Ragnarok is kicking off.
If you throw a stone on Steam, you are likely to hit an ARPG of some sort, and most of them will have been inspired by the Diablo games. Diablo clones are two-a-penny and very rarely do they measure up with Blizzard’s great games. That being said, every now and again something a little bit more special comes along. Vikings – Wolves of Midgard from developers Game Farm may not hit the dizzying heights of success achieved by the Diablo titles, but for fans of the loot gathering genre, the game certainly has plenty to offer.
From the outset, it is important to note that Vikings doesn’t really do anything to push the genre forward. Players of other ARPGs will be able to drop straight into the game and more or less know exactly what to do – pound hordes of enemies to a pulp, gather loot and become stronger to pound more hordes. It’s a formula that works and is executed very well in this Norse mythology flavoured game. That being said, there are a few interesting touches in Vikings that can make it stand out from other similar games.
The Norse setting in Vikings is nicely done and permeates the entire game. Players will find themselves taking on the role of Chieftain of the clan of the Ulfung – the Wolves of Midgard. As so often happens, pesky Giants have come along and destroyed your village in a particularly violent manner. It comes down to the player to face off against the hordes of beasts straight out of Norse mythology to save Midgard and, to a lesser extent, rebuild the village. Shouldn’t be a problem for a mighty Viking warrior.
The Norse flavour is immediately apparent in the way the game deals with character classes. Instead of simply picking a knight or a barbarian for example, the player will choose a deity to follow and make offerings to that deity in order to level up and improve their character. While the player is free to use any weapon that they find in the game, and there are plenty to choose from, their chosen Norse God will dictate which weapons they become more proficient with.
To make an offering to a Norse God, the player will gather the blood of their enemies on the battlefield and then present it to their god at an altar. This will result in stat increases and skill points to be spent in the various skill trees, making the Viking more powerful and able to gather yet more blood. Of course, it is not only blood that the player will be collecting from the bodies of fallen foes. There is plenty of loot dropped in the game, which is always one of the highlights of this style of game. There is also an abundance of crafting materials, both dropped by enemies and found in the environment, that can be taken back to the village and used to upgrade equipment.
The village acts as the hub for the game, and also provides a purpose for the player beyond the wholesale slaughter of monsters and the like. The village was ruined and the player will have to gather the materials needed as they roam the different environments in order to rebuild. As the village is improved upon, new abilities and upgrades will become available for the player, giving the player a great excuse to just go out and collect loot beyond material gain.
The combat itself is satisfying, and incredibly bloody. Combos allow the player to be rewarded for stringing together attacks, and there is a nice variety of good looking foes to face off against, from the lowly grunts through to some quite taxing bosses. It’s all very familiar, which is something that can also be applied to the missions in the game, which generally involve simply killing a certain number of beasts. In this respect, things can get a repetitive quite quickly, but this is really a complaint that can be aimed at all games of this genre.
Switching things up a little are the environmental hazards. Some of the environments come with different dangers that the player has to deal with, such as extreme cold which will leave the player rushing from campfire to campfire, or extreme heat that will leave the player looking for shade. There are some games in which this kind of mechanic can frustrate, but here in Vikings I found the additional challenge made the gameplay more interesting.
There are a few hiccups in the game though. Wolves of Midgard has its fair share of bugs and glitches, although I haven’t come across anything game breaking, and the developers seem to be working hard to get things fixed. Also, the control scheme with mouse and keyboard is not as well set up as it should be. With a controller, everything works fine, which does suggest that the game was built with a controller in mind and the keyboard mouse controls were more of an afterthought. Also, on completing the game, a new game + mode is available, but the player will lose all of their lovingly collected loot at this point, which is more than a little disappointing.
Visually, the game looks great, albeit within the limits of the genre. The variety of environments are all nicely created, while the enemy and vikings themselves are detailed enough to enhance the theme and all move with purpose. The audio is also great, although I must admit to tiring of the main characters bad puns.
Vikings – Wolves of Midgard is the latest in a long line of action RPGs that follow the Diablo formula. While it is certainly one of the better ones, it does have a few problems along the way. That being said, if you are a fan of the genre and fancy a bit of Ragnarok for yourself, Vikings – Wolves of Midgard is a solid ARPG with plenty of brutal content.