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Viking: Battle for Asgard (PlayStation 3) artwork

Viking: Battle for Asgard (PlayStation 3) review

"I had intentions when I chose Viking: Battle for Asgard. I was in a very clear, very violent mindset when I brought it home. Blind Guardianís ďBattlefieldĒ was my hymn, I resisted the urge to let out a primal, growl of a war cry when I put it in my system, and I prepared myself for what I believed would be an all-out, soul-shattering war from beginning to end. "

I had intentions when I chose Viking: Battle for Asgard. I was in a very clear, very violent mindset when I brought it home. Blind Guardianís ďBattlefieldĒ was my hymn, I resisted the urge to let out a primal, growl of a war cry when I put it in my system, and I prepared myself for what I believed would be an all-out, soul-shattering war from beginning to end.

I thinkÖmaybe I got the wrong game.

Initially it had promise. Instead of the usual CGI, the intro was played out in comic-book storyboards that depicted the Vikings doing battle with ugly, hulking monsters they didnít stand a chance against. Most of it was black and white, but every time a Viking was cut open, a flash of red blared across the screen, reminiscent of Sin City. One final Viking fell, and the game switched back to CGI, following this particular warrior--Skarin--as he crawled away to die in peace.

But as he was seemingly drawing his last breath, the Goddess Freya appears before him. In a very drab, monotone performance, she begs him to rise up and fight on. She heals his mortal wounds, and hands over her amulet, which will imbue Skarin with the power he needs to battle these demon soldiers--minions of the Goddess Hel, and sworn enemy to Freya--and save his Viking brothers.

Like other action games, Viking brings your main character to the brink of death within the first five minutes. But unlike God of War or Heavenly Sword it lacked the impact and drama to draw me into the scene. Freyaís speech was watered down, and was devoid of the passion one would need to inspire a warrior back from the dead. And Skarin just simply took the blow and lurched off, leaving someone else to battle the demon who just slayed him. I would have rather seen the Viking grit his teeth, head butt the monster and take on any others with a sword sticking out of his ribs. And that drab, choppy cut-scene was the last thing I would see involving the story for a long time.

I suppose I should have been grateful, but lack of story is the least of Vikingís problems.

If youíre looking for a war, forget it, and donít be fooled by the title like I was. Itís false advertisement. It should be Viking: Skirmish for Asgard or Viking: Slappy Fight with one demon every five miles for Asgard. This game isnít a non-stop battle with unending soldiers as I hoped. Most of it is simply walking from one town to another, fulfilling meaningless quests like finding a battle horn or searching for lost cargo. Itís along the same lines as World of Warcraft, but without the joy of grinding on the way. You rarely encounter an enemy on your path, and their death merits you no rewards like gold or experience points, nor do the quests. You simply kill enemies because theyíre in the way; finish quests to further the game--neither of which are entertaining

On rare occasions you find towns that are overrun with Helís lackies but itís few and far between, and they typically end in one of two boring ways: You either make the mistake of freeing your Viking brethren from a cage or pole and they do the killing for you, then run off to the safety of the village to drink the mead you found, or you attract every single demon and overwhelm yourself, usually resulting in your death.

Now, granted, I said I wanted a war. On occasion Viking gave it to me--at least in small doses. But the gameís chunky, thoughtless mechanics took any joy out of them.

A targeting system would have made all the difference. When overwhelmed, I hack and slash in a state of panic like I do in any other action game Iíve played; I lock-on to the nearest threat and go from there. In Viking, I was forced to manually turn Skarin around in circles, swinging wildly in hopes to hit something before it hit me. Which would be fine, except for the fact he moves like a drunken elephant. By the time he turns around, heís already hit. You slash the demon culprit in some attempt at vengeance, but leave your back exposed for another monster to take a swipe at it. So you spin, again, and repeat the same process in some foolish, idiotic form of keep-away.

Viking does give you the option to block, and when youíre faced with only one or two enemies, itís handy. But when faced with an army, itís a trap. You canít attack with one weapon and block with the other--as I imagined a super-powered Viking to do. You canít, with precise timing, turn one of the enemyís swings against him and pull-off a brilliant counter attack. The game doesnít provide one. So you simply stand there, holding your arms out, cross your weapons over your chest and wait to be hit. Considering theyíre as slow as Skarin, one or two arenít a problem. You can strike when they take a moment to rest. When there are twenty all clubbing you, that moment doesnít exist. So those war-like battles I was so eager for were nothing more than long, drawn-out fights where I block ninety-percent of the time, wait out a dozen strikes, then get one good swipe while trying not to get hit. Trying, then failing to tell the truth.

And at first, I thought it was just me. I worried Iím not as good at games as I hoped. Maybe Iím missing something. So I searched the land for more gold, increased my weaponís ability and bought more skills to overcome this burden. And that was nothing but a waste of time. Every one of those skills are only useful against one enemy--a brutal overhand strike that will break a shield or a quick stab that will catch a speedy assassin. Great. Where are the sweeping motions with my axe and blade that will slay all those who surround me? Or the ability to slam my fists into the ground to spew dirt and rocks hard enough to hurl my enemies away? Gone. Replaced by the talent to poke my sword out at one demon, while twenty more are busy carving my back.

Even with all my new skills and power-ups I was so irritated by these areas, I was on the verge of turning the game off--perhaps for good--after I died for the tenth time. My pride, however, won over and I opted instead for the easy out and a tip from someone else out of a hint book. According to him, I made a grave error. I was throwing myself into the fray, when apparently I should have entered a Villageís side-wall and killed one demon at a time as I snuck around.


That had to be a typo. The only way to pass these overwhelming areas is to sneak around? Iím supposed to be a Viking warrior. I donít sneak. I should rip off the arms of the first person foolish enough to challenge me, eat the meat off of them and use the bones to bash in the heads of everyone else. I should be setting virgin maidens on fire and hurling them into the village to burn it down. Not sneaking around like some 350-pound ninja with warrior braids.

So even if I found the areas where massive battles could occur, I still had to fight them one by one to progress any further. At that point the desire to do such was lost, and with it even to play the game.

Viking never really got back into the story, or introduced new ideas. It never built that bond with the characters and made you feel for their plight. I didnít care whether Skarin lived or died at the end, or if he ever vanquished Hel and freed Asgard from her tyrannical reign. Playing the story just to see how it ended was not my driving factor.

I was tired of doing silly, meaningless quests for no reward, battling either one demon every ten minutes or an army of them without one single skill to make it entertaining. So the battles were even less motivating than the story. It was simply morbid curiosity, and foolish pride that made me finish it.

Viking: Battle for Asgard doesnít have one entertaining aspect or redeemable quality that would set it apart from the countless other games in the genre. Yet, oddly enough, I found the war I was looking for. Though not a war fought within the game. It was one within myself, to stifle my boredom long enough to finish it.


True's avatar
Community review by True (July 22, 2009)

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zippdementia posted July 23, 2009:

Good stuff from True this week. I thought this was a highly entertaining review, and I laughed out loud quite a few times (I think that's the first time I've spelled that phrase out in the last five years). I'm hard pressed to decide whether I like this or your last review better. I think this may have provided easier material, but bashes aren't as easy as we think they are, so...

... anyways, good work.
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True posted July 23, 2009:

Thanks, Zipp. It's always nice to get compliments from a talented writer I may be competing against in the upcoming weeks.
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zippdementia posted July 23, 2009:

Sadly, I doubt we shall be seeing one another in this tournament again, not until next year. For my team to make it into the finals, we not only have to win the next three matches, we also have to hope that several of the current top teams lose theirs.

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