When you hear that the team behind Spartan: Total Warrior (and the Total War series) are involved in a next-gen project, you begin to get a strange feeling that youíve heard it all before and what you get at the end result isnít what you were expecting. So, when I heard that Viking: Battle for Asgard, was coming to the 360 I kind of zoned out, put the game on my peripheral radar and forgot about it. I purposely ignored all but one trailer and left the game in the dark, that way I could approach it with a sense of a new player, with nothing spoiled and no preconceptions.
Iím going to go out on a limb here and say that, if you like open world games with a lot to do, like Crackdown and Assassinís Creed, even Fable in some ways, then Viking is spot on and right down that particular alley. Now Viking has some problems, thereís not many and some people who clamour about repetition in games will probably whine thereís not much substance to the various missions in Viking and the story isnít really told very well at all.
Letís address this for a moment. The missions have less repetition than Assassinís Creed and I found that whilst AC was an enjoyable game, the various flag collection, timed runs and other elements really pushed me away from the game in places. Viking has nothing like that, its hack and slash with some stealth mixed in. In the end the game allows you to play it as you want, you can even improvise in some of the later sections and thatís something you donít really see from many so-called open world games these days.
As for the story, youíre Skarin, a norseman who is brought back from the dead by the Goddess Freya, to battle Helís legions who have taken over and enslaved everyone, killed the rest and are generally causing various kinds of affrays all over the battlefields and plains of Midgard. Skarin is initially fairly weak and can only survive rudimentary battles with Helís warriors, thatís fine since thereís very little you can do until you begin to follow your quest lines. There are hidden gold bags, urns, treasure chests and a shop in the game, from these shops you can buy various items like health power ups (permanent), throwing axes, health potions and so on.
Your inventory is limited and you can only carry 3 health potions. Thereís also a blacksmith whoíll put power runes into your weapons for a price, so itís important that you get as much gold as possible. The other reason youíll want to stockpile your gold is the various Battle Arenas (one for each map) these are where youíll learn your new abilities and combos, these are simple affairs but the way the combat system works youíre going to find theyíre useful additions to your arsenal when you face off against a dozen or more foes all trying to trade blows.
The game is a 3rd person hack/slash title with the emphasis upon freedom, youíre not locked down into a single linear campaign level after level, youíre given a series of goals and sub-objectives, a map (the Brasingamen) and you can mark locations of interest using the X button whilst viewing it. These goals are similar from map to map (of which there are 3 massive locations to explore) however unlike Assassinís Creed, whilst the goals are similar, the setups are vastly different.
Not every single quest is cut and dried either, you might rescue a Viking encampment only to be told that something prevents these men from joining your cause, so you must go and solve that part of the quest before you can gain the warriors. Why do you need warriors, because Viking isnít just a 3rd person hack/slash game, it has a massive battle that youíre part of when it comes to attacking big fortifications and objectives. These battles are excellent and they allow you to call forth a dragon (or two) to destroy certain objectives providing you have the dragon gems to power the attack.