When I play a game, I love to have a challenge. The kind of challenge that can only be overcome by wit or talent alone, perhaps both. The problem with Viking: Battle for Asgard is that the challenge proposed often counteracts with what the game was made for. Thanks to some very poor game mechanic flaws, many of what would've been the big highlights of the game were lost in a flurry of disappointing.
More like a bedtime story…
The game takes place in the time of the Norse Gods, where a fierce struggle is taking place within Asgard. Hel, queen of the underworld has risen forth to proclaim her rule over the mortal world of Midgard, and only you, Skarin, a Schwarzenegger-like viking has the power to stop her.
The lore of the game is presented through a few, corny slide-shows, narrated by Freya, the god who has chosen you to be her champion in the war against Hel. The rest of the game's story is told through some annoyingly short cut-scenes, spoken by characters whose mouths never move, which is a major pet-peeve of mine. Perhaps the best, only good thing about this seemingly lame and overused story scenario is the ending, which takes an abrupt twist for that better that I never saw coming.
I won't spoil what happens though for you, because it is the only real treat for those who are willingly able to get to the end, though I'd expect the majority of you to quit by the time your 1/3 of the way done. The game simply ceases to be fun and rapidly becomes more frustrating and repetitive as the game goes on.
Which skill again?
The core emphasis on which the game revolves around is the massive battles that will take place, which for the most part, are pretty neat and well done. The trick is, to enact in these battles, you must first raise an army big and strong enough to put into the field.
This means that the majority of your time spent in Viking is done by scouring the wide open plains, forests, and mountain tops in search of imprisoned men, whom are usually trapped inside giant ribcage cells or tied up to skull poles. Pretty much all you're doing is finding camps, killing those who are found inside it, then freeing captive soldiers.
If you just took over a fairly large or important encampment, the men their may ask you to perform a task, which usually involves killing this or that, freeing more soldiers nearby, or recovering some stolen supplies. Once the odd job is complete, they'll join your team.
Your army is now ready for battle, but there may still be one or two other tasks that may still need to be completed like find the battle horn, recover this lost gem to summon a dragon, kill X amount of men, etc. What annoyed me more than anything in the game were the always required stealth missions through the big enemy city you would later besiege with your army. You'd be tasked with some sort of retrieval or sabotage mission, but the thing is, none of the game's mechanics support stealth like behavior.
Time and time again I'd be caught trying to traverse through areas where all odds were against me. Taking on more than 5 or 6 enemies at a time would probably be suicide in this game. When I was asked to try to sneak around 20 or so guys without any sort of stealth like skills, you can only imagine how frustratingly awful that whole experience went.
A swing and a miss
Once you meet the battle conditions, you can select the icon on the map and jump straight into the fray. A cut-scene will start, showing off a sea of enemy and friendly soldiers alike, shaman are casting spells off in the distance, and your dragon will be circling overhead. When it ends, the two sides spring into action.
From that point, you'll instantly be tasked with two, simple objectives that are the same for every battle in the game. Kill the two shaman and you win the fight. Of course, as you get deeper into the game, more and more shaman will be there to be killed, yet the winning conditions always remain the same, which is a major shame.
And while it was cool to see all of the soldiers on the battlefield at once, it was ultimately pointless to interact with them in any way, since you could just go off and complete your objectives leaving your army behind. It almost seemed like they were there just for show.
But they weren't all that mindless. Even though you don't have any control over them, they still at least have the sense to know that they need to bash the brains out of the blue freaks (legion troops) right in front of them. If you were caught int the thicket of the fight however, your framerate would often stutter and most of the time you would lose all visual of your character.
Taking a step back to talk about the dragon, the fellow you probably just spent a good hour or so to acquire through painfully boring side quests, is almost entirely inoperable throughout the entire fight. Completing objectives will earn you a token to call in your dragon to the fight, yet he can only be used to pinpoint certain parts of the battlefield. One token can be used to take down a gatehouse or kill of a squadron of enemy archers, or two could be used to kill off one shaman. Once done, the dragon leaves the fight.
And with that, I've just explained to you how Viking works. Free soldiers, summon dragons, perform stupid and unsupported stealth missions, then finish off your boring quest with a cool, yet relatively quick battle. Sounds kind of repetitive doesn't it? Maybe it's because it actually is! And you have to suffer through this very same cycle three times over, just on different isles, or islands.
In terms of graphics, the game fails to impress me here either. Blurry character textures and some poorly designed landscapes make up the bulk of what you see. It could very well be mistaken for a game made for the last generation of consoles. I could understand if some of the visuals had to be turned down, or even off for the big battles to take place, then allowing for some prettier, more detailed environments outside of these conflicts, nut unfortunately that wasn't the case.
Viking: Battle for Asgard is a game with too many problems. Certain gameplay elements are seemingly thrust in just to fatten up the game and the majority of your time is spent doing the same quests over and over again. While fun at first, the game quickly becomes repetitive and then later boring. Furthermore, the lack of an intuitive battle system killed off what was to be the selling point for the game. Creative Assembly set the bar high for Viking, and fell short.
Replay Value: Very Low