by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
As a Viking myself (well, a descendant of theirs in any case), I’m thrilled at how the media’s newfound fascination with historical accuracy over entertainment value is lifting the veil of ignorance about how ancient civilisations, not only the Nords, really lived. The film Alexander, featuring Collin Farrel, was heavily criticised by some conservative critics for its display of homosexuality, but as any historian will tell you, it was a normal part of life at the time. While charging into a group of Saxons flinging a two-handed axe about while scaring the piss out of them with your magnificent bull-horned helmet sounds like a lot of fun, it’s simply a fantasy. Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. Their helmets were disappointingly similar to the ones used by other European civilisations at the time.
War of the Roses has received mixed reviews, although most critics agree that it is a good game. Players, however, have complained that the gameplay is unbalanced; that the weapons and armour you unlock as you progress are overpowered, making it impossible to succeed as a newcomer; and that the game lacked cosmetic customisations, making the character feel less “your own”. The ability to spam attacks has also been mentioned as an annoyance that many players feel could be done away with. All of these criticisms have apparently made it to the ears of Fatshark’s development team and none of these issues should be present in War of the Vikings.
The developers have strived to give you the best character customisation options possible in a multiplayer game, and you will be able to choose the colour of your tunic, customise your sigil, and shave and die your beard to name a few options. Unlocks will mostly be of a cosmetic nature and should ensure that each player on the field is equal and judged only by their skill. Having a bad-ass pair of boots or tunic should, however, indicate to newcomers that you have been playing the game a lot longer than they have and will undoubtedly strike fear into their hearts. Spamming attacks have been eliminated by introducing a stamina system that realistically ensures that your character’s arm gets tired if you simply fling your axe about like a madman hoping to hit anything at all. Instead, you must strategically plan your attacks and choose when to go for the jugular and when to prepare for an incoming attack. The gameplay has been optimised for balance and should present a learning curve which makes the game accessible to anyone, even those who join the fun months after release.
The game is currently in Alpha and features three character types as of yet. Those are a light Scout class, which has a bow and a one handed axe; a medium Warrior, which has a one handed sword, shield and throwing axes; and the heavy Huscarl, which wields a two handed axe and throwing knifes. All of the ranged weapons are designed more to distract the opponent and wear down his shield than they are to put an end to his existence, although the bow is fairly adequate for that purpose as well. Each of the main weapons has a special attack which deals a lot of damage if it lands, but leaves the character vulnerable to attack for a short period of time. The throwing weapons can also be quick-thrown, which may distract your opponent enough to get a proper hit in, but will not do much damage on their own and are very inaccurate.
Bring in newcomers
Having played the game for about thirty minutes against a German journalist at this year’s Gamescom, I can honestly say that all the problems I listed in my review of War of the Roses are blissfully absent. The game runs on the same graphics engine as Roses, which looked stunning, so we don’t expect any grandiose improvements in that department. The gameplay, however, had me sweating from my palms onto both keyboard and mouse the entire time (sorry about that, Paradox), and the best thing was that it was fair.
Each and every time my German counterpart slew me, I know it was because he was better than I. It wasn’t because he had purchased a new sword that cleft through my leather armour like butter, or that he had earned a new set of armour which left me holding a solitary hilt after having tried to hit him. No, it was simply because he was better than I was. This new balanced approach to the game will undoubtedly bring many more newcomers to it, increase its longevity, and settle the War of the [insert identifying word here] series’ place in video game history.