Xbox One, PS4, PC
March 24, 2017
Turning on Vikings: Wolves of Midgard for the first time, I’ll be transparent in saying I was expecting basically a re-badged Diablo. While in some ways this is a fair comparison, what developer Games Farm has tried to focus on in particular is a crisp combat experience that draws heavily on Nordic mythological themes. To this end, I was not disappointed. The game itself is not without its issues of course, with a fairly weak narrative and some patchy design choices at times. Despite these drawbacks, Vikings is a perfectly serviceable addition to your isometric action-RPG library, and is likely to keep you entertained for hours.
In Vikings, you play as the new chieftain of the Ulfung clan (AKA, the Wolves of Midgard), whose village was destroyed by the Jotan: a race of giants who are determined to destroy the Gods of Asgard and the people who serve them. As the chieftain of the village, it is your role to rebuild and take the fight to the giants before they bring about Ragnarok, the end of times. You do this by going out on quests to save key tradespeople that were captured by the giants or otherwise lost, such as the smith, the shipwright and the runecrafter. Over the course of these quests you will also collect crucial resources such as wood, iron and gold which allow you to upgrade your weapons and armour.
You’ll come to learn that Vikings is a true dungeon crawler: each quest zone has 3 secondary objectives that grant you additional resources if completed. If you’re a completionist like me, you’ll be combing the whole map 3 or 4 times to ensure nothing was missed. Even though this can be tedious at times, the game keeps it interesting by making your character susceptible to environmental exposure, whether it be extreme heat or cold. This means you’ll have to make strategic decisions about continuing to fight out in the open or retreating to the safety of a campfire or cave.
Keeping yourself well-stocked on resources is really important, as upgrading your gear is necessary to survive combat in this game. Combat-style isn’t determined by classes in Vikings, but by the God that you choose to worship. For my playthrough I picked Loki, who provides benefits for playing a dual-wielding style. There are 5 options overall, including all your favourite Norse gods such as Thor and Odin.Whoever you choose, you’ll find that combat is a good mixture of fun and challenging. The power is in your hands as the player, due to the clean animations, responsive controls and the array of mechanics at your disposal. You’ll be faced with a mix of foes from hordes of exploding undead to massive frost giants, in a fast-paced hack and slash experience which is extremely satisfying. While you’re busily collecting the blood of your enemies to sacrifice to your chosen God, you may notice some of the finer touches in the game such as the slow-motion execute kills or even the beauty of the environments.
“…it feels less like you’re on a quest to save Midgard and more like you’re an errand-boy for the village…”
Of seemingly less importance to the developers was a strong narrative tying these quests together. Despite the strong Nordic themes, it feels less like you’re on a quest to save Midgard and more like you’re an errand-boy for the village, leading to a fairly disjointed story-telling experience. I also noticed considerable drops in performance during some of the busier fight sequences, and I found menu selection in the inventory screen too picky and sensitive.
- Fun and fast combat
- Strong Nordic theme
- Sassy chieftain
- Weak narrative
- Laggy at times
- Fiddly menus
These were only minor shortcomings and didn’t detract from my overall feeling about the game: a simple and fun play where you’ll find it hard to put the controller down once you get started. It has all of the character-crafting elements you would want in an RPG without being too fussy or over-complicated; combat is a joyous challenge and the chieftain is surprisingly sassy in conversation which adds some nice comic relief. Vikings: Wolves of Midgard, while similar to Diablo in many ways, does enough here to carve out a separate space in the market and may even deserve a spot in your playlist for this winter.