LEIPZIG, Germany--Creative Assembly has a fondness for Vikings. The developer best known for Total War is now working on a new franchise, one that bears little resemblance to the popular strategy games it's made its name with. Viking: Battle of Asgard will throw you into the boots of a fearless Viking warrior caught between a war of two goddesses. And while you'll be able to romp around and slay monsters and enemies on your own, the highlight of this game is undoubtedly its huge siege battles, which let you charge headfirst at the front of an army that's hundreds of warriors in size.
You play as Skarin, a young warrior in service to the goddess Freya, who's in a bit of a tiff with rival goddess Hel. Well, it's a bit more than a tiff, as Hel seeks to bring upon Ragnarok--essentially, the end of the world. Your mission is to raise an army for Freya, and that will involve pursuing lots of quests in order to free groups of enslaved Vikings, who will then serve in your army to help you take down walled towns and cities through epic sieges. It's what Vikings do for fun.
Viking will have a large, open world that you can roam around at will. Think of it sort of like Grand Theft Auto with swords. You can pursue all sorts of quests, both required and optional, though even the optional ones come with rewards that you might want to take advantage of. For instance, a quest to liberate a lumber mill might pay off in the form of a siege weapon later on. Meanwhile, the best quests will befriend you with mighty dragons who can aid you in your time of need. Dragons are essentially the Viking equivalent of air support.
When you get a big enough army, you can go tackle a siege. This usually involves a battle outside of the city's walls to destroy its army, and this unfolds quite like the epic scenes in Braveheart. Skarin is a mighty hero, and he can aid his forces by boosting their morale. More importantly, he can tackle the key bosses, drawing them into single combat and finishing them off with a repertoire of finishing moves, like a minigame that has you mashing the buttons rapidly in order to drive your two-handed sword through an opponent's neck. Or you can help your army by taking out key enemy units, such as warlocks who constantly summon reinforcements.
Sieges are multistage affairs, so once the enemy army is removed, you can get to the business of taking down the walls, a task that's aided with siege weapons. Knock down the walls, then charge into town with your men, killing everyone in your way. It's not all pure action, though; you can partake in many stealth missions as you scout enemy towns. You can also try to take out key enemy buildings ahead of a siege. Eliminating an enemy barracks means that your army will face a lot fewer warriors in the battle to come.
Sure, Viking doesn't bear much resemblance to history, but it's clear that this is a game designed for those who'd rather hack-and-slash their way through medieval armies in an action game rather than command such units in a strategic game. And it's certainly colorful. Creative Assembly's previous games have no problem putting tens of thousands of warriors on the screen, and while the battles in Viking won't be as large as those in Total War, they're still big. Viking is being developed for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and it will ship in early 2008.