However, where Skarin excels, is whenever he has to use any of the other of abilities he has. Traversing by jumping over gaps, climbing or shimmying small ledges to get to new areas or sneak into a settlement, is always fun due to the creative layouts of the area. It is simple, but looking after where to proceed to get further is satisfying and never too obscure. Sure, there are tons of spiked walls, but there might be one covered in cloth you can vault over for example. Sneaking happens automatically if you are not seen and you can kill off enemies in one solid hit, making it a fun and rewarding addition. It is then a shame that there are not many moments where this is required, and becomes rather a minor asset. Still, a more entertaining option to start with before the inevitable battle.
Throughout each of the three worlds you will explore, you will need to do multiple tasks with 80% of them being to kill all enemies in an area and free the captives. The rest are left for sneaking and platforming-aspects rather than anything else. Unfortunately, all of these play out similarly because of poor enemy-placements, and that stealth is not really required on more than 3 occasions. At least platforming will be take place more often than not. As an added annoyance, you will need to button-mash one button every time you need to free prisoners, open a chest, turn a key, pulling a lever, holding a magical artefact and more. It is simply a tedious way to add an interactive form of strength-testing, as it is not clever or demands even that much button-pressing. It is really there because of God of War.
Speaking of, while most enemies can be finished off with a simple press of a button when a button-icon is over their heads, some stronger enemies and bosses will require QTE in order to kill them. These are not exciting due to simple button-inputs that are not demanding or reflects their normal uses, making these situations forgettable. Exploring every area is also unnecessarily time consuming. Skarin can only lightly jog, which does not go well with environments that are huge. There are warp-stones, but they also require button-mashing to be used, and can be spread far from one another. Because of this, I often found myself restarting the game, ending up at the starting-part of the world, and then fast-travel from there. Yes, this was actually a faster method.
So what happens when you fulfil the requirements of gathering armies, doing their fetch-quests and killing of hordes of enemies? Then you can take on one of the bigger villages and push Hel’s army back. These are exciting due to your army going forward to attack Hel’s settlements and they can even be affected by your spells. Your goal here will be to kill the shamans who respawns tons of soldiers for your inconvenience, unless other specifics are given by the game.
This sounds fun, but you have no control over your army, adding no real tactics to this at all. It makes everything just shallow and not satisfying when your army is focused on the general crowd. It would have added at least something if they could for example defend you while you are taking out the shamans. All AI in this game is also poor and inconsistent, making it easy to get stuck between fiends constantly attacking you, or dumb comrades standing politely still for enemies to attack them.
The only thing you have partly control over, are your dragons. These are basically your aces in your sleeves, since they can destroy specific areas on the map that contain stronger forces of enemies, be it multiple archers, shaman respawning enemies or others. It is a neat idea, despite being inaccurate to Norse mythology, and balanced as they can only be summoned if you have the right amount of dragon-orbs. You get these from doing bigger tasks within the battles, like killing shamans or bosses.
However, since they can only be summoned to take out designated areas, they become context-sensitive moments. Taking into consideration that respawning enemies is the most dangerous ability the enemies can have, the dragons will be only used on shamans in particular. This unfinished idea makes these big fights underwhelming and repetitive. There is no penalty for dying either, as you respawn by the entrance of the battle, which removes all tension these battles could have had. As for the bosses, they only require you to pummel your strongest attacks on them and step back when they ready a big swing, before finishing them off with a QTE.
It is a shame that everything falls so hard because of the combat, as it is not bad that it is stiff or that you gather a mindless army. It is bad that you cannot do anything with your army and that the fiends you fight are not designed to make the combat-mechanics interesting. For a game that feels this undercooked with only 3 areas to explore, I am surprised it took me almost 12 hours to finish it. It can be longer or shorter, depending on your playstyle, and while mindless action can be fun and elements outside of combat are great, the redundant quests push the experience to the point of drowsy.
Gameplay Score: 4/10
Scandinavia is surely more vibrant
I will give Viking: Battle for Asgard this: it has nice environments that do represent some of Scandinavia’s different landscapes. Harsh beaches with high cliffs near a vibrant forest, snowy mountains with waterfalls still running, and mines nearby a small village, it all gives the areas some nice differentiation. I also do like how settlements are built for unique purposes, such as a harbour-town or the bee-hut for creating mead.
