Left: Skarin. Right: Big-ass bad-guy.
I was unsure at first about getting Viking from the rental people. I'd heard horror stories about how bad it was, in fact I tried deleting it from my queue at first, but something unearthly compelled me to get it anyway. “Maybe it's not so bad.” I said to myself, “maybe those horror stories are wrong.” Sure enough, Viking dropped through my post-box one Saturday morning and I became strangely excited, maybe Loki, Norse god of mischief was enticing me to play this horrifyingly bad game, or perhaps Odin himself, father of the gods was telling me to play the rough diamond that is Viking: Battle for Asgard. I can assure you, it's the latter. Viking is the way hack ‘n’ slash games should be made, and wielding the power of sarcastic overtones with some of the bad points thrown in for good measure, I intend to tell you why.
998, 999, 1000. OK, we're all here... CHARGE!
Viking’s story is ok. It’s not really the epic story I expected when I heard that the entire game is based on a hunt to slay the Norse god, Hel, playing as Freya’s (another Norse god) mortal champion. However, the story is still the most epic that I've ever played in a Hack ‘n' Slash game. The cut scenes, while well acted by Brian Blessed (Boss Nass from Phantom Menace), seemed very glitchy for me: sometimes they would stop and start, and the subtitles flickered off and on. The cut scenes were generated using pre-rendered art stills with the voice over on top of them; stills are not advanced at all in the sense of game storytelling, so in my opinion, they shouldn't ever be glitchy.
The only other bad point I can think of is the battles; they're epic in size, with well over a thousand people on the screen at the same time, but this amount of people makes the frame-rate drop dramatically. I kind of forgave it because I had expected the frame-rate to be reduced to a crawl with that amount of people on the screen. The sheer scale of the battles makes you feel important – Fenrir’s teeth drag the player into the game, and any kind of immersion within a hack ‘n’ slash game is rare, so it got a lot of CyberGrim-Space Points for that. Levelling out the frame-rate drop using battles of epic proportion made the fighting extremely enjoyable overall, providing you can hack your way through the bad frame-rate.
Game Reviewers always call out games for repetition, and Viking has its fair share, but even though I agree that a little bit of originality would have been nice, it never really detracted from the gameplay. Whenever you were liberating a camp or freeing a distillery of captured Vikings, it always felt like you were doing it for a material reason, which you were: building up your army for the final battle. Those warriors you freed actually make an appearance after you free them, instead of disappearing forever (like in most games of Viking’s type). I can't really complain about something that is expected from a game where you have to build up a massive army for battle.
Other than the few shortcomings, everything else about the game is amazing, and I can't recommend it enough for anyone that enjoys Viking mythology or just straight Hack n' Slash games. Everything about it feels epic, the battles are like nothing I've ever seen in a game before, and are something I would definitely be interested in seeing again. What else is amazing? The game’s developers, The Creative Assembly, are British; maybe I need to ask for a job.
Short Term: The vast amount of areas that you have to recapture before you can charge head-first into the final battle, combined with the amount of auto-save points dotted around, makes Viking: Battle for Asgard very easy to play for a short amount of time. 95
Long Term: Instead of capturing just one point, like you would if you were playing for a short time, string a lot of those little capture points together and you've got a game that's enjoyable for a good 6 hours or more. Take it from my experience. 95
Overall: Viking is an amazing game and I can't recommend it enough for other gamers. If you're holding back because you've heard it's not very good, I'm telling you they're wrong, and we all know you listen to me, right? Right?