“The Little Vikings is an impressive project from Hooqt.”
The Little Vikings is a debut free-to-play browser-based MMO title from UK indie developers Hooqt. Aimed at a younger audience, The Little Vikings is a casual game with a very friendly face, layout and system of control. It follows a similar pattern to a number of social media-based titles, setting out a number of collection, crafting, building, exploration and progression tasks for the player to complete. There are a number of key differences with The Little Vikings however, and we will look at these in greater detail during this preview. The game is currently in its beta stages but is near its completion, so what then does it have to offer? Let’s take a look!
The Little Vikings Vs Other Social MMOs:
Perhaps the most important thing to consider first about The Little Vikings is what makes it different to other games of its kind. There are of course a number of high-profile browser or social media-based MMO titles which have a high profile on the market, such as Clash of Clans to name just one well known one. The Little Vikings then is diving into an already busy market and therefore has a lot of already established competition to battle. Well, the game actually has several fairly subtle differences which come together to make it altogether quite a different experience to some of these already well-known games. Perhaps the most important and certainly my most favoured difference is that you do not have to wait around for hours on end for your character to “regain energy”. So many social media titles have lost my interest after maybe half an hour of play due to the fact that I have to wait a few hours of real time to continue my progression. The Little Vikings allows you to simply send you Viking to bed for a couple of seconds and regain energy almost instantaneously. This means no more dull breaks in progression and no more hanging about and living life around your game. If Hooqt hit one important nail on the head, it is that gamers do not want to wait to play their game, they want to play now!
A few other differences are present between this and other similar games too. For one, the developers have done away with daily log-in gifts. In other words, you are no longer forced to play your game in order to earn rewards, but simply earn by playing it instead. This gives the game a much more relaxed feel, and makes it seem more of a choice to play it rather than a regulated way of life. It simply feels more comfortable as a game in this way than some of its counterparts. It is also nice not to be harassed in The Little Vikings into sharing every single one of your achievements with your friends, or indeed being forced to make new friends in order to complete in-game tasks. PvP and multiplayer elements of the game are on the way, but they are not being forced upon you as a necessity. Again, the game gives you the option to play it rather than telling you how you have to do so. The Little Vikings gives you a game and says “here, go have fun” rather than saying “no, this is how you play our game!”, and quite frankly, that is a refreshing change to see in a social MMO.
In some ways however, The Little Vikings maintains some of the downfalls of other social MMO titles. Some of the quests and general tasks of the game can still be pretty mundane. Sometimes for example, the game feels like it should have been named Deforestation Simulator 2014. In unfathomable amount of my in-game time has been spent simply getting wood, which sadly is not something which stays fun for long when you need to do it so excessively. Some of the quests which you are given do involve a lot of meaningless tasks and waiting around too. For example having to kill a certain number of a certain type of creature can require you to wait for quite long periods before one appears, or having to obtain a certain random drop item can mean, once again, mindless destroying the forests of your world. While the game is great fun to play and I have put a few hours into it already, there is certainly a level of “same-old social gaming story” in some aspects of play.
Aside from the aforementioned wood situation in The Little Vikings, there are actually several other things to do. One of the things which the game prides itself on is the fact that you will not be forced to be a combat-ready player, and can indeed, if you prefer, just focus on building up your little villages. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true, and in fact some level of combat in a necessity. And of course, if you want to build up your little village or villages, you are going to need to, you guessed it, go out and get wood. Lots of wood. But it is true that the game will not force you to fight other players if you would rather enjoy a more peaceful, personal style of play.
While we are still waiting for the MMO side of the game to be completed however, there are several single-player activities to enjoy in The Little Vikings. Exploration is a key feature of the game, requiring you to wonder your world and clear the cloud cover which shrouds it in order to find new resources and locations within it. Combat, resource gathering and building have already been mentioned, but there is a little more to say on the latter of these. Building at present is limited, and there is certainly room for future updates for this. There are only so many things to construct in The Little Vikings as it currently stands, and almost half of these require you to spend your own money if you want to use them. The game is by no means a pay-to-win title, but there are a lot of features on offer if you choose to part with some cash.
