Synyster Graves

Viking: Battle For Asgard

by on Apr.08, 2011, under Xbox 360

Viking: Battle For Asgard is a third person hack and slash game released in 2007 by SEGA. It is based on Norse Mythology (if you couldn’t tell from the title) and sets the scene in the mortal realm of Midgard, caught between the obligatory civil war between the forces of light and darkness, in this case being the goddesses Freya, fully equipped with a Princess Leia style bagel hairdo, and Hel, the banished demoness scorned by Odin, who looks more like a promiscuous succubus. You play the role of Skarin, Freya’s champion, resurrected from battle to lead her forces to vanquish Hel’s minions. An epic setting for an epic game?

Skarin: bold warrior, but uncharismatic bore

While the storyline does exist it is a bit wooly to say the least. You don’t really get the immersive back story of Skarin as what you’d expect from a game with such an epic nature. You also don’t really get to develop your character much unlike other Norse ripoffs like Too Human, as the only upgrades you’ll get through the game are health upgrades every time you progress to another island, and combat moves in the Arena, which translate your manic button bashing into a more varied arsenal of slashes. Skarin however has about as much personality as a clay pot, and instead of gaining empathy with the character, you’ll find yourself charging in removing limbs like a lawnmower in a rose garden.

Which brings me to my next point, the combat. As hack and slash games go it’s not bad, although in large parts, there is sheer annoyance at the cheapness of the enemies and large amounts of swearing will be introduced. Essentially the game is of the same dynamic interface as the Dynasty Warrior games (i.e. smash the crap out of the X button) but without the ability to charge into swathes of enemies and emerge victorious.

The fatality system is great, however the stealth system is cack.

Where the DW series was cathartic from the perspective of battering thousands of warriors, Viking in effect pulls you back by the ponytail. You see piling into a horde of minions will only result in one thing, you will die. While I appreciate that SEGA attempted to implement some strategy to stop you from essentially running in like a hyperactive windmill, the cheap attacks from the enemies and hugely biased damage detection in their favour will just cause and aneurysm of foul language. You have to walk up to large groups and then back off like a Tartar ambush to pick them off one by one, because being surrounded gets you dead, fast. This somehow takes the gloss off being a fierce viking warrior when instead you have to cause enemies to attack single file as if they’re queueing up for a short demise. They also block continuously and you have to use your attacks to smash their shields in, which later on, becomes very time consuming. The one aspect of the combat which is really good is the Mortal Kombat style “fatality” option randomly appears after you’ve been whaling on an enemy for a while. Pressing the Y button will then cause an animation whereby you’ll masterfully remove the body parts of the enemy in alphabetical order. Very satisfying. Plus a useful glitch is that you are invulnerable when this happens making it a useful exploit when surrounded by a large amount of enemies.

The quests themselves are the typical drudge of fetch quests and ambush/assassination missions which involve you to run all around the level doing menial tasks until you satisfied enough Vikings to go into battle with you. Each of the three islands has a siege mission as the final part. This involves you fulfilling all the tenuous criteria to attack each stronghold. The first part is the stealth mission, which entails you to sneak into the massive fortified location and either activate the stone circle or assassinate the commander. While this may sound good can I can assure you that Metal Gear Solid sneaking about in a fantasy swordfighting game just doesn’t work very well.

Chaos Champions take a battering before you QTE them to death

After fulfilling that frustrating mission it’s time for the massive assault. This is where the game really shows it’s quality. You attack en mass on the fortified location and lead from the front, crashing into lines of enemies in a full scale, Lord of The Rings style epic battle. The objectives are usually to wipe out the enemy shamen to stop them spawning troops. You do however get to summon dragons, which aid your attack by raining down fire on the enemy once they’ve finished circling the battlefield for the 43rd time, and enfuse warriors near to you with the power of lightning, fire and ice. All very cool. Later on in the game you get Chaos Champions, which are essentially massive Nazgul like warriors and Giants. Both after hitting them several times with your sword will enable you to finish them off with an irritating series of quick time events. I don’t think I need reiterate my sheer hatred of QTEs, and finishing off these special enemies for the umpteenth time is very irritating.  Plus the button press on the QTEs has to be spot on, or you have to start the sequence all over again. Much to my dismay, the final boss was also a QTE based boss, and to be honest, was a disappointing end to a good fight sequence.

In summation, Viking is not a bad game and if you can pick it up for about £15, it will be well worth the money. It does fall over with the tedious missions and side quests as well as the the excessive button mashing combat, of which you can’t take on more than 4 enemies without suffering damage. The first playthrough is quite fun but I wouldn’t probably get through a second one due to the leaden monotony of mashing your way through the game over and over again. This is another example of a game which would have exponentially more life in it if there was an option of multiplayer.

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