Monday, February 15, 2010

X360 Look - Viking: Battle For Asgard

No I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up this game. In fact ninety percent of the time I don't have a good reason for buying any game. I guess it's just my nature to play any and everything that looks even remotely interesting. Of course now the question is: What's interesting about this game? Well it's apparently about Vikings. Vikings I think are interesting enough cause they always seem to have long beards and those horned helmets. Also they worshiped Gods that apparently cared more for fighting in wars until the end of time.

The star of this particular Viking saga has neither a helmet nor a beard. This design decision was probably put in place to be more palatable to the average consumer but I absolutely hate it. His name is Skarin and he's a stubborn kid who is prone to seizures. He tries hard but is ultimately shunned by his fellow warriors which is probably due to his lack of beard and helmet. In his efforts to appease somebody Skarin goes off and gets himself mortally wounded. Thankfully a psychopath by the name of Freya(who just happens to be a Goddess) decides to make him neigh-immortal. Though he can still die like anyone else he is conveniently restored at the nearest checkpoint, making him on par with Marcus Fenix or the average World War 2 soldier.

Sometimes I wonder if the fights between the Gods are this shades of grey sort of thing where nobody is really in the right. This game sort of plays on that aspect a bit. Hel(yes that's her name) was kicked out of Asgard for looking too much like Angelina Jolie(yes I already forgot the real reason) and she also happens to hate Freya which is understandable because she's a melodramatic train-wreck and probably dooms mankind to starvation every time she has a bad hair day. In response Freya sends Skarin to kill her and her entire legion of really ugly guys that are quite obviously evil. I'd like to think this was for a high-minded noble goal like saving the people but really it all boils down to stabbing bad-guys and rescuing soldiers in distress.

This is an open-world style game and the hero is free to explore the land as he sees fit. Each area is filled with enemy camps, caves holding magical artifacts, and enemy fortifications. That's about the extent of the variety to this game. Essentially you'll be doing these same missions for about 20 to 30 hours. Every now and again the player will lead an army to invade strongholds but this leads to another bit of repetition I'll get into later.

Skarin controls well enough. He lacks the finesse and style of most action-game hero contemporaries but he makes up for it in brute force. His sole weapons are his trusty axe and sword and they will quickly ruin any legion soldier that gets in his way. One thing to watch out for however is that this guy is pretty single-minded and has no concept of crowd-control. Thus when faced with a massive army it's best to cut and run as Skarin can't handle more than 3-6 guys at a time. Over time he gains the use of a handful of special attacks that specialize in speed or power. Speed is handy for faster enemies as well as hitting multiple enemies at once while power is necessary for bigger guys and breaking shields. Further rounding our beard-less friend out are elementally-charged weapons. This gimmick is starting to over-stay its welcome as I've already covered two other games that have it but here it has its uses. Actually strike that the only element worth bothering with is Ice. Ice is insanely overpowered in this game since all the player has to do is hit an enemy once to freeze them and a second time to kill them. Bigger guys don't die in two hits but they are slowed down incredibly so the player is free to beat them up without fear of repercussion.

Hel's legions don't have much going for them aside from numerical superiority and the tendency to get stabbed in the back. Thus it's also important to employ the usage of stealth. Surprisingly this game manages to handle stealth rather well despite the fact that Skarin apparently carries a nightlight with him wherever he goes. Early on he acquires a move for instantly killing the unaware. It's important to learn stealth as a number of areas have to be infiltrated to find some powerful item necessary to move the plot along.

When it comes to the actual combat the focus is on playing defensively and drawing enemies out. The lack of crowd-control means the player must single out enemies whose defenses are open. This means a lot of blocking and shoving until the player can get his sword and/or axe home. Getting surrounded is not a good idea in the slightest as Skarin can get overwhelmed rather quickly and killed. While the legion is many in number they lack variety and the player will find themselves fighting a lot of the same thing over and over again. There are some tougher enemies like Captains, Shamans, and Giants but before long it becomes very boring. There are a couple of real boss-fights in this game. Sadly they reek of laziness as they are merely Captains, Shamans, and Giants with a few extra moves.

The stronghold battles seem promising at first since they're the result of all of the missions Skarin has taken on beforehand. There are siege weapons, dragons to summon, and hundreds if not thousands of soldiers hacking away at each other until Ragnarok comes around again. Problem is your mission is simply to kill x number of Shamans or Giants. There's a mercifully short escort mission to cap a couple of them off but really its just a disappointment. You can fight along with your fellow men but really this just becomes more of a nuisance since enemies constantly respawn and since everyone has a habit of looking the same in the chaos of battle it just leads to taking damage from guys you thought were on your side. So it's best to just run around all that and take out those pesky shamans whose sole purpose in battle is to summon and infinite number of soldiers. The game quite clearly shows everything it has to offer before the player leaves the first island(there are three total) but the game doesn't end for another 15 or even 20 hours.

The core aspects of the game are there but the lack of variety is what kills it. There's nothing in the way of new weapons, enemies, or powers that could make each incident fresh and exciting. Maybe throw in some battles on horseback, give Skarin a spear, possibly a mace, hel a laser cannon for all I care. At the very least come up with some more interesting scenarios that don't boil down to rescue this or kill that.

All told I guess it really doesn't matter cause I just played through this game in its entirety. Okay yeah I didn't beat it on the Hard setting but that's still a significant amount of time for a game that has already shown me everything in just a few hours. Believe me I wish I could come up with a proper explanation as to why I completed this game. Okay maybe I did it hoping to see Freya get hers. Thankfully I didn't bother with getting all of the useless collectibles at least. That's about the only face I can save on this one. So yeah feel free to bring this up the next time I don't bother with finishing your favorite game or better yet I didn't finish it and I said it wasn't any good. Viking: Battle For Asgard isn't terrible by any means but it really is just a waste of time and serves as a bitter reminder that sometimes I just shouldn't play a game.

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