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February 2023

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Kalypso Media
Developer: Games Farm
Release Date: March 24, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Vikings: Wolves of Midgard'

by Brian Dumlao on April 3, 2017 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is a bold new IP that will pit Action RPG fanatics against the most legendary of all mythological conflicts: Ragnarok.

Buy Vikings: Wolves of Midgard

Norse mythology has been a favorite topic of video games for quite some time now. Even without the recent Marvel movies, the games have gotten many players familiar with the ideas of Valhalla and Ragnarok as well as some of the major characters, like Odin and frost giants. Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is the latest game to take on the Norse theme, placing it in the framework of an isometric action RPG. It isn't perfect, but it's a solid game.

The plot concerns the constant battle between the Norse gods that leaves Asgard rather unstable. Sensing an opportunity, the Jotan awaken the frost giants and coax them into a war with the gods that will likely bring about Ragnarok. Caught in the middle of this is the new chieftain of the Ulfung tribe, who earned the position after an invasion left the previous chieftain dead. Ordained by prophecy, the new chieftain seeks revenge against the Jotan to hopefully stop Ragnarok from occurring.

The story may seem repetitive even when using an appealing setting, but two elements keep it interesting. The first is the attitude of your chieftain, who is sarcastic but not to the point where the adventure becomes a farce. There's a crack about people asking to perform an upgrade to their shop or bringing up a mission that seems offbeat. The second interesting thing are those aforementioned missions, which add some unexpected twists to the game. Raiding other villages or fighting against Crusaders aren't side-quests but main ones, and while they add some padding to the story, they are decent enough distractions that few players will mind.

You start off by creating your future chieftain, whether it's a male warrior or a female shieldmaiden. The customization options are basic, from hairstyle and color to tattoos. From there, you're given a chance to assign them a god, which acts as their class designation based on weapon preference. For example, Thor is a god who focuses on strength, so hammers and offense are key. Meanwhile, Tyr is more balanced between offense and defense, which is perfect for those who want to use a one-handed weapon and shield. Your god choices aren't permanent, so you can change your alignment depending on the weapon type you're holding at the time. In that respect, your god choices give you different mana powers instead of forcing you into a different play style.

For the most part, Vikings plays out exactly how you think it would, mostly because it follows the expected conventions of the genre. Using a keyboard and mouse or a controller, you'll rampage through mobs of enemies, slay everyone in your path and collect loot. While you're not exactly getting weapon and armor from enemies, you will find plenty of chests to give you that stuff. Combat consists primarily of one attack and a few abilities that unlock via skill trees and have cooldown timers. On the defensive side, you can't block, but you can perform a dodge roll in any direction, and you'll use that quite often to handle the bosses.

There are some things that make the game different from its contemporaries. The first has to do with your village. Your loot includes things like wood and iron in addition to coins. While that's used to get new gear from shops, it's also used to upgrade the shops in your village to provide you with stuff that matches with your game progression levels. Granted, those upgrades can only occur once certain parts of the campaign are reached, but it is nice to see that you have a hand in rebuilding the town whose destruction prompted your journey in the first place.

The second difference is in the environmental hazards that permeate the levels. In most games, going to an icy environment or a lava-filled one just works as set dressing. Here, going to extremes with heat, cold, and poison actually takes a toll on you, and a meter fills up to signify your exposure. Fill up the meter, and your health will degrade, but there are a few other details, such as movement slowdown when you reach your breaking point in cold weather. It's a nice touch that makes things feel fresh since you have to practice some strategy by running from combat to reach safe areas.

All of this combined makes for a good isometric action-RPG experience when playing solo. The combat is solid throughout, and the use of environmental damage every now and then in the level flow makes it feel different from other isometric RPGs. However, playing with others is a slightly different story. In our experience, it was rather difficult to connect to another person mostly because the game seemed to have a 50/50 chance of freezing up when finding someone. Once a connection was made, the performance was fine, but being limited a total of to two players was a shame.

One disappointment that players will find lies with the New Game+ mode. Unlike other titles, the only thing you carry with you is your skill tree progress with the various gods. Your levels, equipment, and village progress are wiped out, and the removal of so much progress makes it difficult for most people to get motivated to continue after seeing the ending, especially since getting more loot is one of the motivating factors for replaying games in this genre.

Graphically, things mostly work. The environments sport some nice details, from the biting cold winds in the mountains to the poison plumes of the underworld caves. While more simplified due to a lack of lighting effects, every place you encounter looks quite pristine and on par with most others from this genre. It isn't particularly well detailed when you view things up close, but all of the characters look good from a distance and move just fine. However, it takes some real power to get this game to go at a stable frame rate. On a rig with a Core i5-7600k and a Geforce GTX 1070, the game ran smooth at ultra settings on 1080p. To achieve the smooth 60fps on a Core i5-3570 with a Radeon RX 480 with the same resolution, the medium preset needs to be used with VSync turned off. That doesn't sound too bad, but those expecting some more customization in the graphics aren't going to get it beyond presets, so there's no way to dial in the perfect balance for your setup.

On the audio side, Vikings is in a weird state. The music starts off with a choir backed by an orchestra, similar to what you get in most modern medieval productions. That same score maintains an orchestra feel but has sudden spurts of electric guitar and more modern trappings. It isn't enough to cause a disconnect, but it is strange once noticed. The same goes for the voice acting. While your chieftain may sound close to being Nordic, everyone else you encounter is British, and hearing them speak disconnects you from the Viking setting. The sudden changes in tone for your chieftain from battle to environmental reactions can also be jarring, specifically when it comes to cold. One moment of bravado can change a second later to lamenting about how cold it is. The randomization of the quotes doesn't help, either, as the more desperate ones seem to play more often and early, when freezing isn't at a critical point yet.

In the end, Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is good. It retains most of what makes the genre so appealing, and the other changes, like environmental dangers, amplify the formula instead of watering it down. It doesn't move the genre forward, though, and the lack of a custom preset combined with spotty performance on middle-of-the-road hardware will make some people see this as rather unpolished. For those who want something new in the genre, Vikings is worth a shot.

Score: 7.5/10

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