The Vikings are among history’s biggest bad-asses, with a brutal way of life and an even more brutal lust for battle and blood. Even their mythology is caked with battle, blood and glory, rewarding worthy Vikings with entrance to Valhalla should they die in battle. It’s no wonder a show like Vikings, the one with Ragnar Lothbrok, is so popular and has built quite a following. So when I got the chance to review Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, I was excited by a viking themed game, but also entered it without any preconceived notions about it.
A gift from the Gods
The basic storyline of the game is that you’re a prophesised warrior or shieldmaiden who is destined to save your clan from the giants, called Jotuns. One day they attack your clan while and you chase them away. From there, your job is to rebuild your clan and prepare to defeat the Jotuns. It’s not the only goal though, as you’ll fight warring clans, battle the Imperial Armada and visit the underworld among other things. The game really takes full advantage of Norse mythology and includes some great references to the Gods.
At first glance, the game looks like a Diablo clone, and in a way it is, but there’s a layer of uniqueness and a great variety to the levels that makes it its own game. You’ll play your character from the typical top-down camera angle as you move him/her around a fairly linear map, fighting foes until you reach the end where you’ll face off against a tough boss. At the start of the game, the combat is a little basic, but as you grow, the abilities that unlock and the combos you can pull off are quite something. Before you can begin playing, you need to create your viking or shieldmaiden and select which of the five major gods you want your hero to worship. The five include Tyr, Thor, Loki, Skathi and Odin. Each God has their own ability tree and support one of five weapon choices: 2 handed (Thor), dual weapon (Loki), archery (Skathi), one-handed (Tyr), and staff (Odin).
A bloody battle
In order to increase your abilities and level up, you need to collect blood from defeated foes and sacrifice it to the god of your choosing. You can choose to sacrifice to multiple gods, but I chose to stick with two strong ability trees than a weaker all-rounder (Skathi and Thor if you’re interested). The lust for battle and the use of the blood sometimes comes across as barbaric, but these are the vikings. A funny thing that happens later on in the game is when you meet a certain legendary character who quickly points out your viking’s lack of civility. It’s a funny moment especially when you hear the fancy posh accent vs his rugged voice.
While I did like the variety the ability trees offer, I’m not a complete fan of the fighting. It feels very sluggish and while I did mostly use heavy weapons, it felt that way with almost all forms of weapons. I also noticed a bit of a lag sometimes when you hit a character, causing them to take damage a few frames later than it should, a bit like playing on a crappy line when online. I’m also not that bothered with the crafting system, which is very rudimentary I might add, as you can find more than enough powerful weapons while fighting in the various levels.
Fighting all kinds of hazards
The levels in the game are vast and come with a very interesting game mechanic – environmental hazards. As I’ve said before, you’ll travel to many places, but some of these include unique weather and status afflicting effects. For example, early in the game you’ll visit a frosty mountain where you’ll endure cold weather. If you don’t warm up near a campfire, you’ll freeze up and start to take heavy damage. It’s not the only example though, you’ll fight in a swamp where you’ll have to avoid poisonous gas, a bog where you’ll need to avoid this nightmare gas that makes you crazy, fire damage from an ironworks, electrical damage from a mystical cave with glowing crystals and more.
What I also appreciated was the variety of enemies, which ranged from the obvious wolves and boars to Jutons, Kobolds, Priests and Crusaders. Enemy variety is huge and each come with their own tricks, especially the pesky priests who can become immune to attacks by using their magic. On a visual level, they’re also designed well and easily identifiable. Each location is also created beautifully while feeling completely different to the next. While it’s not stretching the graphical scale, the fantasy setting is there and it’s a creatively interesting one.
A trial of the Gods
It’s also quite a lengthy game lasting about 16 hours of playtime. I’ve not finished the game yet, but I have completed the bulk of it and will finish up the last few missions this weekend. I doubt it will affect my review, but if it does, I’ll update it. There’s plenty to do in the game itself, each level comes with three mini challenges that will net you resources if you complete them. Aside from that, there are side missions which you can undertake to gather more resources or to level up if the main missions are giving you grief. There’s also a new game+ and, for the daring, Valhalla mode, which is basically permadeath mode.
I don’t have a lot of issues with the game and while I did enjoy it, the biggest issue is that it’s not reaching for greatness. Character create is rudimentary, so is item crafting, fighting and moving feels sluggish, a bit of a lag in battle and a fairly pointless trial system that feels a bit like an afterthought. Oh, and one thing, the voice acting can be a bit iffy, especially with your warrior’s accent.
In total, the experience was a good one, but there’s definitely room for improvement. If you enjoy games like Diablo and Sacred, and enjoy a bit of Viking action, then you’ll definitely enjoy this game. It’s an entertaining and brutal game with some funny moments, like hearing your burly giant slayer mumble about his fingers numbing in the cold weather. I guess even vikings get cold.