When I first heard about Games Farm’s Vikings: Wolves of Midgard and that it was an action RPG, I think my inner Norsewoman’s heart skipped more than a few beats. What’s not to like about an ARPG with a Viking theme, am I right? This is our Vikings Wolves of Midgard review.
Well, turns out there are a number of things not to like, most notably that it’s “just another ARPG” with nothing other than an awesome theme to make it stand out from the crowd. With games like Grim Dawn, Path of Exile and Diablo 3 as competition, a theme alone isn’t going to be enough to take center stage.
What is somewhat mystifying is the fact that all the elements are there: Loot (though lackluster — more on that later), tough monsters, combo based fighting, cooperative play, more loot, bad bosses – you name it and it is there. There’s just this feeling that something is missing to make Vikings special.
But it’s not all gloom and doom for Vikings. For people looking for a more action-arcade type experience, it might just scratch the itch.
Starter Steps in a Chill World
As with most games, you start off as a grunt. In Vikings’ case, either as a burly, somewhat slower male warrior type or as a fast-on-her feet female shield maiden. Customization options are pretty damn good for an action-based game. You can choose hair style (and facial hair for males) and color, tattoo style, and clan symbol. You can also choose to “specialize” in different combat styles by the deity you choose which also determines the type of weapon you use from the get go. I happened to choose dual wielding. I could use other weapons but without the proficiency of my starters.
The early world in Vikings is, as expected, a bitterly cold snowy one (though many others come along the way through the game). It is made even chillier thanks to an invasion of ice demons who want nothing more than to turn everyone into popsicles. Your village is under attack and it’s up to you to save it and the rest of the world from being locked in some bad ass’s Frigidaire for the rest of eternity. Take THAT, Diablo – you and your fiery depths of hell. HA! Noob.
While most ARPGs aren’t known for their stellar storylines, Vikings is even shallower than most. What you read above? That’s pretty much it, though there are some nice “writing on parchment with a lot of runes” type cut scenes that are very nicely voiced.
Once you run in, save everyone from becoming a cold drink accessory for some demon, you have to help the seemingly helpless villagers rebuild. They all yell at you in appropriately Norse-like accents before informing you that they’d just as soon stay here by the fire, thank you very much, and that you, SHIELD MAIDEN, can head out and do the heavy lifting. Your task is to collect the needed materials to rebuild the village and, by so doing, you’ll unlock new vendors and the gear that they create on your behalf seems tied to how far you manage to progress things.
I WAS NOT PREPARED…and I admit it
There are a number of different environments alongside the freezing wastelands but it is most indicative of my experience in the game. Heading out into the first mission was a wake call something along the lines of World of Warcraft’s Illidan screeching, “YOU ARE NOT PREPARED!” And, boy, I wasn’t.
Any one of the missions you run can turn into a rush for survival. After all, these guys are trying to freeze the lot of us and the environmental challenge of completing objectives, killing monsters and actually surviving is…well, let’s just say robust. The Environmental System is hard on players and requires a lot of backtracking in order to hug the fire. I found it time-wasting.
I’ve got no complaints really about combat. It’s fluid, combo-based and blood soakingly gory. Blood is important too since, outside of the healing wells, it’s the only way to recoup some of the health you’re losing both to big packs of enemies and through environmental effects. Waste too much time fighting and you’ll freeze so it’s important to use strategy to determine which skills to save for larger enemies like the trolls who may be slow but literally pack a deathblow in every hit. Part of that strategy is to locate the fires conveniently burning along your path with tons of combat in between. The secret is to plan and get it done fast or pay for it.
Rage mode is also really fun, though it’s easy to overlook (stupidly so, for the record as my character death count can attest). You need Rage, let me be clear. It’s a slow builder but those extra few seconds’ damage increase can be the difference between winning or losing a fight, particularly with the spectacularly difficult bosses. These guys use mechanics in small locations that will keep you on your toes, using Rage when available and spamming the spacebar to roll out of danger (beware using up all of your stamina though).
It’s a good try, but simply not enough
There are no healing potions in Vikings either, something that caused a lot of vexation at first. You find these blood wells from time to time that give you three charges of a pretty good-sized healing burst when used. The conundrum is exactly when to use them. Used to fast, you’re SOL because health regen is woefully slow and the amount of healing from dropped enemy blood is also far too low when balanced against the damage you’re taking. Even using the stamina-fed roll option needs to be planned carefully.
My biggest gripe with Vikings is the one thing that makes an ARPG so damned much fun: LOOT. While enemies do drop loot, it’s mostly in the form of crafting materials. Take down that bad boy and get…planks? Metal? Pelts? *insert sound of deflating balloon* I want the CLANG of a legendary or the pretty purple color of a rare or something that tells me fighting that f***ing boss fifteen times to finally beat him meant something. Defeating Mr. Freeze and then hur-durring back to town to be hur-durred some more is just…eh.
Before someone points it out, yes, mundane enemies and boxes / destructible items drop stuff too, sometimes even weapons or armor but not in the quantity we’ve come to expect from today’s ARPGs. What we’re left with in Vikings is the endless grind for materials to build the town to get better loot. Sounds good but the implementation falls flat.
Coop in Vikings means two players fighting together. It certainly helps to spread damage and to take down bosses more efficiently. In fact, for my money, the game was much more fun with a partner than when adventuring alone.
Still, in the end, Vikings is an OK game but it’s nothing special given its potential based on setting. For a certain type of combo action fighting with arcade-style speed type of person, it may be perfectly fine. For an ARPG fan who was looking for the next great game, it’s just not there yet.
Editor’s Note: This review is based on a code provided by the publisher for the PC version of the game.