March 13, 2008 // 11:30 pm
- The recent movie Beowulf seemed to portray Vikings as nothing more than a bunch of blood thirsty, battle-hungry brutes whose sole hobbies included drinking mead and slaying monsters.
Viking: Battle of Asgard doesn't do anything to dissuade this stereotype and we couldn't be happier as the upcoming action/real-time strategy game may even turn the brutality up a notch.
Battle of Asgard is not your typical, run-of-the-mill Viking fable. The title of the game is actually a bit misleading as the story takes place in Midgard (the mortal world) and not Asgard (the heavens). But really, who cares?
What players should care about though is that the Goddess Hel has been thrown out of Asgard by the Zeus of Norse mythology, Odin, and has decided to exact her revenge by raising an undead army to take over Midgard which will, in turn, start Ragnarok (the battle that will destroy the Norse Gods). This is where the hero of the story, Skarin, comes into play as, having been previously killed by Hel's forces, is given a second chance at life by the Love Goddess Freya to defeat Hel's armies.
This objective-based game sees you completing smaller tasks that are appetizers for big fights at the end of each territory. While much of the promotion for Viking is about huge battles between armies of good and evil, there are a number of small quests that need to be taken care of far before you ever step onto the field of battle. The most basic quest involves freeing fellow soldiers to help you as, even though Skarin is a pretty tenacious warrior, he stills needs some help. Often, this includes using stealth to sneak by patrols to free fighters who are left to be eaten by wolves as fighting for you definitely seems like a much better alternative to being devoured. Other objectives include searching for items like battering rams and fighting champions to gain the services of dragons, which will help you later on in battle. Champions are outstanding enemies like ogres or giants and are tougher to fight than the normal villains. Once you've amassed a large enough army and completed enough quests, the big payoff comes in the form of a battle at the end of the level, which often sees hundreds of people fighting onscreen in a spectacular pool of blood.
There are plenty of different styles of game play to mix things up in Viking. The before mentioned quests and objectives serve as a good contrast to the large battles. As previously stated, you'll be using a lot of stealth when rescuing your future army from doom. You'll also be using a variety of fighting moves that must first be trained by fighting "Ghosts of Valhalla". Most of these combos involve using the heavy and light attacks, a la God of War. When you use a heavy attack, Skarin hacks his enemy to bits in an extremely brutal way. Trust me when I say that the gore is at an all-time high in this game due to the frequent dismemberments. There are also some real-time strategy elements in Viking during the big battles. One of the most notable RTS themes is calling in Battle for Asgard's version of a bomb raid in the form of a fire-breathing dragon.
You'll have a tough time running out of land to explore in this vast Viking world. With as much detail as Viking has incorporated into it, it's surprising how vast the maps are with no load times. The three islands that make up Midgard are Nifleberg, Galcliff, and Isaholm, a square kilometer in size. For people who don't want to make a marathon of traveling the map, there are warp portals called Leystones which serve as both a transporter for Skarin and a respawn point after he dies. The game also includes a handy compass that helps with navigating through Midgard.
More screenshots can be seen at the link up top!