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PLATFORM: Xbox 360, PS3
ESRB RATING: M
DEVELOPER: The Creative Assembly
PUBLISHER: Sega


Viking first caught our eyes for being an fantastic looking action/adventure game where you could cut your enemies into ribbons. Yes, a lot of the game is similar to a certain other adventure game that just got a PSP prequel, but this one is actually even more bloody and over the top. Plus, it’s from the Spartan: Total War guys, so you know they’re gonna throw a whole ton of enemies at you. You won’t be disappointed in that regard…
 
But one of the most important aspects of Viking: Battle for Asgard is the things you can learn about real-life history. Here’s some fun facts that you might not know about Vikings! For example…

  • Vikings are pussies.

Vikings seem to get themselves captured alive an awful lot. In fact, every viking that you come across is already either tied up to a post or locked in a cage. You save them by pulling the door apart with your hands. They then rush out to help you fight, pulling out their weapons in the process. Yes, they weren’t even patted down, and instead just sat on their pussy asses waiting for a real man to come along and save them. They’ll then join your army, or at least they would, if it weren’t for the that fact that.. 

  • Vikings don’t know how to show gratitude.

Every group of vikings you save won’t fight for you unless you prove your worth. This usually involves you taking out some enemies or getting some item for the group’s leader. What, saving your lives wasn’t good enough?  Perhaps they’re all mad because it turns out…

  • Vikings reproduce asexually.

There are practically no females in this world of Midgard. What’s the point of being a viking if you can’t both pillage and rape? But maybe there’s something else going on with these guys, especially when it becomes apparent that…

  • A Viking’s favorite thing in the world is sunshine and the chirping of birds.

Everytime you rid a dark and stormy place of enemies, the sun comes out and the birds start with the singing. Since when do vikings strive for peace?

THE PITCH

The story is mostly expendable. Stop me if this sounds familiar… a God has pulled you back from death to fight her war against another God who’s doing bad, bad things to the world. Along the way you’ll fight giant mythological beasts and kill demon soldiers in all sorts of bloody ways.

There’s not much to it, but it’s told with comic book art with some guy narrating that sounds a helluva lot like Ian McKellan.

THE PLAY

Get ready to mash that A button! The game controls well, but will require some getting used to, as it’s a tad on the slow side as far as the responses go. This can be chalked up to the fact that you’re playing a big hulking viking warrior, one would assume. You’ll start off with a few moves but over the course of the game you’ll learn new ones (by paying a dead viking warrior. He must be gambling something fierce in Valhalla), which are essential, because you’ll soon grow tired of hitting the same combos over and over. You’ll also get tired of the finishing moves, amazingly, because they are one of the best things about the game when you start out. Hacking away at your enemies really hacks them away- pieces of flesh and bone pop off of them with every hit that connects, which culminates in you totally decimating them in all kinds of gory, dismembering ways. There’s nothing like chopping a guy in half and seeing his spine and intestines flailing about.


“I regret nothing!”

 
While Viking does try to be more than just a standard hack n’ slash adventure game by including a wide-open, Oblivion-style world that you can explore, it’s really not as extensive as it looks. It’s definitely impressive- there is an entire land to explore (3, in fact) but there’s not a lot to do there. You can’t interact with much more than a few people here and there, and the only things you’ll pick up on your quests are bags or chests of gold. There isn’t too much variety in the way of missions, either. Most of the places you find you simply have to clear of enemies or retrieve an item. Once in a while, you’ll run across something awe-inspiring, like the patrols of enemies that are easily 100 men deep. Scary to see a long line of them walking your way.

And then there’s a couple of stealth missions. I’d really like to call a
moratorium on these goddamn missions- they’ve become like the mine cart
levels of the 16 bit era- every game has to have one. Please stop,
developers. It breaks apart the fun of the rest of the game and slows
down the pace. We don’t need a damn Metal Gear moment in the middle of an action title. Even some great games have fallen victim to this mistake in the past (Wind Waker, anyone?) and it’s never worked out to their benefit.

Throughout the game your whole plan is to raise an army to fight the demon forces in a massive battle at their keep. The more vikings you recruit for your cause, the easier it gets. You also get dragons to come fight for you and siege weapons like battering rams, but you don’t really control those and instead just see them in cutscenes.

So after you’ve quested around the world and unlocked the battle, here’s where the game really picks up. This is what those huge battles look like.


Medieval mosh pits were only for the hardest of the hardcore.


It’s incredibly impressive, with literally hundreds of enemies running around at once and taking each other out, but becomes much less so when you realize that it doesn’t matter how many of the little enemies you kill, because all you have to do is take out these monks that respawn everyone. So instead of fighting alongside your warriors you’ll use them as a shield to sneak up to the bigger bosses. The dragons that fight by your side don’t do anything by themselves, and instead only target enemies of your choice after you find “dragon runes”, which are gained by killing the minibosses scattered around the battlefield. It is pretty incredible the first few times you play it, it soon gets old and repetitive, as you’ll fight a bunch of these battles along the way through the game.
 
There’s also not nearly enough variety in the enemies. There’s only a few classes of each, and only a few of the harder guys. These are the champions, the giants… the guys that require more than a few hits to take down. They require some QTE (quick time events- the ones where you push buttons on cue) God of War-style button mashing to kill, in nice, bloody, cinematic ways. This wouldn’t be a problem if there were more variety to the enemies, but there’s not. For example- the first time you run up to a giant it’s an incredible thing.



You’ll take him down with three moves by slicing his achilles tendons one by one, then stabbing him in the neck repeatedly till he bleeds out. It’s a rush, it really is, but it loses its fun when you run across more of them and find out that every single one dies the exact same way. This is the same with all of these miniboss characters, and it doesn’t help that the very final boss in the game is a variation on one of the big creatures you’ve been fighting all this time.

In fact, the ending is very anticlimatic, but you won’t expect much when the story’s so weak. Don’t play this one for its story, play it to hack enemies to pieces. Simple as that.
 
THE PRESENTATION

This is one gorgeous game. The world loads seamlessly, with only minor pop-in once in a while, and it’s damn impressive. The lighting is fantastic, and I’m still amazed at the detail on every single enemy when there’s dozens running around. It actually seems to tax the system at points as there’s some slowdown during the bigger battles, but thankfully it’s nothing too bad.



The music is mostly silent, but when the big battles start up, you’ll know that someone was listening to Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings soundtrack. Big and booming and full of horns and choir chanting, it’ll get you pumped to kill some demons.

THE REPLAY


Practically nil. The game will take you around 15-20 hours, depending on how much you search around, and you might want to go back and beat it in hard if you didn’t the first time (simply to get the achievements) but it’s doubtful. This is actually a game that can be used as a compelling argument that shorter games are more effective. If it were an 8 hour game, I probably wouldn’t have gotten bored of it, but after sinking almost a day’s worth of time into this thing you’ll likely be so tired of doing the same thing over and over and over again that you’ll be glad it’s over.

THE VERDICT


A very fun hack and slasher whose length actually works against it. Definitely worth a look for button masher fans, but anyone looking for depth should stay far away.

7.0 out of 10