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Viking: Battle for Asgard (PlayStation 3) artwork

Viking: Battle for Asgard (PlayStation 3) review


"Gruesome. In a word, it's what Viking: Battle for Asgard strives to achieve. A rival viking stumbles dead after the cut of your blade, an 'X' icon next to his still upright corpse. There's a difference between slaughter and sending a message. You could let his body fall by the wayside, focusing on the flock advancing. Or you could warn the impending legion of their doom. Tap that 'X' in time and watch as Skarin mercilessly gores the deceased on his blade before decapitating the mini..."



Gruesome. In a word, it's what Viking: Battle for Asgard strives to achieve. A rival viking stumbles dead after the cut of your blade, an 'X' icon next to his still upright corpse. There's a difference between slaughter and sending a message. You could let his body fall by the wayside, focusing on the flock advancing. Or you could warn the impending legion of their doom. Tap that 'X' in time and watch as Skarin mercilessly gores the deceased on his blade before decapitating the minion with a violent axe slash. In slow motion. As streaks of red rain on screen. If Mortal Kombat endures for anything, it should be to note that it was the first to popularize unabashed creative violence to provoke the sadist in any gamer. It is obvious where Asgard takes its cue.

Other inspirations are just as clear. The reborn hero Skarin is a brutal, athletic bulldozer on the battlefield, drawing comparison to Kratos. The "hold your guard, parry and return" fighting tactic of The Sands of Time will help lead you to victory here. Wandering the dark, often rainy barricade landscape elicits Morrowind flashbacks. And asking players to fetch a pointless bullhorn (as if there were no other way to summon troops to battle) or prove their worth before an ally joins have been adventure staples since text-based days.

Battle for Asgard introduces little that is new, but draws from a solid foundation of ideas. However, it's a bit too caught up in its own viking lore. The story is difficult to follow, with Celtic-inspired names that won't register in memory and sudden cryptic flashes. As such, dialogue and story segments become superfluous; this is about wandering a countryside and completing the tasks necessary to bring on one of the full-scale battles. Yet the creative inspiration here is lacking; you'll battle nasty summoners and champions wielding vicious broad swords, but the game's villainy never ventures into the truly grotesque.

Most aspects are underdeveloped. You'll need stealth to charge a Dragon Amulet within the enemy walls of the Darkwater fortress, yet sneaking around is problematic. You'll always feel vulnerable and if detected, unending waves of minions will make your acquaintance until you escape (and you can't outrun them or duck into hiding). Moreover, the map lacks the details necessary to make it a useful navigational tool; you can gather direction, but routes around an area can't be planned. If infiltrating enemy quarters is necessary, enough combatants have been slaughtered that looting a disguise from them would seem second nature. When deeming stealth a worthy addition for game play variety, it should meet a certain practicality and standard.

Viking certainly is a dark enough game for stealth; a number of adversaries snuck up undetected from the shadows on me, their countenance too dark under the shady cover of trees. This was not by design. It's not problematic, but detracts mostly from style; despite great detail, the landscape is usually cast in a gloom that outfits exploration and adventure with a bleak quality. Dark skies and cloud cover usually indicate an enemy presence. It's a bit silly watching the weather change after liberating a camp.

Most of the enjoyment you'll get from Viking hinges on the battles. There are competent mechanics here, although no amount of blocking will help in a sea of foes. More often fighting falls into a repetitious sequence of blocking, countering with two quick strikes and raising your guard again as another attacker telegraphs a hefty swing. Special moves and elemental powers break the monotony, but when the game considers a basic jump-attack something that must be purchased and learned at the battle arena, it's both misguided and compensating for a thin combat list. Even the terrific finishing blows are limited in number and become old hat quickly. Larger characters are downed likewise by inputting commands that flash on screen when vulnerable, although the responsiveness of the control is questionable. It's neither a seamless transition from otherwise fluent combat nor one you're likely to execute correctly on the first try.

Viking: Battle for Asgard is a mishmash of modern gaming ideas built around the one-trick pony of brutal viking warfare, yet the scope of its trick combined with its limited execution hurts the overall package. If you want to play a game this is a game, competent, borrowing smart ideas and providing enough to slaughter in its virtual world. Yet passing up Viking will only mean passing up ideas that have already been seen before with greater execution and more prevalent, endearing style. By most any standard Asgard is a passable action title, yet it's stifled by a lack of ingenuity. Its failure to capture a player in its realm is a byproduct of its absent creativity, providing no unique challenge particular to its world and failing to capitalize on yet untapped barbarian fodder.

Rating: 6/10

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Featured community review by LowerStreetBlues (December 03, 2009)

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zigfried posted December 06, 2009:

Now this was an interesting shift! You do a nice job connecting the opening (with comparisons to other games) to the conclusion. Your writing remains vivid and wonderfully descriptive, outfitted with rich wording that conveys clear meaning. I did notice a few small points:

The hold your guard, parry and return fighting tactic of the Sands of Time will help lead you to victory here.

I didn't understand this sentence until I had finished it. Placing "hold your guard, parry and return" inside quotation marks would have helped me read it properly.

The story is difficult to follow, with Celtic inspired names

There should be a hyphen, as in "Celtic-inspired", if you mean the names were inspired by Celtic lore. Without the hyphen, it means the names are both Celtic and inspired.

By most any standard Asgard is a passable action title, yet its stifled by a lack of ingenuity

Should be "it's" with an apostrophe.

//Zig
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LowerStreetBlues posted December 07, 2009:

Good edits. All have been remedied as suggested.

I guess this is the downside of writing in XPad, because beefier programs would have caught two of those. Does everyone here write in any interesting programs (meaning not Word/OpenOffice or Notepad/Wordpad)? I'm partial to XPad because I like the quick transitions between docs within the same window.

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