Viking: Battle For Asgard review
Lost vikings? Nope. Only bloodthirsty ones here.
I think it's safe to say that vikings haven't gotten enough love in the video game world. There are too many centered around the Greek gladiators and the knights of the round table... Where are the damn vikings? Oh, The Lost Vikings for the Sega Genesis? That's a puzzle game! I want to kill things as a viking! Come on, they're the most feared sort of human beings in history... and we're going to put them in a genre about as scary as the booger man? It's time to take action! Kudos to Creative Assembly for knowing everybody's pain and creating a viking game that lives up to their legacy, and kudos to Sega for producing it (now if only they had this consistent quality control... I don't know, you explain why Sonic has been so mediocre as of late!). Viking: Battle For Asgard takes no prisoners viking-style! Get ready to kick ass!
The story is that Hel's Legion, the legion of the damned, is going to take over Midgard (the plane of existence, or Earth), and all that stands in the way is a cursed viking by the name of Skarin and his merry gang, open for more members. There is more I should say... but for the life of me, there isn't! See, the story never really progresses! Aftermath of the war? Guess. Curse? An abnormal thirst for blood is all I gathered. Anything else? Your travelling men may say something, but that's about it. Nothing really develops in the story. It's like what a creationist book should be if you take out all the "scientific" mumbo-jumbo.
Okay, so the story is a mess, but at least everything else isn't. Let's dive into the game with some basic knowledge about what we're going into - a hack and slash game that takes some cues from God Of War. Simply put, you're going up against bad guys with a sword and axe, cutting them up, and when they're weak enough, by pressing X, you can execute a fatality move. As well as this, you can mix it up a bit with some combos. When you learn abilities from the battle area (for a fee, I might add), you can press X and A in a sort of different sequence to kill enemies, and even hold LB and press X or A once or twice for some different-looking results. Some even allow for some quick time deaths, but holy hell, thank god they're not overdone. At the most, it's press a button or two, then mash A to stab the big guy to death.
One sweet thing is that Skarin is not like Kratos from God Of War or the many, many generals of Dynasty Warriors - pretty much, he can't just decimate entire armies and call it a day.. at least, not without some cunning, some wits and some skill with the blade. Why is it sweet? Because it encourages some skill! Sure, it's fun to mash a couple of buttons and that's end of the game, but only for a little while. Doing more than that is more rewarding, since you have to be able to take out enemies one at a time without getting your bells whipped off by other enemies, and when you manage to take out the army around you, it just feels more rewarding, therefore, more fun. Might get a bit frustrating when they *bleep* you to death, but that's just what adds to the sense of satisfaction - overcoming seemingly impossible odds. Wouldn't mind a targeting system, though. Would help a little more in battle, since you're kind of just wildly slashing at whoever is in front of you.
There are also elemental runes you can use to help kill enemies. They can be bought and upgraded at shops at the settlement camps (as well as some health restoring potions and health increasing potions, plus throwing axes and fire potions to kill Legion scum from a distance). They let you add an element to your strikes, as well as unleash this wicked powerful attack if you press A and X at the same time. Just kill enemies and get red orbs to fill up the red bar, and then unleash that element and kill them all! Feel the power of lightning flow straight to their penises!
The main aim of each continent, though, is not to just kill every bad guy in sight. You also have to help out your viking companions. Whether they're trapped in cages or tied to poles, its your job to mash the hell out of B until your thumb is sore to get them back to your base and ready for the epic fights! They're usually easy to find, especially when the map marks out death camps they're being held in. With a few groups, it's not as simple as ripping the cage doors open with your super strong arms. You also have to prove to them your worth by either giving them heaps and heaps of gold, or by killing something and showing its limbs to them, which makes your mission a bit harder, but at least it makes you work a bit for troops, not just for money and blood.
Once you've amassed enough troops and done something else (protip: do every mission on the map you can up until you can do the main mission), it's time for the battle! Open up the map, press A on the landmark, and unleash hell! It's your army against their legion. Usually what you end up doing, though, is killing all the shamans and big soldiers, mostly because your allies have their hands full with the little soldiers. It would sound reasonable... if they weren't so dumb! Seriously, your allies must have been beaten in the head and drugged to death, because they don't do much aside from a few swipes here and there. Don't they realize the Legion usually carries HUGE armies? Then there's the shamans who keep summoning soldiers! It's pretty much you VS a shitton of soldiers and shaman shields before you can kill the shaman! You can't even order them around, possibly because they were ear-*bleep* to death when they were captured, so that makes things worse for you! Whatever, it's up to Skarin to take everything in his way to the goal out, but it kind of does let this aspect of gameplay down. It feels disappointing, since this is what got hyped up when you watch/read reviews from professionals.
