Viking: Battle for Asgard (Xbox 360)
Manufacturer: Sega Part number: 68023
- A fierce struggle is taking place within the realm of the Norse Gods, as the goddess Hel has been banished for defying Odin, Lord of Asgard. Angry at her fate, Hel has raised an army of resurrected Viking warriors to wipe out all of humanity. The task of stopping Hel falls to Skarin, a promising but deeply flawed young warrior...
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Gamespot editors' review
Hack & Slash for gamers not suffering from A.D.D.
by christephi on April 3, 2008
Pros: Satisfying combat, epic battles, strategic fighting
Cons: Music is absent 75% of the time
Summary: It took me a while to get into Viking: Battle for Asgard. Mainly it's because I wasn't sure what to expect, as the previews led me to believe ...
Summary: It took me a while to get into Viking: Battle for Asgard. Mainly it's because I wasn't sure what to expect, as the previews led me to believe one thing or another about the gameplay that wasn't quite what it actually turned out to be. In fact, I admit to being a little bit disappointed with the game during the first hour or so. Having just finished Conan not too long ago, Skarin's moves feel severely limited. Conan had literally dozens of moves that were determined by what weapons Conan was using. Conan could wield a single sword/axe, two swords/axes (or one on each hand), a sword/axe and a shield, or a two-handed weapon. Skarin has the same axe and sword on each hand for the entire game. Although you can purchase moves to add to your arsenal, they don't come close to providing the variety that Conan offered, where switching from one weapon combination to the next alone instantly resulted in different movesets. Also right off the bat the enemies in Viking didn't seem to put up the same resistance as the ones in Conan. The weakest enemy types in Conan at least blocked your first strike. In Viking, the weakest enemies just stand there. Thankfully, it doesn't take too long to encounter the stronger enemy types who carry shields, do more damage and generally fight smarter. Then you have the boss-like fights where you'd have to evade and counter until you do enough damage which leads to a mini-game in which you have to follow a sequence of button presses as prompted on-screen, kinda like the ones in Conan, but smoother. You'll find that the combat in Viking is very, very similar to Conan's, down to some of the moves such as Skarin's shoulder charge and his downward slashing attack with both weapons that chop off both of the target's arms. What you won't find in Skarin are Conan's grapple moves such as the piledriver and a back-breaker, as well as the rolling maneuver which has been replaced by an evasive backstep. In time, however you'll get used to the pacing and style of the combat in Viking and you'll find the few moves Skarin has are more than enough to do the job and offer enough variety to keep the combat from getting stale. You also have some magic attacks that in the form of fire, ice and lightning which could come in handy in tight situations. They work best in the large scale battles as they not only have the power to kill several enemies at once, they can also boost surrounding allies' strength.
Early on your typical enemy confrontation would consist of 3 or 4 grunt types which you'll be able to dispose of rather easily. Once you buy a couple of "advanced" moves even these battles could be interesting as you fluidly thrust your weapons from one enemy to the next and you finish them off by pressing the "X" that appears above their heads when they are ready to be put out of their misery. Then you'll be facing more enemies at a time along with the shield-wielding ones that offer up more resistance. This is when the combat starts to get a bit more challenging. It's never impossible to overcome, but if you don't assess the situation before engaging the enemy, you'll be mowed down every single time. It's actually amusing to watch Skarin get jumped by "just" a dozen enemies and get squashed in 5 seconds flat. There's definitely some tactical elements to Viking: Battle for Asgard that make it stand out. The most basic tactical consideration you must make is the real estate. Conventional wisdom will have you avoiding fighting in enclosed areas where you can be cornered. Most of the time it's best if you can lure your enemies towards the open areas where you have a lot of room to evade and counter. But the other key element in surviving a potentially deadly confrontation is using stealth. In Viking when there are enemies around and you have not been spotted yet, Skarin gets into a low crouch until he blows his cover. During this time it is possible to "snipe" the enemy with throwing axes or molotov cocktail-like bottles from a distance. You can also sneak up behind enemies and cause significantly more damage, a lot of times resulting in one-hit kills. This stealth option allows you to eliminate certain targets such as archers from high above or even a couple of grunts before engaging the enemy face to face. Usually this spells the difference between survival and defeat. Many times a group of low-level enemies could prove deadly when backed by archers, and the tougher enemies are made even more dangerous when there's a couple of low-level grunts that constantly pester you. It's also important to keep in mind that you're limited to carrying 10 throwing axes at a time and you would have to decide which enemies to sneak up on and which ones to take out from a distance. The best thing about the stealth is that it is not forced upon the player. It is also integrated into the normal gameplay. There are no "stealth portions" in Viking where the game takes on a different engine built for stealth. You'll always have the option to engage the enemy stealthily if you prefer, or you can just jump in and take them all on.
