War of the Vikings Review: Go Forth and Die
War of the Vikings is the sequel/spirtual successor/follow-up to 2012's War of the Roses. This time, we've traded in the 15th Century English battles for a Viking/Saxxon conflict. The result is an incredibly difficult and intense close-quarter game that walks the fine line between enjoyable and mind-numbingly frustrating.
I honestly can't stress that last point enough; you will die in War of the Vikings and you'll die a lot. I almost came quite close to just giving the game up all together, but no; I'm a journalist and I have responsibilities. I also really wanted to unlock the ranged class since I enjoyed playing it so much a few months ago during a press preview event.
This brings me to pet peeve number one I have with the game: the classes are locked away behind XP gain. Sure, it only took all of an hour to be able to play as that ranged Skirmisher class, but I probably died at least a hundred times in said hour. I'm not entirely happy that I had to suffer to play the game the way I wanted to play it, especially since my enjoyment of War of the Vikings rose exponetially after unlocking the archer.
Pet peeve number two has to deal with the fact that I had no idea I could dodge roll until somebody told me. This is pretty damn inexcusable seeing as you're thrown straight into a tutorial for the game. I wouldn't be so entirely mad if dodging wasn't incredibly mandatory for survival. Previously, I'd spend my time running around like an idiot desperately trying to parry. Now, I'm carefully sizing up my enemies, dodging their attacks and chopping their arms off.
My final pet peeve has to deal with the game's spawn points. There's nothing more frustrating than spawning and being killed from behind ten seconds later. It's a problem that absolutely plagues the default Deathmatch mode, even on larger maps. It feels borderline unplayable at times.
Despite all this, there's fun to be had within War of the Vikings. You're probably wondering why I feel this way since I'm sounding pretty angry with the game. Strangely enough, I'm more annoyed than anything. When I don't want to pull out my hair, I'm getting an odd sense of savage enjoyment. Getting up close and personal in battle offers a nice venue of online combat, one where the swift and skilled will always survive. Even staying back behind a bow and arrow requires a certain skillset to strike your enemies. When you manage to land those arrows, though, it's incredibly delightful.
Another diamond in the rough when it comes to War of the Vikings is the ability to custom create classes to your will. If you're going through a difficult time in battle, you might as well tinker your character to suck the least, right? I really wish, though, that it was only the custom classes that were locked away behind XP barriers instead of the game's three default classes.
I'm going to try to stay positive, though, and focus on the game's wonderful maps. Conquest, the game's "capture the point of interest" mode, is a true testament to what is possible when everything clicks in War of the Vikings. Archers have room to attack from above, warriors can sprint across the battlefield and into the melee, and all hell can (and will) break loose as players do battle. When the teams are evenly matched, a fantastic back and forth affair can help make even the worst of players feel like they're contributing something to the battle, whether it's helping to fend off invaders on a bridge or revive teammates in the valley.
The biggest issue here, though, is that "if the teams are evenly matched." I found too often that one team would completely streamroll the other, resulting in a quick and pretty painful match if you're on the losing end of things. A simple fix, such as matchaking, would solve this issue. In fact, I feel like most of the biggest issues that plague War of the Vikings could be fixed with various patches. Alter the spawn points so they're not criminally punishing, inform people that dodging both exists and is a wonderful thing, and make the opening hour or two less infuriating by allowing players to choose a class that doesn't engage in close quarter combat. If these things get fixed, I could see War of the Vikings developing a serious cult following. For now, though, it's only for those with the utmost determination.
Get past its barriers, and you can find enjoyment. But damn, those are some gigantic barriers.