We don’t have too many aRPGs that make use of Norse mythology, at least in recent memory. Games Farm’s newest title, Vikings: Wolves Of Midgard aims to do something about that. I’ve spent a couple of hours with an early build of the game, hacking away at wolves and running, or rolling, towards fires before my blood froze, and here are my impressions.
Vikings: Wolves Of Midgard allows players to choose between six distinct gods and their gifts, equivalents of skills in other aRPGs. This acts as a class system of sorts, as each god has a favored type of weapon, their skills being usable only while wielding said weapon type. Thus, Loki’s gifts are accessible to dual-wielding berserkers, while Tyr’s go to sword-n-board users. Upon leveling up you obtain gift points, which can upgrade your already unlocked gifts or unlock new ones. Tangled lines linking circles to each other don’t do much for clarity, but the skill trees are fairly straightforward after you get used to them. The big circles represent active skills while the smaller ones are passive increases to different stats. The god choices do require you to approach things in different ways. An archer, follower of Skathi, will be far more dependent on rolling away from foes than someone worshipping Tyr, who wields a one handed weapon and a shield.
The combat in the preview build was not without hiccups. Being only playable with a gamepad, although keyboard support is said to come in the full version, there is no way to manually lock onto targets, so, you’re at the mercy of your character. In melee this isn’t so big of an issue, resulting mainly in situations where the character doesn’t close in as expected. Making use of rolling and certain skills can easily close in the remaining distance. While using a bow, however, I often found my character uncertain of which target to fire at, ending up missing shots. This came into play especially when there were a handful of destructible environmental objects around. Moments like these definitely create frustration, especially as deaths send you back to the last checkpoint, which means you’ll have to go through the same enemies again. The aforementioned roll becomes a vital mechanic when fighting high numbers of foes and, especially, during boss fights, as it allows you to dodge heavy blows, at least in theory. In practice, the roll mechanic can feel clunky at times, especially when you’re trying to get around enemies who’ve raised their shields.
As you cannot clip through enemies, fighting two large foes at the same time can be tricky, especially due to their ability to land attacks through each other. Adding to that, while definitely handy in fights, gifts aren’t excessively creative, being run-of-the-mill kicks, dashes and area of effect attacks, on top of lacking auditory and visual oomph. At its peak, the combat does offer satisfaction as you rapidly dispatch entire packs of foes. These moments, however weren’t very many. Vikings: Wolves Of Midgard also features a combo system which gives you more Blood, the equivalent of experience, if you pull off long combos or multikills, which is a neat addition, in attempting to enforce a certain fluidity to combat.
In between levels, or raids as they are depicted in-game, players have access to a hub village. Here you can craft new weapons, sell collectibles, and participate in the Trial of Heroes, a gauntlet mode that provides rewards the furthest you go. Dismantling weapons you aren’t using yields resources required to upgrade your crafter NPCs or the Altar. You level up your character at the Altar, or at those found through the levels. Each Gift has 3 ranks you can obtain, however, in order to level up a particular Gift, be it passive or active, you also need to have the associated Altar level. To come to your aid, missions are split into story missions, that can only be played once, and a series of repeatable ones which have you killing enemies in exchange for more of these resources.
The goal of every story mission was to reach the final arena, which hosts a boss. Every time prior to entering, a prompt comes up. This tends to ruin player immersion, feeling quite unnecessary. The enemy types are varied enough, the larger they get the more careful you have to be around them. You can get easily overwhelmed, however, checkpoints are found pretty often throughout the levels, as are places to refill your healing potions. Apart from that, every level comes with extra objectives, which involve killing a certain number of an enemy type, or destroying their buildings. Tedium did set in throughout my play sessions, especially in longer ones. This was because of the overly common skills and the lack of variety of objectives.
The preview build of Vikings: Wolves of Midgard didn’t lead me to believe that the game brings anything new to the table, nor did it wow me with its use of tried-and-true elements. It makes use of a good number of monsters pulled out of Norse mythology, which is always nice, as there aren’t many aRPGs that use the setting, but that isn’t really enough to keep someone around for too long. It remains to be seen how the game will have evolved upon its release which is set for the 24th of March.