Viking: Battle for Asgard Xbox 360, PS3
Viking: Battle for Asgard is not a good game. Some of you out there may be perplexed as to why a reviewer would ever summarise their opinion of a game in the first sentence, but this is what happens when you try so desperately to like a game that but can’t even find one major redeeming quality about it. Despite playing it through from start to finish there was never a moment where I felt the need to say “Ooh that’s quite cool” or “wow, I’ve not seen that before”. I wouldn’t blame you as a reader if you had stopped reading after the first sentence but if you’ve made it this far and wish to understand my utter vehement for this game then please feel free to read on.
Viking’s first mistake is leading in with a rather bland picture book intro that aspires to be unique but just comes across as rather low budget and boring. These sequences re-appear throughout the game and are all narrated by a gentleman who was probably hired on the premise that he occasionally can sound like an archetypal storytelling old man, but his enthusiasm gets the better of him and he just ends up sounding like a loopy hobo. Not that any of this matters of course because the story of Viking is positively dire; it’s so horribly generic and predictable. It fails to take any advantage of being set within Norse mythology, which contains some of the most fantastic stories ever told. It simply uses it as an excuse to feature a gruff quiet guy slashing legions of undead. If you tie this in with the crazy hobo factor and the picture book visuals it all surmounts to a totally lackluster experience.
Viking is set across three large sandbox areas of which you must traverse and complete various tasks within. This isn’t particularly fun as your character moves around pretty slowly but the job is made easier by the teleportation stones dotted around the map. While these are welcomed, their placement can be questionable at times, often with two being within spitting distance of each other only for there to be large sections of the map without any method of quick transport. This can become quite irritating if you decide you want to plough through a good chunk of the game. In addition the world isn’t beautiful and not somewhere you can just wander around and take in the scenery. It’s rather samey and lacking in any astonishing areas so being forced to walk through large sections of it can prove to be a chore.
“Halt!” I hear you collectively cry “I care not for story or scenery, I find my joy in other pursuits such as maiming and killing”. Fret not for I too share this enthusiasm for blood and gore. But alas your thirst for blood shall not be quenched by Viking. Do not be fooled by the 18 rating on the front, this game is tame. Sure what you do could, technically, warrant an 18 rating, but the unconvincing blood and lack of dramatisation or glorification of what you are doing just makes it feel like you’re cutting walking dolls in half. The timing of the slow motion is so misplaced and rarely hits the sweet spot. Unfortunately without the bloody kill incentive the fun factor rests solely on the lap of the combat system and surprisingly it doesn’t hold up. The combat is irritating on so many levels, the combo strings are much too similar to differentiate between and the moves themselves are so similar visually that you only remember button inputs for necessary moves such as shield breaks. There’s nothing to indulge yourself with, no shit hot power combos, no crazy juggles, it’s all just bland and forgettable. None of this ever really looks any good; shoddy animations, moronic A.I. and a wealth of glitches leave you wondering if the combat was supposed to be the selling point for this game.
The developers didn’t really leave much for me to talk about in terms of audio. The total lack of music in this game is inexcusable; the combat may have been able to do a better job of carrying the game if it had some decent audio to accompany it. Unfortunately you are left with nothing but the grunts and screams of the main protagonist. Xbox 360 owners may want to make good use of the custom soundtrack option as it does add to the experience, it can even make it tolerable in some instances. On the voice acting side it seems that Viking suffers from Fable syndrome. A five second trip to Wikipedia will tell you that Vikings were Scandinavian, they were not at any point, English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh. So why for the love of Grendel does everyone sound like they are from the British Isles?
You can sense the confusion of what the developers really wanted from Viking. The combat system feels like it’s geared towards taking on small groups of enemies and falls apart when you are facing a larger number of opponents. The forced stealth sections (which are a royal pain) just don’t work because it’s an action game, your character is not Sam Fisher and he never will be. It’s these kinds of conflicts that prevent Viking from being a cohesive, fun experience. This is a shame, because had the developers really done their homework on Norse mythology and looked at successful action games such as Ninja Gaiden, God of War or Devil May Cry then this could actually have been something worth playing. Unfortunately there is so much wrong with it that it doesn’t even manage to reach average status.