Viking: Battle for Asgard Updated Impressions

Gear up for sword-swinging warfare, blood-curdling battle cries, and pint upon pint of mead.

Viking: Battle for Asgard, based loosely on Norse legend and written by Rhianna Pratchett (Heavenly Sword), daughter of acclaimed fantasy author Terry Pratchett, looks as if it might give Norse mythology the shot to the arm that games such as God of War and films such as Jason and the Argonauts did for Greek mythology. Viking also follows on from the success of another Scandinavian action story, Beowulf--complete with evil goddess Hel, who bears a passing resemblance to Grendel's mother, as portrayed by Angelina Jolie in the recent re-imagining of the Anglo-Saxon legend. The game is Creative Assembly's first next-generation title.

Before seeing the game itself, we were greeted by a stylised cutscene that served to flesh out some of the story. It seems that Skarin, the game's protagonist, had been slain by the forces of Hel, the ruler of the underworld. Thankfully, Skarin is resurrected by Freya, the goddess of love, who looks like a Scandinavian Princess Leia, complete with matching bun hairstyle. Fighting for her and the good of all humanity, Skarin will have to stop Hel from unleashing Ragnarok, the Norse version of Armageddon. Fortunately, Skarin won't be alone in his battle with the forces of evil. Throughout the game you'll amass a small army of Vikings by freeing them from the bonds of the undead that Hel has under her control.

Skarin, a resurrected warrior, hopes to stop Hel from starting Armageddon.

The world in Viking exists not in Asgard (the "heavenly realm") but in Midgard (the mortal realm) and consists of three islands: Niflberg, Galcliff, and Isaholm, with each island over a square kilometre in size, according to Sega. You can explore each on foot, but with so much to traverse it's easier to use Leystones, which are portals that let you teleport to previously visited areas. Throughout each island you'll have to perform a wide variety of quests that include freeing enslaved Vikings, finding valuable artifacts, and destroying enemy strongholds, as well as side quests, such as helping townsfolk collect mead located along the coast. No word yet on if you'll be able to pillage the local towns in true Viking style, but we wouldn't count on it.

When enemies are nearby, the land is shrouded in an evil veil, which is evident through dark, stormy weather and lightning. Once you've cleared an area of undead Vikings, the clouds will part, the sun will shine, and life will return to the land.

One of the main appeals of Viking is the battles that take place. Creative Assembly is certainly no stranger to large-scale warfare, given that it developed the Rome: Total War real-time strategy series. Although not on the same scale as RTS games, Viking features key battles with hundreds of onscreen warriors at certain parts of the game. Once you've amassed a large enough force, you'll be able to attempt such sieges. The first such one we saw was the Battle of Darkwater, which occurs when you reach the end of the first island.

In each battle you'll have specific goals to complete, such as taking out the opposing force's shaman. Both sides have at least one shaman who will keep resurrecting fallen soldiers while the battle plays out, a factor that gives rise to a stalemate situation. By taking out the other side's shaman, your fellow comrades will have a chance of victory. Shamans are heavily guarded, so you'll need to be tactical while on the warpath. To make this process easier, you can call on dragons to take care of strategic enemy forces such as a group of archers. Calling on dragons uses dragon runes, which can be gained by defeating "champions" in battle.

Champions are supernasty enemies. Though their appearances vary, the ones we saw looked like giant ogres and required some control-pad mastery beyond the usual hacking-and-slashing affair. Once you've weakened a champion, you'll be required to perform a chain of quick button presses, displayed on the screen, to finish your foe once and for all. Jumping around on the back of a lumbering beast and then plunging your sword into the back of its neck certainly is a satisfying way to finish it off.

Once you've killed a champion, it's time to use your tokens and dial a dragon. Hitting the back button on the Xbox 360 controller takes you to a battle overview screen, called the Eye of Asgard--essentially what the goddess Freya might see while helping your forces--and adds a degree of strategy to the game. On the screen you'll see major objectives, which you can direct your dragon to attack. There are different ways to approach each scenario, and you can choose to attack champions and then use the tokens you've acquired, or try attacking the target head-on.