The Little Vikings also allows you to control more than one avatar, and each new Viking you recruit has different specialised skills. When you start the game, you choose between Olaf, a resource gatherer, and Inga, a combat specialist, although it is not long before you have both on side to assist you. The specialisations of these Vikings however do not seem overly prominent in gameplay, and indeed the progression system also raises similar questions. As you carry out in-game tasks you gain experience and periodically level-up as a result. When you do this, you can choose a skill to improve on your little Viking, for example the resource gatherer, Olaf, can have improved chopping, mining or digging skills. However, when you upgrade these, even a few times, there appears to be a minimal if any difference in game. Indeed, both of my Vikings still appear to be just as good as each other at carrying out each other’s supposedly specialised tasks…
In terms of controlling the game, everything is relatively simple. This basically involves clicking on objects in game to use or interact with them and dragging the screen in order to look around the map. There are some features in need of some love and attention however, as some elements of controlling the game at present are tedious, irritating and do not entirely work. For one, when you are playing in full screen, a touching the top of the screen comes up with a bit message (at least in Google Chrome) to say that you are viewing it in full screen. Dragging the game world around works about 70% of the time, but sometimes the game likes to snap you back to where you were looking before. This may be a minor irritation if sometimes you did not have to try and look in a certain place three or four times before it works. When you change your character, there is also a feature which snaps to that character. Sometimes this is exactly what you want so that you know where they are, but if you are looking around the map and have found a job for them you do not always want to snap away from it to select them and then have to search again. A separate snap feature for finding Vikings would be much more appropriate. Finally, clicking on objects in the world can be a bit of a pain. As pretty and well designed as the dense forests and resources of the world are, they are sometimes too close to easily click to interact with. This is particularly problematic when trying to click a moving enemy to attack; it is just a feature which could use some more playing around with to perfect.
Sounds, Graphics and the World:
The audio of The Little Vikings is mixed in terms of positives and negatives. The background music is very pleasant, being gentle and fitting nicely to the intended pace and feel of play. It also sounds handcrafted specifically for the game, and is not made to sound as though it is a heavily produced major award winning composition. It fits to the game, it does exactly the job it is meant to do without pushing things to far, and it succeeds in being a fitting companion to the wider project which it was composed for. The sound effects outside of this however are a little more… bizarre. First of all, any sound that happens in the world appears to be loud no matter how far away from where you are looking it is happening. Some sounds also are not entirely clear in what they are signifying or why they are happening, which does cause some level of confusion. On the up-side however, you do have the option to play the game without sounds if you wish, and actually the game plays perfectly well in this way. You can even keep either the music or the sound effects individually if you prefer to play with just one or the other, so you have plenty of options for how you would like to experience the game in your own, most comfortable way.
The graphical elements of the game on the other hand are very good. The game boasts a capability to show 1500 animated objects on the screen at once and still run 35+ fps, which for a flash-based browser title is not bad at all. But further than the simple technical aspects around how it looks, the game is also very nicely drawn and designed. The best way to describe the look of The Little Vikings is friendly. Everything looks very bright, delightfully simple and pleasantly happy. Even the monsters of the game have a qwerty and somewhat friendly look about them, which further expresses the fact that this game is appropriate for players of a younger age. At the same time however, it is still easily interesting to older players too. My twenty-eight year old girlfriend was just as happy playing the game as my seven year old younger brother would probably be, and in part this is due to the friendly look of the game. It manages to keep things looking exciting and cute without going so far as to make it look childish, which is a great achievement in keeping the age range of likely players open.
When the graphical elements come together to provide you with your world, everything complements the other things around it nicely. The game manages to create a densely filled landscape of well drawn and rendered individual objects, all of which you can interact with and none of which look out of place or interrupt play. The common problem of running out of trees or rocks is a thing of the past too in The Little Vikings. If any player of this game can run out of trees, they deserve to win the Internet! But what’s more, new trees can grow as you play the game too, giving a nice temporal dimension to the game and for lack of a better way of putting it, keepin’ things real!
The Verdict and What More Can Be Done:
The Little Vikings is an impressive project from Hooqt. As a first-time game and a part-time project, the game has come out as an impressive browser-based title which looks like it does have the capacity to compete on what is already a wide open and somewhat dominated market. If The Little Vikings can really push its name out in the near future, this game is going to be one to watch. It is also already certainly one which is well worth having a go at, especially given that it is free-to-play as well! There is really no excuse for missing out on The Little Vikings; it is a very nice game with a lot to offer and one which is open to any audience, giving anybody a pleasant, casual gaming experience with which to fill some of their time.
A number of bugs and issues with the beta of The Little Vikings have been highlighted and poked at throughout this preview, however the game is still undeniably fun to play. It is well worth a go even now whilst some of these issues are being looked into and addressed. Once this tidying up stage is completed and the final release of the game is launched, there is no reason not to believe that with the right marketing and continued focus The Little Vikings will do well. Perhaps the next stages down the line will be some social media integration and potentially an app; two options which fit the style of the game well. Whichever direction Hooqt decide to take the game in from now, my only real hope is that they hold true to the elements of it which make it different and a more pleasant social-based game than others to enjoy.