"Thankfully, respawn times are short, games are not overly long, and depending on the choice of game type (team battle, location capture, etc.) death is not always the mark of losing."
War of the Vikings is a Multiplayer (only) team combat battle game, available as of April 15, 2014 for Microsoft PC. By Odin’s beard, it is an addicting one at that. Heading westwards from my last Game Scouts venture, I thought I would find myself in a comfort zone here. Third person style, real-time action, quality 3-D graphics? Sign me up. Time to blast “Ride of the Valkyries” and begin the pillaging! Well, as any Medieval Times swordsman could probably tell you, it’s not so easy to move from a world awash with guns to one of swords and spears, but man is it fun. I’ve never had so much fun repeatedly dying.
War of the Vikings is exclusively multiplayer, meaning that those of us who would like to master basic skills before exposure to the probable harassment of living humans are out of luck. As it must be in real war, a woefully short tutorial pitting players against stationary automatons makes a poor boot camp for facing the harsh reality of PvP bloodshed. A player must jump onto the online servers, deciding if they want to play with few players (making failure feel all the more personal) or join a large game (wherein death will come from all sides). As you can imagine, it takes some time to get one’s footing. Thankfully, respawn times are short, games are not overly long, and depending on the choice of game type (team battle, location capture, etc.) death is not always the mark of losing. I mostly found myself opting for larger games, just trying not to be an anchor weighing down my team.
"The game forces you to begin as certain prototype warriors, first with simple sword and shield and graduating to giant axe, then eventually bow."
Far from making Vikings (or enemy Saxons, who are equally represented in the game) immortal Bezerkers whose armor must be slowly chiseled down, War of the Vikings embraces our fragility and mortality, much in the way that Rainbow Six did for modern combat. Attacks and parries are your friend in this game, but the opponents will be brandishing the same, so duels become a chaotic venture. Quickly, close quarters become a frenetic hack-slashing dance of death. This ballet often results in your own death as well as your enemy’s, even if playing with some skill. If still learning the game, these skirmishes will more often lead to your own death. Even upon mastery, it will always be likely, upon slaying your nearest foe and enjoying the moment of hard-earned victory, that an arrow will find its way to the back of your head.
The game forces you to begin as certain prototype warriors, first with simple sword and shield and graduating to giant axe, then eventually bow. Quickly you will unlock custom characters, at which time players may create any manner of weapon combination that the heart desires and XP Gold allows. I personally found it an awful handicap to live without a bow; although time spent aiming is time a vulnerable target. Taking a secondary weapons like throwing axes or javelins, cool as they may be, limits ammunition to a meager two or three per spawn, while quiver of arrows is infinite. Thus, playing as a prototype warrior is a sucker’s game, and it should be abandoned as quickly as possible. Why carry an axe and no shield, when you can carry sword, shield, and bow all together? The game graphics are beautiful, and a limited number of maps is a fine trade for the quality that each one holds. Each map is large enough to provide strategic innovation and diverse landscape, but small enough to prevent a complete halt to the threat of combat.
"One of the main weaknesses of the game is learning how to approach it. As previously stated, the tutorial is far cry from comprehensive preparation."
One of the most enjoyable touches to the game are the small details that were included. When an archer successfully sends an arrow to your helmet, it will send the player staggering, and that arrow will stick out of the helmet from whichever direction it came. Likewise, thrown javelins, axes and knives stay where they were tossed. Only bodies disappear, and more quickly if they are brutally finished off. Sure, there is an element of “curing allies” that defies biology (as well as respawning, of course) but the attention developers gave to these small quirks fosters a stark realism to combat.
The music is a repetitive but enjoyable deep riff of some sort of Norse chanting, probably not historically accurate but pleasant on the ears. It’s precisely the kind of tune that pumps up the player to jump off the ol’ longship and try to bury a spear into the enemy. It adds to the sum of atmosphere for War of the Vikings, providing an immersive experience of attack and pillage. One of the main weaknesses of the game is learning how to approach it. As previously stated, the tutorial is far cry from comprehensive preparation. Joining the online battle experience does not allow players to identify much in the way of skill level, (instead using Internet speed as the discerning factor) potentially pitting seasoned soldiers against those still in the green. Death after death will soon follow for the inexperienced, and respawn locations are inconsistent, sometimes leading to the grievous Sisyphean nightmare of “Spawn, Hit, Dead”.
"Once some extra time has been put in, it becomes a wild ride, worthy of the halls of Valhalla."
Fortunately, spawning locations do move, and it seems the game generally tried to not throw you into the immediate thick of battle without a few moments to collect your senses—even if it is not always enough. Graphics can occasionally be choppy, and controls are not always intuitive. Thor help you if, in your frantic keyboard mashing, you hit the windows key and change screens. The game crashed at least a few times in the several hours I played, sometimes prompted by such incident. Despite these weaknesses, after some initial vexations, I thoroughly enjoyed my time.
Review by: Robert Roodhouse | Reviewed on: PC