Viking: Battle For Asgard Review
There is a song by a now-defunct band, Atom and His Package, called “Me and My Black Metal Friends.” The song starts, “In the mountains of Norway, where the weather is cold, there’s not much to do except kill each other and play guitar in the snow.” Hilarious, yes, but it perfectly describes the current European metal culture. Genres like power metal, black metal and sometimes death metal, are quite popular over there. A good number of the bands are based around science fiction, historical and/or fantasy themes. Blind Guardian, one of the premier German power metal bands, devoted an entire concept album to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Similarion.” Sonata Arctica has at least one song about a werewolf on each of their CDs. Korpikaani is often referred to as “Viking metal,” mostly due to their use of chants and the voice of lead singer, who could have played just about anyone in “Braveheart.” These bands, and dozens more like them, are just about the only music I listen to these days. So, needless to say, when Viking: Battle for Asgard came in the mail, the first thing I did was set up an iTunes playlist to listen to while I took control of a warrior in one of the most violent eras in shared human history.
As it turns out, one of the only positives that came out of my time with the game was that I had something decent to listen to while suffering through the worst historical game since Dynasty Warriors on PSP. Ok, so the game isn’t that bad, but my love for the source material and the metal it spawned made Viking: Battle for Asgard look much worse in my eyes than it would to average Joe gamer guy.
Viking: Battle for Asgard tells the story of a lone Viking warrior, Skarin. In a completely shameless Spawn rip-off, Skarin dies (almost), makes a deal with Freya, daughter of the head honcho Norse god Odin (and horrible song/Guitar Hero II abomination by The Sword), to live again and destroy a whole bunch of monsters from Hel, which is kind of like Christian Hell, only with one less “l.” That’s it. You know the entire story. No twists, no compelling goal or fleshed-out characters can be found here; you die, you make a deal, you live again and you rip apart generic demon after generic demon with little to no rhyme, reason or purpose. Yawn.
The first thing I noticed when I fired up the game for the first time was Viking looks, sounds and plays a lot like most 3rd person action adventures that came out in the last ten years or so. But with games like Dark Sector, Gears of War and Twilight Princess constantly bumping the bar ever higher, Viking ends up feeling like a game that would have been great if it were released around the same time as, oh, I don’t know, Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64. The environments are bland and nearly devoid of life, there is a single button attached to attack, jump, etc., effectively cutting off the possibility of any compelling combos or maneuvers and perhaps most jarring of all, the game is played in near silence. No background music, except for small swells when entering or leaving battles, no voices, no birds or wildlife – nothing. Maybe its just me, but when I think of Vikings, two main sounds come to mind – either the drunken howling of any army singing sea chanties after a successful battle or the waves of sound associated with a siege of some civilized town by wave after wave of warriors would both have fit just fine. Instead, most of Viking sounds more like the human resources department at a bank or office than a game about pillaging, fighting the undead and generally causing historical havoc. I can’t understand who could have possibly overlooked this in the testing/quality control phase of development, but it really detracts from an already “just ok” game.