Gaming Today Impressions of Viking: Battle for Asgard
Viking: Battle for Asgard
Developer: Creative Assembly
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
ESRB: “M” for Mature
Release Date: March 25, 2008
I have always been enthralled with Nordic legends, and anything Viking related. Far be it to call myself a Nordiphile, I am hardly that and I just like mythology of all sorts. I have also thought that Vikings were too often ignored in video games, and I have never understood why they have been largely shunned by the industry, This is why I was so excited about Beowulf until it was announced that it would be a movie tie-in and and in my opinion, both sucked equally.
When Viking: Battle for Asgard was announced a few moths after Beowulf, my love of Nordic mythology took a back seat to the wariness in my brain. I decided it would be rented instead of purchased and while the waiting list for the game was long at my local Blockbuster and I am glad I waited. Whether Viking: Battle for Asgard was worth the wait or not is open to interpretation. On the one hand, I liked the visuals and some of the executions you could pull off, but the game had so many things wrong with it. It was repetitive, contained shallow swordplay, choppy framerates galore and so many other things wrong with it that by the time I was a quarter of the way finished with the game, I wanted my rental fee back. Of course, Blockbuster does not give refunds for unsatisfactory rental purchases.
In Viking: Battle for Asgard, you are Skarin – a warrior on the edge of death who is brought back from the brink by the Goddess Freya. In exchange for this life saving turn of events, you must do her bidding and and no, there are no sexual undertones to this despite the fact that she is a hottie. Her desire for you is only for you to prevent Hel, the Goddess of the Underworld from taking over Midgard. The plotline gives you the impression that the game would be full of hack and slash potential, and that is indeed true. The game was oozing with potential, and when playing I kept waiting for the goods to come to fruition but, alas, they never surfaced and probably because none were present to being with.
Being an open world game, Battle for Asgard has the prerequisite pots and whatnot that give you loot – standard RPG and adventure fare and totally uncreative. In this open world, you have your sword, throwing axes and bombs to kill your enemies with, and when fighting another combatant and you can press the X button to perform an execution style attack – which thankfully is indeed pretty gruesome, but here is where the repetitiveness starts to take over the game. You only have so many sword attacks; only so many execution attacks and the long animations start to grate on your nerves a bit. You will eventually be able to unlock new attacks, but the standard two moves you already have are the best ones to use. Once your enemy is dead, you gain the standard God of War red-orbs except instead of health they are magic.
On your way to suppress Hel, you will build an army, which consists of other Vikings you have rescued from Hel’s horrible grasp. This may sound hard, but it isn’t because the denizens called up from the Underworld are like any inept guard in a Bond movie. Once freed, the Vikings are so thankful for their release that they become members of your army, but first you have to run a few errands for them and which reminded me of the boar meat and bear skin quests in LotRO. The good news is that once you have run a few errands and talked to a few grumpy Vikings, they all gather together to form your army and help you take back the city. These battles are huge and fantastic to look upon, and with dragons at your disposal you would think this would be sweet, delicious icing on an otherwise bland piece of cake. Not so and the repetitiveness comes charging at you again. While the areas in which you battle changes, the enemies and the fighting is the same time and time again. Giant bosses, shamans, creepy henchman and the same every time.The repetitiveness is a constant in everything, and while Battle for Asgard may be pleasing to look at, it gets old really quick. You will see the same Vikings and the same enemies constantly, and the same can be said for the sound. The sound effects seem to be on a constant loop and when you are not in battle the game is almost devoid of sound.
I really wanted to like Viking: Battle for Asgard despite the boring fighting sequences and the constant repetitive nature of the game, but everything about it just bored me to death. Even the good stuff was repeated over and over again which means that your initial excitement over something cool wanes after the third or fourth time. The game was great the first quarter of the way through, but just became a huge pile of “meh” after that. Each island you explore is more familiar than the last, seeing the same Vikings and enemies constantly and the same battle sequences being played out each time you take over a city just becomes overkill. This could have been a fantastic game and while the potential was indeed there, the game felt like more of a half-assed effort than anything.
Next time I need a fix of Nordic lore, I will pick up a book because the gaming industry apparently does not understand the depth and awesomeness that these legends can bring into our lives. Hopefully, someday, a developer will get it right but until then steer clear of this game.
I played Viking: Battle for Asgard on the Xbox 360, but it is also available for the PS3. For a more traditional review, check out Mike Nelson’s thoughts over on 1UP and I dare say, he was not very happy with it either.