Normally I don't rent games anymore, it's $7.00 for week and usually the store has crap to begin with. But I was listening to some Norwegian Death Metal
and I felt a craving to kill, dismember and cut apart enemies in a violent, button mashing romp. I figured Viking would be the perfect choice, since Vikings are natives to Norway anyway. So I spent my on it and in three days I got bored with it, returned it and kicked myself for wasting $7.00, which can be put to good use like poker or paying off college loans.
While I wasn't going to expect much from Viking to begin with, I was surprised as to how poorly it was made. Sure, there was a lot of combat, dismemberment, blood and guts, but overall a lot of the problems stem from what was done to make the game different from other genre favorites like Dynasty Warriors. It is here that Viking tries to blaze a new trail, but fails.
The games biggest sin is the fact that the controls are very obtuse. Our hero, a Aryan chap named Skarin
is called on by Freya to destroy the armies of Hel in epic, Norse mythological combat. And while the game tries to be God of War in it's retelling of the Norse mythology, it backfires thanks to poor control design. Skarin moves like he has two tons stuck to his ankles, mistakes himself for Solid Snake in poorly designed, trial and error sneaking missions, has simple combo attacks that entail a "press these buttons in sequence rapidly scheme", and his enemies are pretty dumb. As brutal as the game does get, it gets old after seeing a head being chopped off five times in a row by Skarin's axe.
To be fair, the game probably does have a niche audience for it. It has enough button mashing
to satisfy the rabid action junkies and is simple enough to get by, thanks to poor AI. But at the same time, it is also tedious to play. The game is divided into a mission style for our Conan-look alike to slice and dice his way into "rescue, find, kill, blow up Mcguffin A, B, or C, then get the troops ready for an all out attack against the bad guys.
This part of the game was, admittingly cool. You and your Viking army storm the fort of the bad guys, plow your way through the masses in true medieval..er..Viking fashion, and take the field when you can. The sheer scale of the numbers is amazing during these sequences, but they are also criminally short and carry simple objectives. It's like they take the entire game of Dynasty Warriors, condense it to small scale, and create simple objectives to end the battle as quickly as possible for you. But for me, the whole point of Dynasty Warriors is to kick as much ass as possible on your own for a large scale battle, not a small scale free for all that will be completed as quickly as your first time. Regardless, these were the highlight sequences in the game, losing myself in epic combat while listening to Helloween
Graphic and sound wise the game was very bland, however. Mediocre to poor graphics for both the game world and the character models were all I saw, and they made movements look jerky like poorly rendered polygons. The poor voice acting, bad story direction and poor story choices were also a major problem. The story tries to be secretive to it's intentions, but instead reveals too much early on. When the game has sound, it is pretty good, with a solid orchestra score. But when it cuts out all sounds, it's very strange. Moments where sound should be in the game are left out, like sword clangs and general ambience of the surroundings. I will say this though, the game is sold on it's violence, and while it delivers in that aspect, lots of blood flowing as you cut through Hel's army. And it shouldn't take too long, either. By the time I stopped playing, I was already close to finishing the second of three islands.
Overall though, I was really dissapointed with Viking, because it looked like a game with promise, or at least, a decent rental game. Instead we get a below average, simple game that while designed to kill time for a few hours on an agressive weekend, it is barely worth it to even shell out the necessary rental fee for it. The Vikings may be masters of the Death Metal scene today in Norway, but they certianly aren't the masters of the video gaming universe.