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Viking: Battle for Asgard on Game and Player

Viking: Battle for Asgard

Zach Hines  //  April 12, 2008

On average, it's...just average.


ikings have been described as many things: brutal, cold, ruthless, legendary, heroic, and strong — the list goes on. However, with the recent release of Viking: Battle for Asgard for the Xbox 360, it might be appropriate to add a new descriptor — average. Viking: Battle for Asgard, developed by Creative Assembly and published by Sega, is a crowning example of a game that isn't great, but isn't bad either. It is, in fact, a truly average game. I suppose that an average game isn't necessarily a horrible thing. Average can mean safe, which means that since Creative Assembly didn't take any real risks in development, the chances of failing are slim. Average is fun for some people, but not for all.

Skarin: as big, dumb
and oafish as he looks.
Viking: Battle for Asgard tells the story of a Viking warrior, Skarin, and his quest to save his people from the onslaught of the hordes of the dark goddess Hel. For the most part, that's about all the story direction you are given. When the game begins you are simply plopped down in your town with little to no direction as to what you really should be doing. Don't be completely upset by this, however. For the most part you can figure out the basic rhyme and reason for the game on your own. It goes like this; Hel's legions have captured or killed a lot of your Viking brethren and it is your job to save them. The map in this game will show you at any given time where a particular objective is and what can be accomplished by going there. Some objectives will have you simply clearing out an enemy encampment, while another may have you saving your fellow warriors from capture. The overall point to the game is found therein. Instead of saving the cheerleader to save the world, you've got to save the Vikings.

The main game is broken up into these objective areas that are covered in darkness. When you complete an objective in one of them, Freya (the Goddess of Light) returns light to the area and it is under your control. The key to all of this is the objectives that gain you more Vikings for the battles to come. You see, across the map are areas that can only be completed by meeting certain conditions. Find x artifact or save x number of troops, and so on. Once you have done this you will enter into a large-scale skirmish with all your Viking buddies you've saved. These skirmishes end with your switching the area back to Light, as you've done before in smaller areas, and the process repeats itself from there. The gameplay is not particularly deep, but it's also not that bland either. As I said before: average.

Battle gameplay: not too bad.
Also: not too great.
This lukewarm feeling finds its way into the controls as well. For the most part, your character controls like the big dumb oaf he looks like. Whereas you can learn new moves and spells throughout the game, Skarin never moves or controls with the fluidity and precision that we've come to expect from similar protagonists such as Altair and Kratos. Often times you'll wish you had to move set of these other characters when you are surrounded by enemies, and all you can really do is push forward (relatively speaking). I wasn't too bothered by this since the AI is surprisingly dim. To counter enemies' lack of intelligence, they simply adopt the mob mentality. They will rush you en masse and stand around you until one or two of them decide that they should attack you. None of this is hurtful to gameplay, but it again speaks to this game's average implementation of most of its features. It doesn't handle badly, but it doesn't handle all that great either. Aside from that, the core gameplay handles well enough. Hit detection is solid, there are some nice auto-animations for hopping fences and the like, and combat does have the brutal feel to it that you would expect to get from a Viking warrior.

In terms of looks, the game is a mixed bag. Mixed. Average. Getting the idea now? The opening storyboard animations are really solid and wonderfully illustrated, and set a great mood. Then you get to cutscenes using in-game graphics, normally just fine these days, where characters' facial features and lip-syncing are poorly executed. The game has a wonderful natural color palette full of browns and greens and oranges, but whose contrast is overblown thanks to excessive light bloom. The nice details you find in Viking armor and weaponry are countered by repetitive textures found throughout the world. Skarin's character looks and behaves like the massive truck that he is, complete with tattoos, scarring, and weathered clothes. And yet, all the other inhabitants of his world must have been struck from three or four different molds. What is there looks nice; I just wish it were diversified.

The audio in this game, or what there is of it, doesn't break the mediocrity mold either. Swords clash, friends and foes scream in pain, and there are the requisite "spooky" sounds in the enemy controlled areas of the game. Skarin himself is something of a mute, but apparently all the NPCs in the game have the ability to hold on a conversation for the both of them throughout. Music is also hard to come by in this game. There were areas that I went through that were eerily calm and devoid of all sound other than the ones I produced. Then again, there are moments where you find some really nicely placed sound, like the sounds of waves crashing on a stormy beach. Again, a mixed bag of good and lacking. Average.

I suppose that in the end it isn't that hard to guess what a thoroughly average game would receive in terms of a rating. The sad thing about all this is the fact that Viking: Battle for Asgard is a testament to the majority of games we are seeing in this, the next generation. For every good or great title we receive, 10 more this ilk follow right behind it. However, I do feel the need to stress that this is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. It had no real technical issues I could find, and I did enjoying playing it. On the other hand nothing about the game made me say, "Oh, would you at that," or "I wish more games did this." When you consider that, and realize that there are some really great games out there that are making use of this generation's technological advances, it presents a concern for whether or not we are really progressing beyond simply making it all look pretty.

So if you are looking for a hack-and-slash centered on Viking mythology, Viking: Battle for Asgard is a solid game, albeit lacking the intensity we would associate with warriors of their caliber. The Havamal (or the book of Viking wisdom) says, "Wake early if you want another man's life or land. No lamb for the lazy wolf. No battle's won in bed." I guess the lamb got away on this one.

Viking: Battle for Asgard



The Creative Assembly



NA Release

March 25, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Unique, underutilized part of history
  • Nicely designed main character


  • Average content across the board
  • Much better games of its type out there

G&P Rating

Articles by Zach Hines


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July 1, 2011

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