Chopping its way into the Action-RPG genre like an axe through the meaty skull of an Ice Giant is the new Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, the game I have been reviewing over the past week or two.
From Games Farm and Kalypso Media, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard brings a mixture of Norse Mythology and fantastical elements together in a delicious blend of brutal hacking glory and furious button-mashing. This game follows the well established ARPG format of being isometric in view, leveling up one’s character and forever acquiring improved battle gear. There are, of course, some differing elements, but I will get to those in turn. And while I could, this won’t be a direct comparison to the most popular game in this genre.
Graphics and Style
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard uses the isometric view of a 3D environment that is common to ARPGs. The 3D modelling is a bit more detailed than others in this genre, and perhaps to show this off, the view is a bit more zoomed in. Texture detail is high and models are well made. The landscape is very well done, with some of the areas being very nice to look at and very detailed.
It runs pretty low in the effects department, not really having many at all, at least from what I’ve experienced. Some games hammer huge amounts of effects into one’s eyeballs, to the point where the character on screen can disappear easily. Not the case in Vikings. But that doesn’t make it look any less good and it makes it easier to play for someone new to this sort of game. The overwhelming mass of colours and motion that some games have can be daunting to the uninitiated.
Sound and Music
The music in the game is standard fare, suitably background-ish and perfectly adequate. As I’ve stated before, music is something I normally turn off because I like either my own music or I am watching something else at the same time, TV show or movie or whatever. But I left it going while I was playing, and it sounds good. Sound effects are well done. Weapon strikes are significantly meaty sounding and creatures’ noises are done well.
The voice acting is where this game is let down. Some of it is fine, but a lot of it is so over-acted it’s not funny. I chose a shield-maiden as my character and the voice for her is ridiculous. The enunciation is fine, but how it is spoken is really over the top. And it is worse for some of the NPCs, like the Troll Witch. Normally this sort of thing doesn’t really worry me, because it is just limited to cutscenes, and I can normally skip those, but not in this case. The character will spout out a selection of lines while in combat, so I have to listen to it all the time.
To keep this relatively short, if you have played any ARPG, then you know the basic gameplay of Vikings. Run around, chop things up, get loot. That’s about it.
The differences come in the details. Instead of a linear path through story levels, there is a hub where one goes on ‘raids’. One travels to a semi-linear area and progresses through it to complete whatever tasks are needed, up until killing the level’s boss. Each level has three optional goals which require keen eyes and exploration to complete.
Some levels utilise a mechanic called ‘Exposure’. This can come in several forms including cold temperatures, poisoned air or a deathly aura. If the exposure bar fills up, then hitpoints will start being lost until that exposure can be reduced. Each form of exposure has its own method of reducing it, such as a campfire for the cold. These methods can be found scattered through the level. There are also stats on gear that can reduce the rate one acquires exposure.
Instead of the normal XP, one collects Blood throughout the levels and sacrifices it at Altars to the Gods to gain levels. Gaining a level grants a point to spend to increase stats like damage, armour, life or critical strike. Levels also grant Gift Points, which are spent on passive stat buffs or active abilities used in combat. What abilities one can use are dependent on the weapon group being used. I’ve put almost all my points into one weapon group, 1 hand + shield, so while I can use other groups, such as 2 handed, bow or 2×1 hand, they won’t be as effective. There are a maximum of 5 active abilities for each weapon group. Once unlocked through points, all 5 can be used. There is no customisation in which active skills are available as one can only use one weapon group at a time and the abilities change per group.
As the story progresses, buildings in the hub can be upgraded to provide more effective equipment. Resources are shared between upgrading the hub buildings and creating equipment. Weapons and armours can be inscribed with runes to make them more powerful. Equipment rarity is divided into blue for uncommon, green for rare, orange for legendary and purple for unique.
One of the things I quite like is the game has a dodge function. One can roll into or out of combat to dodge strikes and save health. Heavy armour and shield will affect one’s capability to roll effectively. This is needed to fight the larger enemies such as the Jotun (or giants). They can stun and hit very hard, so being able to dodge the strikes is helpful. Healing is done through an item called a Healing Totem. Depending on the totem, one will have a limited number of charges before it needs to be recharged at shrines sprinkled around the level.
The main difference I’ve experienced with this game is it is slower in play than others of the same genre. General movement speed is slower, as well as attacks. And instead of getting attacked by whole mobs of creatures at one, repeatedly, it will generally only be two or three at a time. Exposure is the only thing that really drives the speed up.
The story of Vikings takes the vast majority of its inspiration from Norse Mythology, as one would expect from the name, but also draws on elements of a historical nature, such as fighting against the English (though called Imperials).
The story is portrayed in the game through a series of game-engine cutscenes, usually involving dialogue and voice-over still screens of text. There is not a huge amount of story, generally boiling down to ‘This bad thing is happening. You, as the Chieftain, must fix it’. There are a few choices to make as one proceeds which give different rewards. ARPGs are, broadly speaking, pretty light on story anyway.
The rough overview of the story is thus: It’s a bad winter. The Ice Giants and Fire Giants have teamed up to give the Gods a good kicking. Midgard is going to get mashed up in the process. You have to stop it! But I don’t play ARPGs for much story. I play it to chop dudes and get fat loot. My several hundred hours in Diablo 3 can attest to that.
Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is a competent ARPG with only a couple things that I wasn’t happy with. It performs its role with vigor and aplomb, but is far from knocking the reigning champion from its plinth. I would like to have tried the multiplayer, but no one else I know possesses it. Moving slower than other ARPGs, this could be good for someone new to the genre, to get used to the play style, before moving onto something more hardcore. Following my rule of getting an hour of gameplay for every dollar paid, this game would be worth it for the $40 price tag on Steam. Also available on Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: Nvidia GTX 1070, i5 4690, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 12 hours