By Odin's beard and Saint Cuthbert’s relics, grab an axe and start swinging!
When it comes to games like these there is very little competition on the market. The only alternative to this one and its predecessor is Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. So when reviewing this game, having played the 2 other games as well, it is impossible not to make the comparison between the three...
For anyone familiar with War of the Roses, you won't have much issue getting your head wrapped around the mechanics of this one. The idea is pretty much the same, and I wouldn't want it any other way. How your character responds to you swinging and clicking your mouse to attack in a certain way might feel a bit odd in the beginning, but after a while you will find that it comes quite naturally. If you're anything like me, the thrill of the fight will make you play this game with your whole body, trying to move along with your character. If you think about it, very few games really make you do that.
WOTV have added throwing weapons, which came as a welcome extra. Melee fighters now get a few throwing knives or axes to hurl at their foes. And believe me, it's very rewarding to surprise an opponent with an axe between the eyes! More importantly, it also gives melee fighters an additional depth of play, that was lacking from War of The Roses. The front line units now have more of a fighting chance against archers in medium-range combat. As it was in War of the Roses, archery is very difficult to master, but once you get it you can start to dominate the battlefield from the shelter of buildings. Archery on the whole feels a bit overpowered and this unbalancing is something akin to the sniper issue found in other more traditional multiplayer games. However, being able to send your own missile back at them goes some way to alleviating that issue and it's also pretty darn satisfying.
Blocking in melee works the same way as striking. Block towards the attack of your opponent and he will recoil a bit, leaving him open for a counter attack. But when fighting multiple opponents this becomes tricky. You might think hiding behind a shield is overpowered but these aren't the man size tower shields the Romans had, which means lifting your small round shield in front of you won't automatically protect you from all incoming blows. This style of gameplay is either a turn-on or a deal breaker for many gamers.
On more than one occasion an experienced adversary managed to lop off my head because I held my shield too low! And that's a sight that never gets boring, even when it keeps happening to me. In one particular match there was a person who made a sport out of seeking me out and slashing my head off, at which he succeeded more than I care to admit. It wasn't long before the other players started to take notice and even stopped fighting for a while to cheer him on while he destroyed my shield, piece by piece, surgically aiming to sever the cervical vertebrae of my neck.
Oh what jolly good fun that was...
While the gameplay is a very well aimed shot between the eyes, Vikings could offer up a bit more content. I'm a sucker for visually enhancing your character through armour, colours and whatnot, and compared to its predecessor there is very little of that in this game. Vikings, I suppose, just preferred brown and drab as their livery of choice.
But I talk not only of the visual but also the strength upgrades that came with the predecessor. In War of the Roses you would have to fight matches to gain in-game cash and experience which allowed you to level up your character. Levelling up will unlock more perks, armours and weapons to buy with your hard earned cash. War of the Roses had an incredible amount of armour and weapons which you could upgrade in all sorts of ways, and it was clear what the advantages were for those upgrades. A hard steel shield would protect you more than a regular wooden one, but also slowed you down and made you less agile on the field.
But that was all in the previous game. There is none of that in War of the Vikings. Sure, you can buy more expensive weapons as you make more money by accomplishments in the field, and unlock those weapons by levelling up. But aside from some passage from the Bible or Pagan script describing what it is you're looking at, there is no information on why you should actually buy the new weapon.
When it comes to armour there are 3 classes (warrior, champion and skirmisher) for either side and they have their specific armour set, and that's it. Only the helmets can be upgraded, a little. Excuse me for at least expecting some horned variety of a helmet for the Vikings even if it isn't historically accurate.
Add to this the shortage of game modes as well as the low number of maps and you will find that the game can start to run out of steam; something the competition does a lot better I have to say. A quick remedy to these issues may well be to make the game available for community support via Steam workshop, so that the community can get in there with their own maps. But currently this is also not an option.
But War of the Roses didn't start out with what it currently has to offer either, but it did have more than War of the Vikings, even in the beginning. Promises were made to add all the content mentioned above to the game, but whether it will be free content by updates or added through purchasable DLCs is unknown at this time. Either way, more content will be necessary to fight the repetitive nature of your online battles.
Despite fun multiplayer mashups and excellent 3rd person sword play mechanics Vikings lets itself down with an initial lack of content. At 23.99 Euros on Steam, War of the Vikings feels a bit over priced, but if you search around other online retailers you can find it cheaper, or why not seek out War of the Roses until the content on Vikings is rounded out a bit more.