I crept slowly up a ridge and took cover behind a nearby rock. The world around me seemed incredibly quiet. I then drew my bow, and carefully mounted an arrow onto its string before pulling it back. I glassed the forest ahead of me, gauging the amount of drop my arrow would experience before planting into either the surrounding dirt, or a possible foe. But just then I hear a roar. An entire band of vikings had emerged from over the ridge and decided to pursue me. I quickly holstered my bow and began making my way down the hill before me. The slope was incredibly steep, going down it full speed would undoubtedly be my demise. Lucky for me, though, one of my three assailants attempted to jump down the slope, and ultimately perished. At the time, though, I had no time to chortle at his failure, two attackers remained.
I continued running, hoping I would serendipitously run into a group of fellows from my team, but I had no such luck. I finally decided to turn around and face my enemies. I un-holstered and drew my bow back as my attackers (who I had gained an impressive lead on) continued running with swords drawn. I managed hit the one nearest to me in the leg, which sent him spiraling down to the floor, and pierced the others’ skull, causing him to drop immediately. I once again holstered my bow and drew out my small axe and ran toward the viking I had nicked in the leg, and preceded to fight him until he was exterminated. Finally in a somewhat calm environment, I began to appreciate the results of my quick thinking. Just then, I was stabbed in the back by an enemy swordsman. This is War of the Vikings.
The game’s title pretty clearly states when it’s set – during a time of war between the Vikings and the Saxons. Each of the game’s maps are supposedly inspired by historical battles, not that it’s easy to notice while in the heat of battle. Swords clash, battle cries and grunts make up most of the game’s audio, and legions of soldiers from each faction fill the screen in this wonderful, interactive take on medieval warfare.
In its early access state, War of the Vikings currently offers two large maps and two different game-modes, Team Deathmatch and Arena. Team Deathmatch is what you’d expect, two teams of sixteen Vikings or Saxons battling it out, but Arena is a much more personal battle experience. As I’ll explain later, the game’s battle system is remarkably deep, and is a wonderful platform for duels between two players. That’s pretty much what Arena was made for. Currently, Arena take place on a small partition of the previously mentioned maps in a “four vs four” scenario. These battles can take anywhere from a few seconds to a half hour, but each moment is similarly intense.
At surface-level, the combat in War of the Vikings is impressively accessible. Each attack is charged using a sort of power-meter system – similar to something you’d likely find in a golf game, as odd as that sounds. The higher that power-meter is when you release the mouse button, the more dramatic the damage you’ll deal – if you manage to actually hit your opponent. The meter will fluctuate if held in too long – which ensures that players aren’t always walking around with fully-charged attacks – but other than that, the combat is pretty simple at first-glance. But with a bit of tinkering, you’ll find that it’s quite a bit deeper. The two primary combat maneuvers are, of course, defensive and offensive – block and attack. These are typically analog actions – you’re either blocking or you aren’t, attacking or not. War of the Vikings, however, adds a welcome nuance to the table.
Very subtle mouse movements govern in what direction you block and attack. This adds a grand intensity to duels, and all-out combat alike. Attempting to predict what movement your foe will make, reacting as quickly as you can to every flinch. It’s supremely satisfying, and equal parts nerve-wracking in most cases. The game also features incredibly fun archery combat, offering what you’d expect from video game archery.
There’s nothing to complain about here, except for the lack of content, which should of course be fixed once the game is released properly. I’m sometimes agitated by the early-access system Steam offers, as they seem like a way for developers to cash-in on a games before there’s any sort of critical word out on it, but in some cases, including that of War of the Viking, they’re a genuine attempt to let fans play a game before its release and receive a few small perks in addition. War of the Vikings looks to be a fantastic medieval war game and I eagerly await it’s full release that is set for sometime next year.