War of the Vikings is Fatshark’s follow up to last year’s highly successful War of the Roses. Even a casual glance shows the similarities between the two games. Available for a few months now as a Steam Early Access title, War of the Vikings is looking to offer an even more in-depth experience than its predecessor.
As the title implies, the historical setting has moved back in time from the war between the Yorks and the Lancasters to the age of the Vikings, a time when they were raiding coastal towns in England. You can take on the role of either a Viking raider, or a Saxon defender. Within each faction are the same five classes: an all-around warrior, a close-quarters skirmisher, heavy champion, longbow-wielding ranged attacker and a powerful two-handed warrior.
Each class starts with its own weapon combination, but you can pick up any fallen weapon on the ground and use that if you need to. Each weapon has a small number of different attacks available through simple mouse gestures. These attacks can be useful for getting through an opponent’s defences, even knocking his shield right out of his hand.
Stage design is influenced by various historical locales in England, with windswept grassy fields, ancient castles and flimsy wooden villages. Each stage supports a couple of different gametypes that first-person shooter players will be familiar with: conquest mode, which is not unlike Team Fortress 2’s control points mode, a team deathmatch mode and an arena mode in which everyone only gets one life. Conquest is probably the most engaging mode to play as it involves more team coordination, however team deathmatch is good if all you want to do is rack up the kills.
One problem I noticed while playing War of the Vikings is that, in its current form, it can very much be affected by lag. Melee combat requires precision timing, and that’s true here as well. There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you landed a blow only to discover that the server registered the other guy’s attack first. It can also make for a frustrating experience with regards to distance, where you can be hit despite seeming to be far enough away. Even with moderate pings of 120–130ms, the game could be problematic. While lower-ping servers were available, they were almost always unpopulated when I wanted to connect to them.
While capture points and team deathmatches aren’t well-recorded in the real Viking conquests, Fatshark have promised that War of the Vikings will be pretty accurate to the real history of the era. The game will have lots of fluff text on loading screens and in other areas explaining it, and there’s even plans for a book to go alongside the game.
Fatshark have big plans for War of the Vikings. They see a long future for the game, with new maps and gametypes coming. As it currently stands, the game is well-made with a few rough edges. It’s definitely possible to have a lot of fun with it, especially if you enjoyed War of the Roses or the Mount & Blade series. Still being in development means that the game has bugs and balance issues that will definitely affect the experience, but stick with it because there’s a lot of promise under the surface.
War of the Vikings is available as an Early Access beta on Steam, and you can play it for free this weekend.