Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer
Not being the owner of a Playstation 2 or PSP means that I’ve not been able to personally experience the craze that is the God of War series. These third-person action/adventure games follow the warrior Kratos as he battles men, monsters, and even the gods of ancient Greece. They’re hugely popular and the recipients of numerous awards, and given that knowledge and the fact of their platform exclusivity, it should come as no surprise that other game developers are emulating Sony’s success by making their own so-called God of War clones.
One that came out last year was Conan, which I’ve talked briefly about on more than one occasion. A second is the recently released Viking: Battle for Asgard (available for the Xbox 360 & PS3). These games are all so similar in structure it almost seems like you could write a guide for future game development in the style of one of those old Mad Libs. Actually, that sounds like fun. Let’s give it a try:
There was once a mighty warrior named ___1___. At times a pawn of the gods of ___2___ mythology, his independent spirit could not be conquered. When the lands of ____3____ were threatened by the evil sorcerer/deity ___4___, ___5___ took up his ___6___ and fought for freedom, justice, and glory.
Now, fill in the blanks accordingly:
1: bad-ass name for the hero (Kratos, Conan, Skarin)
2: mythos of choice (Greek, Hyborian, Norse)
3: setting for the game (Greece, Hyboria, Midgard)
4: name for the game’s villain (Ares, Black Plague, Hel)
5: same name as in #2
6: hero’s weapon of choice (Blades of Chaos, broadsword, sword & axe)
I’ve included appropriate choices for God of War, Conan, and Viking, respectively. But you could easily come up with your own choices, and have a whole new game on your hands! Game developers, you can thank me later.
So Viking is similar in structure, story, and gameplay – even down to the prompted button combos that must be executed successfully to defeat game bosses, as seen in this video from God of War: Chains of Olympus (skip to ~5:00 mark to see what I’m talking about):
Does Viking offer anything original? The answer to that is that it does. One of the major gameplay elements of Viking is that throughout the game as you battle Hel’s minions that have overrun your fair land, you have to liberate captive Vikings and add them to the ranks of your army. After you have marshaled enough forces you can call them to battle and launch an assault on a major enemy stronghold. While I thought the graphics in game were decent, I didn’t think there was anything to be dazzled by, until I got to the first major skirmish. The sheer numbers of NPCs on screen engaging in all-out war without any noticeable lag was impressive. There were so many Vikings and hoards of demons on screen I lost sight of my character more than once, which although a little frustrating, was actually kind of cool.
The only other element that seems unique to Viking is the dragon summoning. There are magical “Dragon Stones” scattered throughout the game that you must recover and use to summon the mighty serpents of legend to fight for your cause against Hel. At first this seemed like an incredibly cool part of the game, but very soon you learn that you can’t do much of anything with your new reptilian friends except use them as a kind of artillery strike in the big battle sequences. Admittedly this is cool, but not as cool as the laundry list of kick-ass things I could think of to do if I was a Viking warrior with my very own dragon.
Viking: Battle for Asgard is a good bit of gaming fun, though my opinion on that may change if the same fate befalls me that killed fellow CC2ker Russell Davidson’s enjoyment, but it’s not a classic by any means. The voice acting is at times great, especially when John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from LOTR) is narrating. I found the controls rather difficult to figure out; a short tutorial would have been nice. The menus and map especially are pretty pathetic, and I found that even the instruction booklet wasn’t much of a help. All in all in my opinion Viking deserves the dubious label of just another (and not that good) God of War clone.