The Objectives (cntd)
The final battle on each island is a massive, messy affair, and the accompanying combat, while not subliminal, is satisfying for the first dozen kills. Once you have seen the dying animations several times, as triggered by quick-time events after significantly denting your enemy, they tend to get tiresome to watch. Combat is kept somewhat fresh with the ability to infuse your weapon with elemental powers and purchasable new moves for stealthy kills and brutal slaughter. The general idea, however, stays the same. You watch carefully, dodge, and then strike. You fight only one enemy at a time, so you need to be careful about not getting swarmed. You repeat the sequence in each individual fight and you repeat the fights in the larger sequence of the massive battle. Repetition, too, can get cumbersome.
Big World, Big Problems
The maps are quite large and despite the fact that this game was created well over four years ago, the graphics do not look as dated as I would have imagined. There is eye-candy for the explorers and slick action for the adrenaline-junkies. Unfortunately, with a protagonist who possesses the finesse of a lumbering mammoth, the size of the world can quickly get quite, you guessed it, cumbersome. Getting around takes a while, and artificially inflates the 12 or so hours you should realistically take to complete the story.
Another thing that makes limited sense to me is the reason behind the three islands that you must liberate in order to seal Hel's fate. Since repetition is the name of the game, the primary and perhaps most important activity on each island is to free settlements. The process is repetitive for just about every settlement, involving a stealth section to get in undetected, then freeing your 'F'-addicted (I am guessing here) Viking brethren, and then wrecking havoc on the remainder of the largely brain-dead enemy force. Further, each island you conquer has the same strategic goals to conquer: farm, quarry, brewery, watchtower, random settlement. Then you fight the final battle, only to be presented with a new island, and the cycle starts again. In a word: cumbersome.
You can pretty much F everything in the game. Repetition is an often dreaded and much critiqued flaw of contemporary video games. If a game forces you to do the same action over and over again using the same button, something went wrong in the development cycle. Skarin is quite capable of performing a wide variety of tasks, but the controls for any action that he can perform boils down to pressing the 'F' key. Want that door opened? Press 'F'. Want to see what is inside that chest? Press 'F'. Want to stop pressing 'F'? Press 'F'. In fact, 'F' is so intimately tied to everything Skarin does that it alienates you from the heroic endeavors he undertakes because it is reduced to the same key press. For every action. Every time. It is a Hel of a disappointment. (I lied. This time I promise though.)
The Bottom Line
I have played, cherished, and thoroughly enjoyed half a dozen titles from The Creative Assembly, although admittedly from the same series and genre. I know the studio is capable of delivering a compelling title with an unprecedented level of polish and unparalleled strategic depth. The true tragedy of Viking: Battle for Asgard is not that it is an average game that never lives up to the incredible potential it had, given a little more developmental sculpting and direction. The true tragedy is that the developers have had four years to fix several of the aforementioned issues, to polish it further, and release a title worthy of the respect I have always had for the studio. This opportunity, it would seem, has been squandered with reckless abandon in an apparent attempt to cash in on the PC version.
Generally satisfying combat, beautiful, well-crafted open world, decent story.
Endless repetition chaffs as your nerves, a protagonist with a lot of character is reduced to the letter F, four years have done nothing to repair the initial holes.