|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Creative Assembly||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
But Not Great
by Jonathan Marx
Viking: Battle for Asgard is a simple hack-and-slash adventure that takes players through a fictional Viking world full of battle-scarred warriors, foul demons, and vengeful gods. The brutal carnage, Viking theme, and solid visuals go a long way to making the game an enjoyable experience, but the straightforward battle mechanic and repetitive story devices make the game feel monotonous after a while.
Despite the title's overly simplistic combat and narrative, the pacing is so fast that it should keep you engaged to the bitter end. If, however, you're looking for a deep and complex title to feed your love of Norse sagas you won't find it here; all you'll get is a gory demon beat-'em-up. If hacking off the limbs, heads, and midsections of wave after wave of nondescript undead warriors is your thing, Viking: Battle for Asgard may be just what the doctor ordered.
The development team at Creative Assembly obviously drew a lot of inspiration from the God of War series, as the game feels similar in a lot of ways: as you progress through Viking you will acquire power orbs, obtain new combat maneuvers, battle the goddess of the underworld, go through the occasional cutscene button sequence, and rapidly tap a button to open chests, portals, and doors. The similarities don't stop there, however. The humorous and gratuitous use of gore during combat is also present, and it is probably the saving grace for the game. Unfortunately, Viking doesn't execute upon the simple formula nearly as well as God of War did. That being said, it's still a fine attempt and provides gamers with several hours of gory goodness.
The game has players take on the role of Skarin, a Viking warrior who has been given a second chance at life by assuming the mantle of champion for the Goddess Freya. Skarin is tasked with ridding the world of Midgard from the undead minions of the goddess of the underworld, Hel. This demonic army is known as Legion and has brought pain, death, and suffering to all mortals. By freeing the various towns, fortresses, and economic centers from Legion's tyranny, Skarin becomes more powerful and renowned. The honor of fighting as Freya's champion should guarantee him passage to Valhalla unless he forsakes the true path like the goddess' former hero did.
That's really all there is to the story. It is pretty inconsequential and won't serve to motivate you through the quest, though I wouldn't describe it as bad either. It just doesn't accurately capture the amazing mythos and legends that surround the Viking culture. As a result, it may be a disappointment to history buffs that are truly engaged by it. However, for those that just want to kick some butt, the story will satisfy more than just your simple bloodlust. Unfortunately, the tasks and quests you take on throughout the adventure are so similar to each other that they quickly become tedious. They include objectives such as: free your Viking comrades on the beach, go clear out the Legion presence from the cave, free the brewery, clear out the quarry, etc. When you get right down to it, it all feels the same.
The simple combat mechanic is entirely unoriginal, but I guess you could say it is tried and true. It is a straightforward combo, button-masher that has the user mix speed and power attacks in order to defeat their foes. The developers rarely vary the kinds of opponents gamers will face, and subsequently you can get by with your three favorite attack combos. There is no substantial challenge in slicing through the Legion armies, but it is fun to see their arms get lopped off while they helplessly watch you spin around and decapitate them with a hand axe. That never really gets old.
There are a few modifications you can make to the sword that add elemental damage to attacks, but other than adding pretty spell effect animations, they don't make Skarin much more powerful until he acquires the most potent runes later in the game. In other words, Skarin is a barbarian bruiser that always deals more physical damage than the enchantments on his weaponry ever could. In fact, I found only the ice power to be helpful, as it will freeze a few pesky enemies and help you wade through the swarm of baddies.