War of the Vikings is a curious oddity in a market dominated by multiplayer shooters with RPG lite elements. It may be a multiplayer-only first/third person experience but like its predecessor War of the Roses, historical flesh-cleaving combat is the name of the game. This subgenre of multiplayer-focused titles is a pretty niche one, focusing on brutal and fast engagements with a deeper combat system than is seen in other titles.
Set, as the title suggests, around the time of the Viking invasions of Britain, players take the role of either a Viking or a Saxon in a handful of game-modes and combat scenarios, choosing from three classes and a variety of weapons. There’s nothing in terms of story to worry about, just battling your enemies and unlocking new customisation options, so the central part of any analysis of the title is always going to be the gameplay itself.
The combat itself sounds deceptively simple. As a player you can swing your weapon or block/parry in three directions; Left, right or overhead, chosen by moving your mouse in that direction whilst holding either the left or right mouse button. Now, whilst the hand-to-hand aspects don’t go much further than that, the execution of the correct timing and positioning when you’re in a player-vs-player situation is incredibly hard to master, but relatively satisfying to pull off. Bows are much simpler to control, with one button allowing you to aim in first person and the other releasing the arrow to fly into your opponent’s flesh.
The main addition to the formula first shown in War of the Roses is a stamina bar, used through actions such as attacking and running. Preventing the player from continuously holding a weapon ready to attack, it makes the combat less of a slash-fest than it was previously. However, despite this change the combat system isn’t exactly perfect.
The first problem lies in the mouse controls themselves. In using the mouse to direct your attacks you also move the camera, making the combat often somewhat frustrating and difficult. Secondly, whilst the directional weapon-slinging is a great idea in theory, in practice it often ends up feeling clunky and unyielding. More often than not, despite blocking in the correct direction you’ll still end up taking massive damage seemingly for no reason. Whether it’s a latency issue or a hit-box issue, it often is just more rewarding to repeatedly slash at the enemy. Archery is a more successful endeavour, but again, there are some timing and accuracy issues that could do with being addressed.
These issues wouldn’t be as unfortunate if the weapons were satisfying to just swing. Unfortunately, they don’t feel as meaty as I would have hoped, even as they connect. Even the heavier weapons still seem somewhat light despite their appearance.
As a soldier for either the Saxons or the Vikings, you can customise your build; weaponry, perks and appearance are all changeable. Whilst the weapon and helmet upgrades are purely aesthetic, there’s a certain charm to designing your own Viking, even if there is a distinct lack of faces to choose from. I just wish that the ability to fully customise was available from the start instead of being locked behind arbitrary progression walls.
There are four game modes at current. The first three are death-match focused, whilst the final one is a more successful conquest affair. Whilst the majority of these quickly descend into a flurry of team-kills and messy attacks, I found I had the most fun when I had the chance to go one-on-one with the enemy in a battle of matched skills. That was when I found a game with decent latency however.
With no in-built matchmaking, a player must first find a server. Whilst there are a decent enough amount running at current, the lack of matchmaking and low quality of servers currently makes actually getting to the point of having a decent brawl difficult. Hopefully the serer browser will be improved in future.
Graphically it doesn’t look half bad. Whilst it doesn’t live up to the visual fidelity of modern AAA titles, it was better than I expected, with armour textures which actually look realistic. The terrain may look a little rough at times, but generally I found the game to be quite consistent in terms of texture quality and lighting.
To conclude, my main problem with War of the Vikings is that it feels strangely incomplete. I’m aware that initially, this was released under steam early access. However, despite the “released” status of the title it still feels oddly lacking. For a multiplayer-only title with no single player component, there’s very little content here despite the decent map design and potential for customisation, and I have trouble believing that this was the final product the developer wanted to make. There are quite a few errors to be found, and with the server issues and problematic combat it all feels very rushed. However, there’s a solid concept hidden beneath the rough exterior, and I hope that it gets smoothed out and expanded upon sooner rather than later.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.