Growing up, playing Diablo II was one of my favorite childhood memories. Back in the 90s, the RPG genre all drew inspiration from Diablo II, followed by Dungeon Siege II. While Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is not a true tribute to the classic RPG genre of the 90s, it has so much Dungeon Siege in it that I could not help but love it. This action-RPG and loot-driven title has a rare formula, of which we have not seen in years. With Diablo III being such a strong contender in the current generation, Vikings was a warm welcome with its great combat and classic-styled loot system. It is no Diablo, but it is close enough to that old-school genre, that makes it feel like a classic reborn for the current generation.
The local co-op experience
Before I get into the game itself, it is important to touch on the co-op experience that I played through. You can join up with a friend online, or with a LAN setup and play the entire game with them. I did this quite often and never once had an issue with the connection, testing it both online and in a LAN environment. The only issue I had, was that if you and your friend were on the same side objective, you could not work together to collect items. My kills for a quest would not count towards his, and his to mine. It was a drag especially when playing through the tedious side missions, but the main quests and missions were great to play through with a friend.
With a deep Norse direction, Vikings follow the ancient conflict between Norse Gods Aesir and the Vanir. During this war between Gods, the Giants of Nifleheim have taken advantage of the break in peace and waged their own war against Midgard and its people. The land has frozen over due to the Fimbulwinter catastrophe, and all life is on the brink of death, which in Norse means the coming of Ragnarok. You take on the role of a simple Viking, who although starts off small, becomes the only savior for humanity.
Action RPG is back
Like all action RPG games, you get to create a character of your choice, and while Vikings does a few things well, the character creation is not on that list. There are only a handful of preset customization items to choose from like gender, hairstyle, accessories, three hair colours and a small selection of tattoos. One cannot change his skin tone at all. The game makes up for customization when it comes to its classes, or Dietys as they are portrayed in the game. Although you can choose between a few of them at first, you can actually branch out to all of them throughout the game. Loki is the dual wielding class, Skathi wields a bow, and Odin, which is the class I went with, is the staff bearer and magic muscle in the game.
Skills for a specific deity are only available while wielding its set weapon, and choosing a class at the start will dictate the weapon and starter skill you have. Odin has a staff, or more like a pole, with a far spitting spell that blasts a wave of flames at enemies in the distance. The game basically lets you choose two classes to specialize in, as there are two weapon sets that can be switched to at any time, and these sets then change your skills to that tied-in class too. I went with a sword (Tyr) and the staff (Odin). My spells were great for range attacks, and then I charged in with my sword to slash enemies up.
The combat style is kind of like a slower, and more toned down version of Diablo III. With your skills assigned to the hotkey bar, you walk around the object area, using a primary attack to deal damage, and your skills to buff, deal spell damage and more. The skills do not work off a mana system, rather a cooldown timer, with each skill needing more time than others before you can use it again. Killing enemies is fun, and the combat feels fluid. You can also chain together specific attacks and spells to deal combos which reward a higher number of blood drops. These blood drops count as XP, and after you have collected a certain amount, you can then offer them at a shine to level up your character's stats being health, damage, etc. After leveling up, you then unlock a skill point to use in the expansive skill tree.
As Vikings were angry people, the rage mechanic in the game comes in handy quite often. The bar charges up and when you are ready to use it, it unleashes a powerful blast and slows down time for a few seconds as you race around like The Flash beating everyone up. The more powerful your character, the longer it lasts for, and by the time I was mid-way through the game, this mechanic was quite a great way to pummel through a group of hard enemies.
Potions are also not a thing, rather you find and equip a healing charm that can refill your health a certain amount of times before needing a recharge. The feature is pretty awesome and resonates with the Dark Souls health system. It also means that you have the opportunity to find rarer charms that will give you an even better healing effect and healing count before needing to recharge it.
Gear is also a major aspect of the game, and like any loot games, it all depends on your class and how far you far you are willing to go to craft new weapons and items. You can gather materials in the field, and once back at home you can use these to craft new gear, or you can just find stuff in boxes and dropped from enemies. Anything you don't want can also get dismantled for materials, so there is ample room for creation here. Then there are the typical stores that stock items and gear, but it is always fun to craft things over just buying them.
Exploration gets dull
Vikings: Wolves of Midgard spans across various maps with different objectives and side missions to complete, and it is these maps that make the game so great. They are quite large, with various secrets to find and treasures to obtain. The only issue I had, was going back to the same map over and over again to complete side missions. These were quite tedious and lacked any sort of depth. Kill a set amount of enemies, or find a set item. All this meant was I had to backtrack through the area to complete these mindless activities. Sure, the area was nice at first, but after an hour looking for a skull which has been so cleverly hidden away from you, it becomes a pain.
Areas also have different climates to them, of which affect your player in a certain way. Ice areas, for example, will slowly freeze you to death, which means you need to get to a fireplace to thaw yourself out before you start taking damage from it. What is also nice is that it is a mechanic that is not overused, as there are only a few levels that take advantage of this feature.
If you are looking for a great action RPG that touches on the classic Diablo II roots rather than the latest game, then Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is the game you should look at. It is not a GOTY contender, but there is nothing in the game that made me not want to go back to it. It has a decent combat system, and the Viking setting is a fresh new direction for an RPG game.
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