That being said, more could have been done with the areas than just give them different weather-effects. Buildings are very similar to one another, and while it is neat to see areas changing from Hel’s occupation to the Vikings reclaiming it with a brighter setting, it is easy to forget why you did this in the context of the war. Instead, the settlements becomes more like check marks on your mission-list, than anything else. With 3 big areas, more could have been done to make them memorable, but I am happy that the nature itself has different altitudes and shapes to them at least. Though the water is as blocky as those from the N64-days.
What is probably the best sight in this game, is to see the scope of the battles, as they can fit hundreds of fighters on the screen. All the combatants fighting against each other with blood being spilled, is exhilarating and exciting. It is then a shame that the enemies and allies are copy-pasted everywhere, easily breaking immersion. Though the design of the main-character, while over the top, is still cool, with him being a muscular braided man with bloody axes and swords, and a loincloth with runes on. The same quality is given to Freya with her fur-coat, and the dark attire of Hel.
It is then a shame that the animations the characters convey, are just bad. Terrible mouth-animations, stiff acting, and just boring scenes, makes every conversation a chore. It is better with the still images, as they have plenty of detail to admire, and the washed out background-colours work wonders to highlight blood-spill. While they convey little animations, they are still visually appealing, as they keep a western art with a realistic style that fits the Viking-setting. Especially, due to the rose-paintings Norway produced.
Sadly, the general look of the game is inconsistent. While there are some nice effects, like the magical spell and lighting up the caves with Skarin’s lamp on his back, the lighting outdoors can be terrible with awkward flickers and huge bloom-effects. It is not pretty at all. As for the violence, it is also hit and miss. Some attacks are brutal and quick with Skarin cutting off torsos, others are confusing as Skarin chopes off the arms of an already beheaded creature, and some can be long and reused too often, to leave any impact. The overall violence is all over the place in terms of quality, and for being one of the main selling-points visually, it should have been better. Especially when even the blood-splatter is also inconsistent in quality.
Fortunately, the sound effects for chopping, swinging swords clashing, and flesh being cut, is all satisfying with real punches to them, and the magical spells and tools come with strong effects to them. However, problems arise yet again as there are some parts that have awkward sound effects, like when Skarin is summoning a dragon or climbing fishing-nets, where overlapping and looped sound effect is a constant problem. The voice-actors are also bland, and none have clear direction. Just altering their voices to sound either darker or direct, never personal. It makes the already terrible story even worse. This is quite confusing when you have Brian Blessed, Maria Darling and Tim Bentinck on board, to name a few.
As for the soundtrack, again, it is just as much of a mess. There are some nice ambient sounds when traversing the area, and I do love when the music focuses on drums, horns or violins to give a sense of a Northern style. Sadly, it also includes Latin choir and orchestral music, which does not fit in and feels like a poor way to make something become bombastic and grand. Why not have a dark choir and song in rhythmic vocals rather than clear words? It is a terrible shame, as the composition can be built up with varied tones, or contain strong use of instruments, but being set in a wrong scenario, can create all forms of confusion. Overall, the presentation is an inconsistent mess of quality.
Presentation Score: 5/10
Oh, what is that? Is that available?
While I cannot say the overall journey was fun, exploring was always nice, with many subtle treasures lying around, mead to exchange for money, and while combat is mindless, it can be visually entertaining. Quests are clearly marked on the map, and whenever stealth can be implemented, it is a good time. It is just a shame that none of the quests evolve or become more difficult, making some tasks completely shallow. I also despise when an area is locked off until a story-event is done for the key or tool for progression to “magically” spawn. To be honest, you will have to do a lot of side-activities in order to get further, so this can barely be qualified as a solid extra. However, those that are optional, can be a decent way to extend playtime.
Extra Score: 6/10
I will say that I have a soft spot for this title due to how shallow and unrefined it is, yet shows promise and can be fun. However, there is no other word to describe Viking Battle for Asgard than shallow. There are intriguing ideas here, but with how repetitive, underdeveloped and poorly designed everything is, from the awful story to the inconsistent presentation, it all feels like a product of popularity. Mindless fun, but one that outstayed its welcome.