War of the Vikings Review

By Darryl Kaye on April 30, 2014

The war between the Saxons and the Vikings is often overlooked when it comes to video games, with Vikings often used in a general sense due to their fearsome demeanour. In truth, this passage of time plays a pretty strong part in the history of England and it serves as an apt follow-up to Fatshark's previous game of the same vein, War of the Roses.

As the game features two warring factions and has a very strong focus on contained battles, there is no story to speak of. All you need to know is that the game takes place in the Viking Age and that the Saxons are attempting to defend their homes against the rampaging Vikings. The developers have taken the approach that if you want to find out more, then you need to brush on the historical context in your own time. And there's nothing wrong with that at all, because it makes gameplay the pure focus on this multiplayer-only experience.

Both teams play in an identical way, but you will often find that the Vikings are a far more popular choice. Not that it detracts from the experience at all, but everyone clamours to join that team and due to the enforced balancing, it means everyone usually joins the Saxons as a secondary option.

For launch, the game has three basic classes and these are presented in the form of different loadouts. You have the "Warrior", the "Champion" and the "Skirmisher", which gives you two that are focussed on melee combat and one that is more focussed on range combat. It seems a little bit restrictive, but there are plans to add more classes in the coming months.

Once you level up, you also have the option to create your own custom loadouts. These are required to use the basic class traits, but you can apply custom traits and also have more control over weaponry. For example, while the default "Warrior" comes equipped with a sword and shield combo, you could choose to switch that out for something else that's less defensive.

Gameplay makes for an interesting experience, as you will have to take part in quite specific melee combat, but from a third-person perspective. The game uses a gesture-based system and for the most part, it works quite well. It means, for example, that if you want to swing from left to right, you press left mouse button and perform the swing. There are three possible swings using this method and on the other side, you can parry attacks by using the right mouse button and applying the same theory.

Where you aim and how long you wind the swing up will also have a significant impact on results. If you hack loosely at someone's arm, you might need 3-4 swings to kill someone. However, if you aim a strong strike at someone's neck, there is a very good chance they will be decapitated "“ lovely! It all sounds very simple in theory too, but it does take a little bit of time to get used to. And unless you manage to sneak up the enemy unawares, you will often be going mano-o-mano with the opposition team, something that can be quite tense in itself.

The great thing about this is that you gain a real appreciation for the battle. If you square off against a singular opponent, you will fancy your chances. If you square off against two or more, the odds diminish quite quickly. You will also gain an even greater hatred for people who used ranged attacks, as a team with a heavy bias on archers can cause serious frustrations. Still, it's very satisfying when you charge in with your double-handed axe and clear them out while they run around in a panic.

Even with these positives, after playing through a fair few battles it's difficult to shake the feeling that the gameplay feels rather limited and that it could have been a lot better. The gesture-based system is a nice touch, but it would be great to see this expanded upon to make the experience feel even more natural and crisp. There are also nuances, such as dodging, kicking and pushing, as well as utilising special attacks and these do help to add depth to the experience, but again, these feel a little bit underwhelming with their implementation.

The game modes and maps available for launch are also a little bit underwhelming, but again, there are plans to add more in the coming months. The main focus is around Team Deathmatch, which is rather self-explanatory, but there is also Arena, Pitched Battle and Conquest. Again though, these modes are quite self-explanatory, with Arena and Pitched Battle being Last Man Standing modes of varying sizes, while Conquest is based around the notion of zones.

It would have been nice to see more variance with the game modes, perhaps one of the starter modes could have been something more original, with Conquest being added at a later date in conjunction with something else. Having the maps restricted to certain game modes also narrows down the variety.

From a visual perspective, the game doesn't offer that much beyond what's expected. It certainly doesn't look like it warrants the required PC specifications. Individual characters models are rather standard and while the maps themselves have a nice amount of visual flare, there isn't all that much to make the game stand out.

Not that it's related to the game's graphical prowess, but you can also customise your characters, for both the Viking and Saxons. At present, there are quite a lot of options when it comes to the weaponry and shields, but the characters themselves seem quite lacking at the moment. You can only choose from a very limited array of faces and helms, but at least there's variety when it comes to the beards.

Final Thoughts

War of the Vikings is a game that feels a bit lacking for launch, with only a handful of game modes and classes available. But that's not to say there aren't positives. The gesture-based control scheme works well and the scale of the battles can create an immersive experience. Perhaps with the next iteration in the series, the gameplay can be tightened up a bit more and the launch can be better planned to offer a bit more variety.

Gesture based controls offer an interesting dimension.
Take part in a huge team deathmatch can be immersive.
Beard customisation.
Game modes feel a bit lacking.
Gameplay feels like it could be made much better.
Customisation have offered more in the way of customisation.
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