When people pictures Viking game, they usually look to the heavy hitters. AAA releases such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrificeand the 2018s god of war come to mind. While these may seem like the biggest options on the market, they are not the only ones on offer.
Numerous Viking games have fallen by the wayside. They may have flown under the radar entirely or simply lacked staying power. Whatever the reason, their obscurity is a sad saga, as some titles make the gods proud. They are not perfect. There is no game. However, they are still worth seeing for those seeking a Viking story.
For a tragically overlooked Viking film, how about a game to match? Based on the 2007 feature film, Beowulf chronicling the exploits of the legendary hero. It even depicts several events that are only hinted at or omitted entirely, such as his race with Brecca and subsequent battle with sea monsters.
These glasses form a hack-and-slash adventure that’s functional yet fun. It copies god of war like many film-licensed titles at the time, but it uses that formula well. Additionally, the gore-fest approach is appropriate given how gory the film is. It doesn’t detract from the movie’s potency, and the same can be said about the game. Both deserve a second look.
6/7 Viking: Battle For Asgard
An early PS3 and Xbox 360 title, Viking is eager to show off the new hardware with the large number of characters on the screen. This feeds into the story, which sees the player free captured Norsemen and lead the charge against the undead legions of the goddess Hel. The challenge is to get there.
Most of the game is pretty mundane. Players roam bog standards and perform repetitive rescue missions. The combat during these encounters gets old quickly due to its simplicity. That said, the repetition is worth the trouble for the game’s selling point: colossal battles where players hack and slash their way to victory. The epic scale is palpable. The frame rate may drop on consoles, but it’s less of a problem on PC. Not to mention, it doesn’t change how satisfying it is to summon such immense power through your own hard work.
5/7 Lords Of The Fallen
Here’s another title that obviously owes a lot of itself to other works. In this case, it is Dark souls. It’s evident from the gloomy atmosphere, deliberately slow combat, gruesome enemies and cohesive environments. The whole thing simply has a Viking paint.
Although this caused Lord of the Fallen to fade into the background during the initial release, the game is still a capable copy. It skillfully maintains the above elements while knocking down the penalty issue. In addition, its derivative nature seems less harmful in retrospect, as several souls-similar titles have appeared since then. The booming market is probably why a delayed sequel is in the works. Maybe the franchise will stick around with a second chance.
4/7 Volgarr The Viking
You wouldn’t normally associate Vikings with colorful side scrollers, but it has worked countless times for medieval settings. This line of thinking inspired Volgarr the Vikingan indie title similar to old platformers Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins. As expected, players battle across pixelated realms and overcome hordes of hideous monsters based on Norse mythology. Volgar shines in that regard, presenting a sublime Viking aesthetic with yesteryear graphics and gameplay plucked straight from an arcade. However, with that comes the difficulty.
The game is excessively difficult like those that inspired it. While that may sound like a complaint, it’s practically a badge of honor in today’s market, especially with retro titles. Just watch Cup head and Celeste. If these games can become indie darlings, then Volgar deserves the same notoriety.
A rhythm game seems like an odd idea, but Nordic music is among the most appealing aspects of Viking entertainment. Ragnarok allowing fans to drum to the unique beat with a heavy metal flair. The VR game places players in the boots of a longship captain. They must keep up with the song notes to motivate the crew to row faster, thus winning the race with the rival ship.
It’s a creative setup brought to life beautifully. The art style is pleasingly cartoonish, and the motion controls are surprisingly responsive. Unfortunately, the game loop is somewhat repetitive, which makes solo runs drag. That’s why the title has multiplayer capabilities. Thus, it will earn much more from people playing it.
Another hack-and-slash, Rune is one of the genre’s earlier forays into a 3D realm. The adventure places the Northman protagonist in the midst of Ragnarok, where he must stop Loki from destroying Middle-earth. To achieve this, players explore a hostile world and use a variety of weapons, including swords, axes, maces, and hammers. It is nothing new.
That’s the game’s biggest flaw: subsequent titles have fine-tuned the formula. Despite his age, Rune is still a serviceable escapade. The rich culture helps to stand out from the open world pack. In addition, the familiar gameplay mixes in a few survival elements. There was clearly a passion put into this, which is probably why a sequel came and went in 2019. Maybe the age of the property worked against it, but that doesn’t stop players from enjoying other old games. If Knights of the Old Republic, Thief, Baldur’s Gateand The Witcher can bear, it can too Rune.
This indie title breaks tradition in one key area: players don’t control a Viking. Instead, they take on the role of Munin, one of Odin’s ravens. She has lost her wings, so she can’t fly. Rather, she must find an alternative means of navigation through solving puzzles. Players flip switches, overcome traps, and rotate entire chunks of the level to get her to the end. The tragedy is that it is all mixed up.
Munin is a game at war with itself. Traversing provides a stimulating challenge, but it can easily become frustrating, which isn’t helped by the lack of other activities. Similarly, the levels consist of painfully basic design elements, but they make up for that deficiency with gorgeous watercolor backgrounds. Perhaps these conflicting aspects are what prevented it Munin from leaving a lasting industrial impact. It’s a shame, as far too few AAA titles encourage critical thinking like this.
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