Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is an action-RPG developed by Games Farm, a studio from Slovak Republic best known for the Air Conflict series as well as the ARPG Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms. Vikings has drawn a lot of early comparisons to Diablo, and for good reason. Of course Diablo isn’t the only game in this particular genre, but it is the biggest name on the block. Here we have that established formula set in some classic Norse mythology. “Diablo with Vikings” is how some have described it.
Now while I do feel the comparison is a good one, after all if you’ve played Diablo then this will certainly feel familiar to you, it’s not exactly fair. Blizzard is massive with a huge budget and a large team, and Games Farm is a lot smaller with a much smaller team and budget to work with. So it’s just not fair to judge it on a Diablo scale. Diablo III has four-player co-op and couch co-op, Vikings has two player online only co-op. Diablo has a rich end game with Greater Rifts, torment levels, and so on while Vikings has New Game + and Trials of the Gods (which isn’t comparable to Greater Rifts). The moral of the story here is that Blizzard could afford to do more stuff, but that doesn’t mean Vikings is lacking because it doesn’t offer some stuff.
In Vikings, you can play as either a Warrior (a male viking) or a Shieldmaiden (a female viking). There are no real classes here. Instead, class is tied to weapon type and god/goddess. Want to wield two handed weapons like hammers and large swords? Thor is the god you want. If you prefer dual wielding, Loki is the one for you. If you’re a sword and shield guy or gal, then Tyr is for you. If you like to wield staffs, then you want the gifts of Odin. And lastly if you prefer the range game with a bow and arrow then you’ll want to align with Skathi.
Each god/goddess comes with their own skill tree with activate and passive abilities. As you gather resources you can improve your Altar, and as you slay enemies you’ll gather blood that you then sacrifice at the alter to level up and increase either your health, damage, attack speed, or armor. In a play-through, you should be able to max out two skill trees. So you’re going to need to hit up that New Game+ to fully max out your character.
The great thing about this class setup is that you’re not locked into it. If you’re playing with a bow, but get a legendary sword that you want to use, you can do that. Of course if you’ve been pumping all of your gift points into the Skathi tree, then you won’t have any active or passive abilities since the gifts of the gods are tied to your weapon configuration. I’d recommend picking one style to start with and sticking with it, but also have a secondary style that you’re working on to. I’ve been running a sword/shield main set up with some invested in the bow because I think that gives me a good set up for having the option to be up close or ranged.
There are four difficulty levels to choose from: Peasant (easy), Warrior (normal), Jarl (hard), and Einherjar (insane). You can also activate Valhalla mode for any of these difficulty levels, and that’s essentially hardcore; a perma-death mode. For the purposes of this review, I played on the default normal setting and obviously not in Valhalla mode. You can have a max of four characters.
As the game is centered around Norse mythology, it is no surprise then that Ragnarok is at hand. An extremely harsh winter has descended on the land and the mighty Jotan giants have returned. They try to destroy your Ulfung village and in doing so kill your chief, but in this opening mission your repel the invasion, save the village and become the new chieftain. From here on the village acts as your hub world and it’s up to you to restore it. As you progress through the story, you’ll bring new characters to your village. These merchants and craftsmen can have their facilities upgraded, which will in turn offer up better wares. Need a new sword, go see your blacksmith and craft one.
Your journey will take you on many raids and expose you to many harsh conditions. You’ll wage battles throughout Midgard, Utgard, Niflheim, Balheim, and Dvergheim. These battles will be fought against different Viking tribes, frost and fire giants, assorted goblins and trolls, monsters and wild animals like wolves and boars.
Some of the maps and regions will be extremely cold, extremely hot, or be filled with poison. It’s in these settings that exposure comes into play. The exposure bar is located underneath your health bar. If you’re out in the extreme cold, you’ll notice a blue bar filling up. If the exposure bar gets filled, and you will be slowed when it happens, you’ll begin to take damage to your health. So it’s extremely vital that you don’t stay exposed for too long. Seek a camp fire and warm up. To the games credit, they’re fairly generous with the exposure safe zones to the point where I like the system and it doesn’t become a hindrance. It’s something to be mindful of, but it shouldn’t become frustrating to you so long as you stay moving.
Combat is pretty straight forward and fun. Hack and slash by spamming your main attack, and popping your abilities when necessary and manage their cooldown. You’re not a tank, and some of the attacks can knock out most of your health so learning to dodge roll is extremely important. Learn the attack patterns of your enemies and roll to avoid them as best as possible. I think some attacks connect even when they probably shouldn’t, but other than that issue, rolling will be your best friend (though it does use stamina).
On that note, there are some difficulty spikes. Some raids you’re one shotting most enemies and easily dispatching the others, and then the next you notice it’s taking more hits and attacks on you are taking away huge chunks of health. To counter this, just go do some hunt missions and acquire blood from the easier foes to level up or craft a better weapon.
On the crafting front, that’s my one issue with the game. It just isn’t a raining loot game. Outside of some legendaries and unique’s that will occasionally drop (although if you’re like me usually a weapon for a class I’m not using) the stuff you craft is going to be better than stuff you find. Part of the appeal of Diablo III in its current state is the amount of loot you get and the amount of usable loot you get. Sure you might get a bunch of weapons and armor, but basically you’re just going to be dismantling it for resources to use for crafting or you’re going to sell it. And better items require the shops to be leveled up, which costs a ton of gold, lots of wood, and lots of iron. It’s to the point where you’re grinding for resources, not grinding for loot.
That’s really the only issue I have with the game. The loot just isn’t rewarding. Leveling up in the game is quite a bit slower than Diablo, so when you do level up and use a Gift Point in your skill tree, it feels rewarding and like it makes a difference with your character. You can feel that he or she became more powerful. It’s a shame then that the loot is so poor. Crafting is always great to have, but it shouldn’t be the main way of getting more powerful stuff in a game like this. Loot is what keeps people coming back, and this game needs a lot more of it.
Vikings both looks good and sounds good. I’d go as far as to say the soundtrack is fantastic. The voice acting is pretty good as well, and your character is fairly humorous always talking trash in the middle of battle. It runs pretty solid for the most part as well.
Is it a game you’re going to want to play? Well if you like action RPG’s like Diablo, then absolutely. Especially if you’re a console player where there just aren’t very many of these types of games. Much like Diablo III, Vikings feels really good on a controller. I’m reviewing the PS4 version and have zero complaints about the controls. It plays really well, and there’s a lot of fun to be had. I enjoyed Diablo III on PS4, but don’t have a ton of experience with the genre outside that. I rather enjoy Norse mythology as well, so “Diablo with Vikings” sounded really appealing to me.
Will you keep coming back to the game? No. It doesn’t have the loot grind nor the rich end game to sustain it. For the campaign, you’re looking at anywhere from probably 16 to 20 hours give or take an hour or two. You might feel compelled to do a New Game+, but this ultimately isn’t a game that you’re going to sink a hundred hours into let alone several hundred. Time spent with it will more than likely be enjoyed though.
It’s a solidly good game. Nothing more and nothing less. It’s also a great foundation. There’s much that can be built upon here if Games Farm wishes to do so. It’s a classic case of a new IP just being good, but the potential is there for a sequel to be great with some refinement. I for one would like to see a follow up with more emphasis on end game content and way more loot.
Vikings: Wolves of Midgard is out today on Steam, and will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One digitally and physically on Tuesday, March 28th. You can pre-order the game from Amazon for $59.99.
* A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review.