Have you ever played a game for a few hours and thought to yourself "This is the coolest thing ever" only to discover that a few hours later it all goes terribly wrong. Maybe the voice acting is so bad that you just can't bring yourself to listen to it anymore or the basic fundamental aspect of the game is flawed. Viking: Battle for Asgard is likely to evoke this exact feeling from you in short order.
Ostensibly Viking is about the forces of good, led by the goddess Freya and spearheaded by her mortal champion Skarin, fighting the forces of evil, led by the goddess Hel who sends her champion Drakan to lead her undead armies. Much of this information is given to you in the opening cut scenes of the game and very little is revealed over time. You get some more story tidbits as the game goes on but even the ending cut scene doesn't do too much to push the story in any real direction. Some attempts are made at giving some depth to the story but these never go anywhere.
Skarin controls a bit stiffly but in a fashion that works just fine within the confines of the game. Starting off with only a few basic combos and the ability to jump you can learn how to perform a variety of devastating combos that will leave your foes diced into little pieces and vicious leaping attacks as the game goes on. You will even get your hands on throwing axes and explosive potions, all the better to reduce your foes to a bloody mess with even greater ease. But perhaps Skarins' most effective combat technique is that of stealth kills.
When coming within a certain radius of enemies Skarin will drop down into a crouched state. Like this you can creep about and perform what amount to one shot kills on any enemies you can sneak up behind. The sneaking system is overly sensitive; you have no way of knowing when getting near an enemy will be too close and he will see you or just far enough for him to pretend like you don't exist. It becomes integral to do this at some points and while finicky sometimes it works well enough.
The simultaneous high and low points of the game come during the mass battles. In these scenes Skarin will lead an army of soldiers in an assault on the enemy forts and other holdings, seeking to take them for your own use. You will find yourself cleaving through enemy troops, hunting down their troop-summoning shamans and reducing them to a fine mist so as to stem the flow of soldiers. If that wasn't cool enough you will also gain the ability to call on dragons to burn enemy archers and shamans to cinders.
The low point to these mass battles comes in two forms, one that plagues the game and one that only comes up there. The combat system was not designed to kill lots of individual troops it's focused on one on one combat and thus fighting a number of troops at once feels more like a chore than anything else. To make it worse you will suffer plenty of slowdown with all of the enemies moving around on screen at the same time. It can happen even when you're not fighting a huge number of enemy soldiers if the background happens to be highly active, like a waterfall.
This is odd because the graphics are quite beautiful to look at, but there isn't much going on in the world. If it isn't your troops, enemy troops or environmental items, like trees or homes, then there's nothing there. No ambient life, no birds or anything. To top of the somewhat desolate feeling there's an intensely minimalistic musical score, usually only having music playing when a fight starts or during a mass battle. Due to this most of the time you are walking around the wilderness in complete silence.
Even more problematic is the fact that the game is so intensely repetitive. All you will ever do is find enemy troops, kill them, find an encampment or city the enemy has taken over and sneak in and liberate it by killing them. Occasionally this is broken up by having you go around and kill enemies for other reasons. Generally just going about and hacking people up is all you ever do and it can get repetitive quickly depending on your tastes.
While Viking isn't a total disappointment, the biggest problem here is a matter of the game feeling wholly and entirely unfinished. There are a number of great ideas at play here and the game itself is a wonderful idea but it just falls flat in key areas. However it's impossible to escape the feel that this was rushed out the doors partially unfinished. This factor and the total lack of replay value seriously harm what is a fairly enjoyable experience.