The second battle we saw, the Battle for Thornvik, located on the island of Isaholm, is roughly 80 percent through the game and was on a larger scale. In this battle, Sega demonstrated how you'll have to defeat the forces outside a castle before you can break in and attack the larger force inside. It was suggested this isn't the only battle that will involve more than just one stage.

It's not a solo affair; you'll rely on fellow Viking warriors and air support from dragons.

Viking appears to be an interesting blend of Norse mythology in an action adventure setting with some RPG and strategy elements thrown into the mix. There'll be numerous characters that Skarin can talk to throughout the game, and this will result in new side quests becoming available. Skarin won't level up in the game, but he can unlock new moves and equipment at shops and by learning new techniques in battle.

The game looks as if it might wind up as sumptuous as a feast fit for a Viking. Although what we saw wasn't final code, it was nearing completion and showed good use of light blooming, shadows, detailed characters, and lush countryside. It also didn't seem to suffer from any lag despite having plenty of detailed characters on the screen at any time.

Furthermore, Viking has some high-quality in-game artwork, with cel-shaded, stylised cutscenes and comic book-styled speech bubbles above characters' heads that indicate when they have something valuable to say to you. Though not to the same degree as XIII, Wind Waker or Viewtiful Joe, the cartoons were a nice touch.

Viking: The Battle for Asgard will be available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on March 28 in Europe and March 25 stateside.

Written By

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

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Viking: Battle for Asgard

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Discussion

87 comments
lamepunk
lamepunk

This game looks cool. Hopefully it stands up to the hype. I'll be keeping track of this one...

Davideko
Davideko

the game is AMAZING! Hoghly adictive

H2Painguin
H2Painguin

Let's be real. When was the last time there was a good game that was based on vikings?

Vito2323
Vito2323

The game is good!Graphics are very good same with gameplay but i hope so that game is not short!The game is not short my mistake!It has more then 8 hours of playing.

termadoyle
termadoyle

the blood looks bloody awesome. I hope the gameplay isn't another GTA-Wannabe though.

dutch777
dutch777

when does gamespot's game review get issued???

KatieScarlet
KatieScarlet

I'm crazy excited to play this, too bad my PS3 is off getting fixed/possibly exchanged :(

Serious06
Serious06

This game does look pretty cool to me.

BrolyLSSJ3
BrolyLSSJ3

Oh WOW i'm so excited about this game i love hack and slash games let's just hope this game is as good as it sounds. I haven't bought any next gen games yet although i do have a Ps3 i definitely plan on getting this since this will be my first next gen game it better damn well deliver. ONE MORE DAY!

Davideko
Davideko

alomst released! I'm sooooooo :)

Exeed_Orbit
Exeed_Orbit

Looks like your average hack'n slash to me.

Mr_born808
Mr_born808

WWWWOOOOOWWW boy!! thats da S#!t !!!

tyzee
tyzee

i'm ready to kick some ass!!

iceveiled
iceveiled

Hopefully this game will support custom MP3 soundtracks. Can't play games like this without viking metal blasting in the background.

howardorr
howardorr

Seems like it could be reminiscent of the Dynasty Warriors games. Hope I'm wrong...

Davideko
Davideko

it's coming soon! Can't wait!

---Saint---
---Saint---

Man, Dunkhan, I loved Rune. It was so sweet. I remember playing that crappy multiplayer mode with friends and everything. And at the end when the lead made the ultimate sacrafice and ended up in Valhalla. Man, those were the days when mediorce could be fun.

