Viking: Battle for Asgard

Publisher: Sega
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3
UK Price (as reviewed): £31.99 (Inc. Delivery)
US Price (as reviewed): $53.99 (inc Delivery)

Contrary to what you may think, here in the bit-tech offices, we actually like a little bit of hack and slash. It may sound weird, but casual and mindless violence does look good on us and just because we’re endlessly harping on about plot and narrative doesn’t mean that we don’t occasionally like to chop people in half.

Cue Viking: Battle for Asgard then, the latest hyped-up, gore-ridden adventure from Sega and The Creative Assembly.

Not so much ‘Swords and Sorcery’ as just ‘Swords and Bigger Swords’, Viking: Battle for Asgard is an all-out hack and slasher type, albeit set in a free-roaming medieval world and with a few RPG-lite features thrown in to help give the game some depth.

Already then we’ve found something we like in the game – openness and honesty; the basic candour of a developer who hasn’t tried to dress the game up as anything else. There’s none of this rubbish more-film-than-game nonsense which ruined Devil May Cry 4 and there’s no pretence or hidden depths for the players to plumb – no symbolism, internal conflicts or Atlas Shrugged references.

Viking: Battle for Asgard
Click to enlarge

Nope, there’s just a burly man with a sword and some scantily clad goddesses on the back of the box. As a marketing strategy it’s sure to work.

The plot for Viking: Battle for Asgard is fairly by the numbers too, but in a good way and you won't have to worry about keeping track of names – unless that is you want to kick ass first, then you can take names afterwards. Just make sure you've completely run out of bubblegum!

Players take the role of Skarin, a Viking warrior who has fallen on the battlefield, slain by the legions of evil goddess Hel. All is not lost for Skarin though and as he dies he is visited by the benevolent goddess Freya, who raises him back to life and sets the solemn, silent Skarin on a new course – to raise an army and save the world from Hel.

Hel’s intention is simple – to bring about the apocalyptic Ragnarock by unleashing the wolf-god Fenrir. To do this she has unleashed an army of undead across the world, searching for a legendary weapon which she can use to break the chains of Fenrir so that he may swallow the sun and bring about a new age.

Viking: Battle for Asgard
Click to enlarge

Ok, so maybe it doesn’t sound that simple, but that’s only because the motives of the characters have been wrapped up in unfamiliar Norse mythology. All you really need to know though is that Oddly-Sexy-Evil-Goddess wants to rule the world, while Goddess-With-Princess-Leia-Hair wants Silent-Like-Gordon-Freeman-Viking to stop her. That’s the important stuff.

To do this, Skarin will need to raise an army – a united band of Viking warriors who can push back Hel’s legion army and save the world etc. Unfortunately, all the decent warriors have been captured and are being held captive by the evil Hel (who, as a side note, enjoys harvesting the souls of babies), so it is up to you to set them free first. Raising an army is pretty much the main aim for the entire first part of Viking and Skarin is awfully lucky that Hel has chosen only to tie up his captured allies, rather than devouring their skin or something similarly evil.

Of course, it's perhaps a little unfair to tease a game like Viking for a plot-hole like that. This is a game about a resurrected Viking warrior with white hair who never speaks and how he saved the world from an evil goddess.

Something like that is never an easy task, even for Skarin – so it's a good thing he had the support of a local Viking ghost and a couple of dragons...
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