Hel and Damnation
I played the original Total War series over twelve years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the many, many iterations that have spawned since. In my mind, everything The Creative Assembly does is inherently married to the Total War series. This review, however, is about Viking: Battle for Asgard, a game originally released for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 well over four years ago, in March 2008. Two questions immediately popped into my head when my editor assigned me the review. First, will this be a good game, given the average 90% rating of their flagship series? And second, why release a game on the PC nearly fifty-five months after it originally appeared on the consoles? The good news is that I managed to answer these questions. The bad news is that you might not like the answers.
The battle may be for Asgard, the realm of the gods, but it is fought in Midgard, the realm of the mortals. Hel, daughter of Loki, spiteful after being tossed out of Asgard for defying Odin's rule, has vowed to exact vengeance. She marches on Midgard, Hel-bent on bringing about Ragnarok, a prophesized battle that will purportedly destroy Asgard and the gods. Freya, the Goddess of Love and Death (and, apparently, everything in between) is assigned the task of stopping Hel before all is lost.
Caught between the two distressed damsels is Skarin, Freya's chosen one archetype, the Keanu Reaves of this world, except with a decidedly smaller focus on Kung Fu and an unhealthy affinity for the letter 'F' (more on that later). The story centers on three open-world islands in Midgard where the hero must undertake several tasks in order to defeat the forces of evil and keep all Hel from breaking loose. (I promise that is the last time I will use that pun.) Completing these objectives allows you to attack the enemy, resulting in a climactic battle with hundreds of combatants spilling guts and blood for domination.
The story is not entirely original, but the solid source material allows for some interesting mythology and at least one surprising plot twist. The problem is that the game never really builds on the strengths of the story and allows it to marinate in mediocrity until the very life is drained from the words. The results is a tale that could have been great, but ends up being fairly average and even cumbersome at times. Unfortunately, cumbersome is a word that resonates within every conceivable fold of this title.
In order to provoke the enemy's last stand, the protagonist must run around the open-world completing a wide variety of objectives. These include attacking and capturing settlements and building your forces by rescuing fellow Vikings, arranging for supplies to ensure your army survives, recruiting clans and even dragons to join your cause, running errands for NPCs, etc. The objectives within each island can be completed as you see fit and the final battle can be triggered after your army grows to a certain size.
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.