Game consoles had a spectacular ascension in popularity the past years, under the favor of some game genres almost exclusive for them. Because of this, two sides were created: gamers who chose the PC for entertaining purposes won the battle regarding RTSs and MMORPGs, but the console owners can boast that they almost own the exclusivities on J-RPG, Arcade and Hack and Slash (or hack’n slash) titles, with the rest of the important games being multi-platform developed. The most representative series for the hack’n slash genre are God of War, Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden, with God of War being for sure the most famous of them all.
Regarding this genre, the latest releases for the Xbox 360 were Conan and Devil May Cry 4 which, although good titles, showed that they could have been better, more attractive and more violent. Speculating the opening left by the competition, The Creative Assembly studios released Viking – Battle for Asgard to fill the gaps.
Viking is centered around the everlasting war between good and evil, represented here by two Norse goddesses (and beautiful ones at that), Hel and Freya. Hel was banished to the Underworld and now has come back with an army to seek revenge and to conquer Asgard, the legendary land of the Norse gods. The story isn’t very original so, and as you probably already determined, you will play as the warrior Skarin, the champion chosen by Freya to protect the Vikings against the evil goddess.
After a cut-scene which takes a cue or two from comics and supported by an authentic voice of one of Thor’s descendents, you begin your journey in Niflberg where, assisted by shaman Asta (also a feminine presence), you have to collect information concerning the next missions. The game is structured on three isles; on each you have to finish different quests, then fight in a big end-battle and continue to the next isle. The main idea is to free different lands from Hel’s domination and to recruit soldiers for the last confrontation of every isle. As auxiliary missions, you have to talk to different chieftains and ask them to join the fight, to search for important items or to free fellow Viking warriors from captivity.
Unfortunately, in Viking there is no creature mount in order to travel the long distances of the isles, so World of Warcraft fans who appreciate the hack’n’slash genre will be a little disappointed. I wasn’t, because the producers have implemented an effective transportation system. On the map there are magical stones called Leystones, which allows you to teleport between them. The stones are decently spread in the game world and there’s an appropriate distance between them, so I never got bored or frustrated by the distance that I had to travel. More than that, on the way you will meet Hel’s creatures which can keep you busy for a while, you can free more soldiers or you can just admire the sights, listening to the spring’s prattle or the birds’ songs. A nice detail is the fact that the lands controlled by the Legion are darker in appearance, giving an unsettling feeling, because you step on obscure ground, but once the lands are liberated, the sun immediately comes up, the birds start singing, allied soldiers will arrive, all according to the motto “The sun shines on our street, too”.
The logistics are improved by an amulet received from Freya which acts like a small radar, which tells you the location of the next objective, the NPC’s and enemies which are in close proximity. Also, you can buy maps to help you find treasures or money bags – the only income sources in Viking – as if you are next to them, they will be shown as little yellow circles on the radar.