I guess if there's one thing you can do during the final battles of each of the three continents you travel to throughout your journey to take down Hel, there are the dragons. Collect dragon amulets and power them up, and then during these final battles, you can summon dragons, provided you have some dragon runes from the carcasses of the champions or shamans... more realistically, provided that there's something for the dragons to kill by the time you have some. Just feels satisfying to unleash a firestorm on the battlefield...
The graphics manage to hold up finely. Environments look lush and detailed. It definitely doesn't let up on jawdroppingly cool sights, while retaining the fairly high texture count throughout. Character models also look well rendered and are nice to look at. You know - the usual 2008 graphics in a 360/PS3 game. Of course, it does have problems, like the fact that the lighting for a Legion-controlled area is either in the middle somewhere, or pitch black except for a bit around Skarin. This means that enemies can and will get the jump on you when it should be the other way around.
Another graphical problem is the lag. Typically speaking, when there's heaps of enemies or action, a game would slow down. Well, that only happens half the time. Sounds great, but the problem is that you don't know when it decides to lag - will it be during the big, epic-scaled battle, or just against a group of Legion grunts? You'll never know. All you know is that it's going to happen, and it'll put a damper on the experience.
What else will put a hamper on the experience? The lack of sound outside of combat! Unless you talk to somebody at the settlement camp or at some places, there is actually no music or sound except for Skarin's footsteps. It can either amount to atmosphere, or to just lazy work. I hate to say it, but this is kind of lazy. It's also aggravating, since the soundtrack is actually pretty good. Definitely epic and definitely gets you into the spirit of an epic battle. Voice acting is also pretty solid, if you don't mind some viking banter... but seriously, the voice acting is good and the parts that the actors play are well done. Sound effects get the job done by being realistic and not annoying, and surprisingly being the most prominent... usually, it's the music... WHEN THERE ACTUALLY IS SOME! But if you want a solution, just blast some Amon Amarth and you're set.
Enough ranting about that. Viking: Battle For Asgard provides most of the goods. You can cut heads off, disembowel them, bludgeon their heads before decapitation, and neuter them with the elements. Some of the bad things can get in the way, but ignore the other bad things, and you got yourself a pretty good game.
Just a little cheaply designed here and there, plus the big, BIG battles... well, maybe if the AI coding staff had a bit more training, it'd feel more epic. Oh, and a targeting system would be nice for those epic scaled battles! Other than that, none too shabby. Hacking and slashing on an open plane is pretty cool.
Competent controls at least. Most of the commands are well done and place. I'd love to know why it sometimes takes a bit for Skarin to simply open up the door or untie the vikings. Kind of annoying when you're mashing B and nothing happens when it should. Oh, and Y for jumping? Why!?
This could've been cool.. if it progressed. It's like a book with just the front and back covers, with a page for the backstory.
Nice to look at, but once again, old man lag comes to ruin some of the fun. When there's a fair amount of action going on, the game slows down considerably. The problem is that it's random. You just never know when it slows down... And if it's dark, it's pitch black. Huge problem when sneaking around to kill enemies, especially since they get the jump on you 9 times out of 10.
Not a huge fan of the lack of music.. or the lack of sound, really! Whenever there is sound, it's well done, like the epic battle scores and voice acting, but that's the problem... it has to be there to count!
The game lasts a bit of time as you go through the adventure, but that's about as long as it lasts. There are some achievements, but odds are, it'll take one extra playthrough, tops, to get those that you missed.
It's fun as hell chopping up enemies, even if your ally AI is mentally handicapped. Even if it's kind of all you do, it's still pretty fun. The difficulty never really gets on your nerves, except for a few missions every now and again.
Viking: Battle For Asgard is definitely worth purchasing if you're into games like Ninja Gaiden and God Of War. Even if you're not, this isn't something to miss out on, unless a bit of repetition here and there with a side ordering of a story that didn't progress, as well as little sound and some slowdown and lighting hiccups, bother you. For those who know how hack and slash games truly work, this is for you.
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