s the scenery which you walk and run around in. The grass swaying, the view from on top of the cliffs, making Viking a very good visual experience, and it’s not just in the good world. When you go out looking for items and you come across Hel’s territory, the mood changes. From the blissful sunshine and grass in the breeze, Viking becomes a much darker game when entering the Underworld territories. When the sky is black and the rain is pouring, you know you’re in Underworld territory and you’re in for a good ‘ol fight.
Audio wise, Viking is nothing to shout about. It gets the job done but there’s nothing really there to make it stand out. The slicing and dicing of enemies is very well executed (get it?), but there’s no real sound to the game when travelling from one place to another, it’s like the countryside - quiet. You’ll hear your armour now and again, but not consistently, but any noises are better than no noise - in my opinion.
Overall, Viking: Battle for Asgard is a very good free-roam hack-n-slash title. Its gameplay is addictive and easy to play. Basic controls, very good combinations of attacks and dragons make Viking: Battle for Asgard worth a rent. Although I didn’t go into detail when killing your enemies, your combinations can be either a sword through the heart, or a beheading and chopping your enemies arms off - with the headless, armless body dropping to floor. It doesn’t have a multiplayer mode and the audio is only average, but Viking: Battle for Asgard executes what it set out to achieve - fun and addictive gameplay, even if short-lived.
- Fast and fun gameplay
- Very nice scenery
- The audio could've been better
- A few slowdown problems in big battles
- Beating the bosses is too basic