You play Skarin, a Viking warrior surrounded in mystery, on a quest to rid Asgard of the forces of Hel, the goddess of death. The format will be familiar to gamers, as this is an action adventure fantasy jaunt, with tinges of magic thrown in for good measure. For those in the UK, you may be expecting to step off a long boat in East Anglia to put the Britons to death, but this isn’t the case.
The storyline is fairly consistent and rolls on as you progress through the game, with more than a strong hint of Lord of the Rings. It is free-roaming to the extent that you can wander around the landscape however you choose, but various tasks need to be completed before you can progress further in the game, for example, you need to collect a dragon amulet to summon a dragon before you can enter the battle – regardless of whether you use the dragon or not.
The game is divided in such a way that every now and again you have to meet what is effectively an end of level guardian. Whilst they are tougher than your average foe, they don’t present much of a challenge, and this is perhaps indicative of the game: it doesn’t take too much skill to get through, but you do have to pay attention to the progressing story or it gets frustrating as you miss things.
Operating as a single-player entity only, the game reaches climaxes when you come to larger battles, which are carefully stage managed, but once again are relatively free form. In these battles you do seem to be able to respawn just back from the action if you die, again making it relatively simple to emerge victorious.
However, on one of these battles we encountered a major problem: as we approached the first large battle, the frame rate dropped and the console crashed, which it did several more times. We can only guess this was due to the intense action on-screen, and perhaps the warmth of the PS3 itself after gaming for a while. Still it is a disappointment to see your beautiful next-gen console defeated by an amassed army of Vikings.
Graphically Viking is pleasing to the eye, the scenery is fairly good, not pushing the boundaries by any means, but there is one hidden gem that perhaps accounts for the 18 rating on the cover. As you hack your way through foes, you can finish them off with a tap of the square button which will launch you into a slow-motion finishing move, which usually entails lopping your enemy’s head off and watching it sail through the air on a jet of the sticky red stuff.
Defeating the bigger enemies, usually with a semi-scripted rapid stabbing into the head, unleashes a gore fest, which for some may raise the question of unnecessary gratuitous violence. It is worth bearing in mind that some the chaps you meet along the way don’t even move their mouth when they talk to you, which it suggests something of a developmental bias towards the bloodbath.
Viking isn’t a game you can pick-up and play for 5 minutes, you have to throw yourself in for a good few hours, but it won’t last you many of these gaming sessions. There will be little incentive to come back once you have finished the game.
Progress is fast, gameplay doesn’t present too many challenges, but it is fun whilst it lasts.