DJARNOLD
DJARNOLD

The games that get advertised the most are always the worst. They will not have to advertise Viking if they truly believe it is a good game. If you start to see a bunch of commercials for it look out, it could be a flop. If you see nothing on it but what you read on the internet there is a good chance the company making the game has a lot of confidence in it. Kane and Lynch is a good example. The game company knew it was horrible, so what did they do? They marketed the hell out of it in hopes to fool people into buying the game. Unless the game is the next installment of Halo you should not see a lot on it before its release. If the company has true confidence they will not waste their money marketing. Word of mouth is always the best way to sell videogames.

kweeni
kweeni

i usually dont play games of this genre that much, but this game dus actually look good who know i might buy it, but maby rent it first cus you never know if it wil be good or bad

Kill1390
Kill1390

This game looks awesome! I can't wait for it's release!

bamfer3
bamfer3

not totally sold on it yet, it might just be another generic beat-em-eup like Dynasty Warriors

Beaglesniffer
Beaglesniffer

looks brilliant finally a big battle game that isnt a RTS and its selling cheap on game for less thant they usually are with free delivery must buy it :P

haesuse
haesuse

yeah i agree. it does have some potential. story is a bit cheesy but hell its norse mythology so i am on board here. however by watching the movies and so, i havent been very impressed. I guess i'll wait for reviews, than rent it, beat it and thats the end of that story!!

lakeerie_effect
lakeerie_effect

story looks like its the real deal. just hope the fix the edges they look real rough in a lot of areas

Josepiphus
Josepiphus

I can't wait! This looks really cool... I didn't know the writer for the story was the same as heavenly sword! That makes this a must buy for me... heavenly swords story was fantastic.

brgreen
brgreen

"commenting on first post..." Yeah it might not be getting that much attention. But remember there was another game that did not get that much attention in the begining.....GOD OF WAR.

ronnet
ronnet

I don't know what it is with this title. Great developer, great previews and it looks awesome. But it'snot getting much attention while this could easily beat NG2 and others. Back in 2006 this game would have been huge, and even N3 (what a piece of sh*t) got more attention then this. I'm not really interested in it since it isnt my kind of game but I can't understand why this isnt getting much hype.

dutch777
dutch777

oh yes bring it on. this looks good.

Bebop_Blue
Bebop_Blue

Can't wait for this to come out. Spartan Total Warrior was awesome. I really can't believe it wasn't a hit. Graphically it was able to put 100 enemies on the screen and it didn't look sloppy, some of the best graphical feats on the previous generation of consoles. It's so funny how Path of Neo bragged about getting 100 Agent Smiths on screen at once and when you played it looked like paper cut outs dancing around the screen. I hope this game is not looked over like Spartan Total Warrior was.

Webswinger-93
Webswinger-93

The graphics looks sloppy. Should be a little more polished. I mean look at the fire... >_>

djalmax
djalmax

Yeah! This is the new version of rune, 'cause it's the same thing but technologically better! ^^

killzone_gamer
killzone_gamer

Looks like a good game, but it is overshadoed by Oblivion.

kendall-james
kendall-james

looks cool hope it dose not end up like kingdom under fire ****

Dreamerdude26
Dreamerdude26

Why hasn't this game been all over the place. It looks like its going to be pretty awesome.

AnthraxAngel
AnthraxAngel

Certainly looks like a game to keep an eye out for. Hasnt been hyped that much, but it wouldnt suprise me if it turns out to be a huge hit. We'll just have to see.

crystos
crystos

better be far more polished than that spartan: total warrior game.

L3tral3
L3tral3

This sounds very interesting, since I'm a big fan of vikings this is on my list of games for 08

BontraXenderKyl
BontraXenderKyl

sounds pretty good.... this game reminds me Dark Messiah or Beowulf... I wish it gonna rock more than they have done

Ian_Michael
Ian_Michael

Sounds like a fun game, definitely gonna get this :)

XXMadManVII
XXMadManVII

Looks pretty innovative. Defiantly going to put this on on my Game Fly queue. I like that Creative Assembly is behind this one. Rome and Medievil are arguably the best strat games ever. They really got the whole "crowd physics" down, so these massive battle mentioned should be real nice.

kenshi_92888
kenshi_92888

Overall physique of the character kinda reminds me of the main character from the ps2 game Mark of Kri.. =þ Looks interesting, hope it turns out good and I'll definitely pick it up.

makinUsleep
makinUsleep

sounds like its going to be a good game. different.