As you may have read, the bread and butter of Viking: Battle for Asgard is the large scale battles involving hundreds of allies and enemies on-screen at once. This might not sound like a big deal especially if you've played the Dynasty Warriors series, where you might've grown accustomed to dealing with dozens of enemies at once. But a closer look really helps you appreciate this spectacle in Viking. Although it's hard to tell friend from foe, there is dynamic combat taking place between your allies and the enemies, and you can jump in and hack and slash to your heart's desire. And just like in the DW games, winning the battle is a matter of eliminating key targets such as the archers and more importantly, the Shamans who respawn the enemies. The battles are usually ended by killing all the Shamans. Sometimes you are treated to a one on one duel against a boss-type character who is not that hard to deal with so long as you have the patience to evade and counter until you get to the mini-game that I described earlier. You might've read about the ability to call in dragons for an airstrike, but this aspect isn't nearly as impressive as it may have sounded. When you summon a dragon you transition into a pre-rendered cutscene that shows the dragon swooping by and blowing up the target. It would've been grand to see the dragon doing damage in real time, but the whole cutscene thing takes away from what could've been a highlight moment of the battle. But as such, the battles truly are epic as the soundtrack kicks in and there's chaos going on all around you. There's a sense of purpose as you fight through hordes of enemies to get to the Shaman, giving you the feeling that the outcome of the battle rests on your shoulders.
Viking: Battle for Asgard isn't without issues. The sound is underwhelming, particularly the absence of a pounding musical score for the majority of the experience. The combat sounds are fine, and so is the ambient sound, but the music is scarce. It's like the whole game is in "sneak mode" until you reach the climactic large-scale battles. It makes it seem as though the rest of the game isn't as important, which is hardly the case at all. The music doesn't kick in until those battles, and you'll have to settle for some barely audible tracks prior to the big battles. Viking has a set structure. You liberate your fellow vikings throughout the island by untying them from poles or by pulling doors off of the cages they're imprisoned in. You go on errands for key NPC's who'll reward you with some item that is crucial for advancing the plot. Once you meet all the requirements you can go directly into the battle by selecting it on the map. A more dynamic musical score would've made the smaller tasks feel less mundane, but sadly, you'd just have to live without it. Also, the exploration could be frustrating especially when you can't find the path to where you need to get to. Many times you'll be going around mountains looking for a cave or some other type of opening. These are huge mountains I'm talking about, and nothing's worse than setting a waypoint in the map only to find yourself missing that waypoint by several hundred yards and not seeing any type of pathway that leads to it. It's frustrating mostly because it doesn't seem to be a feature that was deliberately implemented into the game, and whenever you do find that passage you were looking for (usually by luck) you get no sense of achievement. Instead it feels like something that you should've been able to spot easily had the navigation system not been so confusing or had the visuals been a little better, which leads to my next gripe with Viking. The visuals are solid but could be inconsistent. The dark segments of the game (which are the portions of the map that are under Hel's control until you liberate them) limit your visibility. There are times when the enemy is just a few feet in front of you and you still can't see them. If it weren't for your flashlight-like medallion of some sort (honestly I don't even know what it is, it's something that Freya gives you in the beginning of the game; it glows like a cell phone in the dark) you won't be able to see in some places.
Viking: Battle for Asgard is far from perfect, but the things it does manage to pull off well really make the game worth a purchase. The combat, once you get used to having a small arsenal of moves, is as good as any hack and slash you've ever played, so long as you don't have a combo-heavy mindset. The action in Viking is closer to a Hollywood film like Lord of the Rings and Braveheart than an arcade title like Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden, where the emphasis is on lightning fast combat with long combo chains. The large scale battles are intense even if you've played Dynasty Warriors 6. I've seen hundreds of NPC's on screen at once even though I haven't witnessed a battle consisting of thousands (or close to a thousand) as of yet. Although the exploration could be boring, it's possible to get into it and feel like you're truly on a mission. The stealth element adds a layer to the combat not found in other hack and slash games and truly makes a difference in the outcome of each confrontation, and it is never forced upon the player. While the visuals aren't as nice as the best games available on the 360 and the PS3, Viking is still a beautiful game even when there are inconsistencies in the texture work and lighting. The key to enjoying this game is having the right expectations, and I don't mean quality-wise. Don't expect non-stop action or long combo chains. Rather, prepare to take on a journey that involves a lot of travelling, plenty of small skirmishes that pave the way for large epic battles and countless severed limbs, and you won't be disappointed.
P.S. here's a great article on Gamespot's review: http://www.gameoverboard.com/art-vikrev.html
- Manufacturer: Sega
- Part number: 68023
- Description: A fierce struggle is taking place within the realm of the Norse Gods, as the goddess Hel has been banished for defying Odin, Lord of Asgard. Angry at her fate, Hel has raised an army of resurrected Viking warriors to wipe out all of humanity. The task of stopping Hel falls to Skarin, a promising but deeply flawed young warrior...
Product Basic Spec
- Platform Xbox 360
- ESRB rating Mature - Blood and Gore,Intense Violence
- Genre Action
- Elements Action - adventure
- Developer Creative Assembly
- ESRB Mature
- ESRB descriptors Blood and Gore,Intense Violence