So I put aside EA MMA
for a little bit to try Viking: The Battle for Ass-Guard
. It's not just any vikings; these are Dungeons and Dragons style Vikings, with magic pendants and teleportation portals and dragons!
In truth, they could have made it about raiding neighboring villages and stealing their crap. The whole game is about "reclaiming" your island from the forces of Hel, which involves leaving your little village, going to neighboring areas, and beating the hell out of anyone in there. Then it becomes
your... er, "returns to being"
I blame aalfonso
for this purchase. We were in the game store, and he used several terms in a single sentence which overwhelmed my reticence to buy: "viking," "open world," and "stealth." One of the things I like about OWGs is revisiting old areas to do new tasks, using what I learned before to my advantage. It's not the case here; it's a series of linear battles which happen to take place in little strips of a larger world. You visit them once to do the mission, and that's it. If I was short on cash maybe there would be a reason to return for hidden gold, but I prioritized buying items which make them appear on my radar (VIKING RADAR), so now I'm cleaning up during the initial playthrough or immediately after clearing the area. The waiting-to-be-freed viking brethren are in the same poses as the bare-breasted maidens who needed to be rescued in THQ's Conan
game, so I'm always disappointed to get near and discover bearded men in bondage.
Overall it's pretty
, doesn't yet seem particularly deep, and suffers from a janky camera (most likely from someone in marketing telling them to move the camera closer to the main character so he's larger on the screen). The close up, speed-ramped dismemberment kills are satisfying.
It was disappointing to find that, after the final battle on the initial island, the game just peremptorily shunted my ass directly to the next island with no way to return. This is grounds enough to outright rescind the "open world" label for the game. I had planned to scoot around and pick up all the remaining treasure after cleaning house but, BOOM, there I am on a new island without the windfall of funds I'd been counting on, and no way to hunt out the remaining collectibles. Want to get all those Achievements? Did you get 5 out of 6 Hidden Red Skulls? Start a new playthrough and re-do EVERYTHING. Wheeeee~.
The new island was more of the same, more of the same, and it had that half-finished feel that seems typical of Sega external developed stuff. There's a certain "reek" given off by Viking that makes it feel a little like Sega's almost-good HULK game. The camera has the same shuddering, overreacting sweep to it. The QTE's have the same mediocre implementation, blitting a button cue on the screen briefly, but not showing whether it's a single press or a repeated tapping clearly. It's just... some kind of Sega jank they must insist on during QA.
So I was getting frustrated with the controls, and then was having huge troubles with a major base run at Holdenfort. It was the first time I had to take the controls seriously. I was getting my ass handed to me by Legion Champions since they decided to put in two in a row, and placed these where the camera could be easily obscured by buildings and rooftops. EXCELLENT! >:-(
When I finally met the win condition for the run, nothing changed. I was on top of a hill with enemies endlessly spawning out from a Leystone warpgate. I couldn't use it, I couldn't go back through the base without dealing with the repopulated regions, and it was unclear how to open the next gates to the next area. What is the actual solution?
Well, since the win condition was met, I was actually free to use my map! The map, oddly, is just a map except for set-piece missions where the player-character leads a massive number of troops into an epic battle. These are huge battles, truly impressive. I've got -NO IDEA- why the designers want them initiated from the map when NOTHING ELSE IS. The map allows waypoint setting, and shows updated locations for where missions can be started, remaining tasks before a mission can be started, that kind of thing. But the big battles can be activated directly from the map. The game does show
a "Your map has new information" message that keeps creeping up as important. Instead what needs to happen is a message like "YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE UNLESS YOU CHECK YOUR MAP" -- or how about a dialog box with "You've met the conditions to start the battle. Do so now?"
Why can't this crap be simple? This feels as logical as crawling around a high school, fighting bullies all day long, but I've put all the pieces in place to have a brawl in the quad, I have to do it by opening up my Pee-Chee Folder and writing "start the brawl." It doesn't follow the rest of the given context.
Despite all this, I'm enjoying the game. The stealthy stuff is difficult because the Legion are on patrol, and likely to be staring down most paths of approach. Going around to a different approach angle usually wanders me right through an encampment of them. But when I can creep up behind a patrol marching in a line and leap in like a wolf behind them, take them out one after the other before any of them notice their buddy isn't behind them anymore? That's fun. And the massive battles between two large forces are also fun. When I finally did use my map to start the fight, it was huge, inspiring, and as big as anything for which I could have hoped.