Where does one begin with War of the Vikings? Well after being booted from the server twice in a row only to finally respawn in the middle of battle, in which I inevitably met my fate before I could even get to see my character. I would say a new iteration of the way that the game handles character spawning and categorized servers would be a terrific start. Now usually when one is introduced to a game for the first time round, and the online connectivity issues present a problem, more times than none it leads to an immediate turn off, that you’re better off revisiting once you get word on a patch.
However, regardless of the way the game deals with this it’s not game breaking, nor is it an immediate repel. The problem with its multiplayer-only system is that it presents itself in an unfriendly manner that’s not really suited to a pick up and play audience, that simply wants to dive straight into the battle. Being able to confidently say that I’m not the only one who feels this way and sees this as a problem, it’s very safe to say that if you want some enjoyment from War of the Vikings, you’ll have to bare through these minor hiccups and be somewhat patient. Not forgetting to mention, that you’ll have to get used to it.
Once you are doing battle however, War of the Vikings seems to be somewhat of an accurate imitation of Marmite. You either love it or hate it. Sadly enough it’s visually clear to see why people may not like the game but also as to why people may very well enjoy the game. Well that boils down to three things. Love for European history, a parallel understanding of the word “Fun”, or a curious cat purring over the top of one’s shoulder as to how the game differs from War of the Roses, which is an earlier game in the series containing similar gameplay developed by the same studio. Whatever way you want to put it, curiosity killed the cat.
War of the Vikings has been promoted as brutal, aggressive, and emphasized on close-quarter combat. Engaging in combat seems to be on the basis of “If it hits you, it kills you” and whether or not the combat system is designed to play out this way, it presents an illusionary learning curve, that has you thinking you’ll become better the more time you spend with it. As with all games a learning curve is natural be it simple or progressive and this does actually apply to War of the Vikings. The problem is there’s only so much time you can spend with the game under the impression that you’re finally getting to grips with it, before you realize that all your customization options and the time you spent investing in the game, can all be undone by the random swing of an axe.
The character class system that the game gives to the player appears to be intuitive and it presents you with a fair amount of weapons and loadouts to play with until your heart’s content. Though more often than none this proved to be absolutely useless for the sake of combat, and seemed to be catered more to the player’s identity of being distinct from everyone else in the battle. Character classes are set by three choices, Skirmisher, Warrior, and Champion. Each class holds it’s own unique traits and weapon sets along with perks that are tied into their health, damage and stamina limitations, but as previously said, actually playing as one of the classes doesn’t seem to be that much different from the other, and the combat doesn’t fair well enough in actually making the player want to care about his or her chosen class.
While weapon choices deliver different gameplay in the way the character carries himself in reference to his speed and weight, the consequences of using said weapon don’t differ from that of an axe to a sword. Combat feels as though it’s still in BETA and this also applies to how it ties in with it’s control scheme. The default control settings are simply enough in its layout and there’s nothing to complain about here, nor would I want to change. The player is able to sprint, crouch, flick through weapon choices, block, and initiate special attacks. Attacking is where things get interesting however. Special attacks don’t actually work for the most part and isn’t that amusing or entertaining to begin with.
Basic attacking and blocking are mapped to the right and left mouse buttons and this feels natural. The problem with the attacking lies in the manner in which you are required to do it. Going with the word “required” feels appropriate as it lends itself more to game, in feeling negatively compulsory and quite a choir to pull-off. Holding down the left mouse button as you swing the mouse in your opponents direction as you release the button to initiate a strike, works well in theory. It delivers a sense of weight to the weapons, it makes you feel powerful, and it introduces a slight touch of realism while attempting to keep the game fun and not end up as a weapon-training simulator.
Since the gameplay itself has you and your opponents wandering in a circle aided by a dodge button so that you can evade from each other’s attacks, the chance of landing these charged up weapon swings becomes quite tedious, and if it does land, it’s usually instant kill. There’s no real feeling of immersion or being in the heat of battle despite the insane player count the game manages to deliver on. Sixty Four by my count, and that’s clearly too much to deal with anyway. The sweet spot would limit at thirty, and this is because the gameplay becomes a continuous bloodbath and regardless of which game mode you’re taking part in, they all feel the very much the same.
As multiplayer game modes have failed to innovate or even change things up, since the original release of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 way back in 2005, you should know what to expect here from the moment I mention the word “Multiplayer”. Team Deathmatch, Conquest, and Arena Mode are what’s on the table, and while Arena Mode sounds somewhat intriguing, it’s basically a souped-up TDM with no respawning. The level design of War of the Vikings holds well to it’s namesake and each map carries the theme fairly well. While they’re not overly detailed or containing anything distinct that allows them to largely differ from one another, it’s satisfying.
Rough brickwork houses with chimneys, and wooden deck paths that lead to to ship docks and canals, are all reminiscent of the era in which the game is set in. Barrels, trees, flame torches, and foliage, top-off the small details and the game looks respectable. PC gamers will be pleased to see a full list of graphical options to tweak at their demise, and as the game isn’t demanding to begin with it will look and perform well on the lowest of configurations. Video settings deliver on shadow quality, shield textures, environment and character textures, cloth quality, anti-aliasing, and so on. While I wont list the entire menu given to the player, it’s certainly what you would expect for a PC game.
So amongst the infuriating elements of gameplay particularly in it’s combat system of hit or miss, how does War of the Vikings justify it’s existence when the major feature that it focuses on isn’t even enjoyable? Well hey, it looks great and performance isn’t an issue. It’s just lackluster for actual content, servers despise your presence, and gameplay is a spoonful of Marmite. Fans of the War of the Roses may appreciate it and possibly find some enjoyment from it, but due to it’s non-friendly introduction as well as how the game plays, it’s not something that’s easy nor would I want to suggest for the poor soul that happens to stumble upon it while browsing the Steam store. I would say however, to try your luck with War of the Roses and direct your decision from there. As for War of the Vikings? MARMITE.
This game was reviewed on the PC.