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War of the Vikings: Brutish fun, but not quite ready for Valhalla

Hayden Dingman | April 23, 2014
I lock eyes with the Saxon scum from across the battlefield. He's one mean-looking warrior, crimson garb and rusty sword. With a grunt he comes charging at me, but I've packed a surprise--my trusty hunting bow.

Waiting for Valhalla

In fact, the biggest problem with War of the Vikings is it doesn't retain a ton of players. Even in peak hours the server populations are pretty low. In off-peak hours, finding a low-ping server is nearly impossible. I've played a lot of games hosted in Miami and Chicago this week with ping upwards of 100 milliseconds — not by choice, but because the West Coast servers were empty.

I have to wonder if being available via Steam's Early Access program hurt War of the Vikings. While the game is better now than it was a few months back, I can't help but think that a lot of the audience has already tested the game, played their fill, and left. War of the Vikings has that "multiplayer game past its peak" feel instead of that "hot, fresh new servers" feel.

And as I said, there are quite a few problems that are going to make a serious player flip out, especially since they're issues that should've been sorted out in Early Access. Hit detection can be terrible, especially since you do have to often resort to playing on high-ping servers. There are going to be plenty of times you swing and your sword turns into wet paper mache, weakly flopping through the air and missing the enemy right in front of you.

The respawn system is similarly broken. I died plenty of times only to start my next Viking life in the midst of an already-engaged battle, chopped down mere seconds after I was born by a blow intended for somebody else's head. This might not be a fixable problem — the maps are small, and with twenty-four players crammed in it's no doubt hard for the game to spawn you in empty territory. But that doesn't make it any less annoying when you're booted back to the respawn menu mere seconds after getting back in the game.

Those coming from War of the Roses may also find War of the Vikings a lesser experience. There are fewer weapon distinctions here, and thus fewer options in combat. I'm not going to say War of the Roses was a simulator-type game either, but Vikings feels even more arcade-y in comparison.

Bottom line

But at the end of the day, I'm pretty satisfied with what I've played of War of the Vikings. It goes down like a cool tankard of beer on a hot summer day. A cool, arcade-like, silly-at-times tankard of beer. And if that beer has started to skunk a little bit? If that beer needs more full servers, better hit detection, and a better respawn system? Wait, I've forgotten where this metaphor goes.

The point is, War of the Vikings ain't going to Valhalla anytime soon. But I'll settle for a few hours of Midgard in these tedious spring months.

 

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