*Note* – This preview is based on an Early Access build of the game. The development will be based on player feedback and bug fixes from this point forward before releasing the full game.
War of the Vikings is an upcoming third-person multiplayer action game from FatShark and Paradox Interactive. It takes the concept of FatShark’s previous game, War of the Roses, and breaks into a period in time where vikings roamed the world, conquering in the name of Odin and seeking a seat in Valhalla.
The concept of the game is completely straightforward. Each match will pit a team of vikings against a team of saxon warriors in a fight to the death. In the Early Access version of the game, there are two game types. The classic Team Deathmatch mode will have teams working to get to 100 kills before their opponents can. The other game type, called “Arena,” plays like your classic Counter Strike match, where you have only one life and the last team standing wins the round. Both are fun, and they offer a little variety right out of the gate. The current development plan also shows plans to release the Conquest game mode in December.
If you’ve never played War of the Roses, the combat system will likely take some getting used to. Every player has both a health and stamina bar. With a heavy focus on melee combat, you control the angle of the weapon you’re swinging along with the power you’re swinging it. More power will cost you more stamina. Defensively, blocking is also directional so you’ll have to be quick and deliberate with your guard. This offers some fantastic dynamic combat. On top of swinging your blades, you can dodge and parry, or bet it all on an all-out attack that can end your opponent quickly but will leave you wide open to attack. If you get hurt, you can try to hide and bandage yourself up for more longevity. The gameplay feels great, though it can become a bit hectic in large groups. This only looks to get even better with a few months in the oven.
Within the game, there are currently three character classes you can play as. The “Thane” is your standard sword-and-board soldier. He comes equipped with a sword and shield, but he’s also able to swap to throwing axes to gain a little distance. The “Huscarl” is an offensive powerhouse, charging into battle with his two-handed axe and a set of throwing knives. Finally, the “Hirdman” is your standard viking archer, able to hit foes at great distance, but read for close combat with a hand axe.
The classes all offer a good variety of ways to enjoy the game. The wary player may choose a thane to get up close with some protection or the hirdman to keep their distance while picking off sturdier foes. Fearless players can charge in with the huscarl, swinging their heavy axe to land crushing blows on a group of unsuspecting opponents. On top of picking and choosing a class, you can also pick perks, such as “Agile Fighter” or “Hard Hitter” that offer more variety in how you can play your chosen class. With this being relatively early in development, the promise of more loadout and customization options promises to bring more variety and playability to an already-enjoyable game.
The Early Access version of War of the Vikings comes with two maps. The Docks map will have players warring around a tiny norse hamlet, a couple of viking vessels at the docks. With its various bridges and central killing ground, there are ample spots for intense brawls. The Forest map is much more open, offering skilled snipers plenty of space to deal damage. The roadmap shows plans for several more maps to come along, promising a wide variety of locations to chase your Leif Ericson dream.
Though the game has only reached the hands of Early Access players, it looks impressive. Character models look great and the environments are beautiful. In my experience, there were no issues with lag and other bugs were minimal to nonexistent. The fact that they’ve already provided players with their development roadmap and the promise of updating twice a month is an excellent start to what promises to become a truly epic game.
If you are a fan of War of the Roses or other multiplayer melee combat games, you should definitely keep your eyes open in the months to come. Paradox and FatShark are working hard to deliver a fun game true to the source material, and they’re doing it with feedback from the Early Access player base. I’m genuinely excited to see this game grow and evolve as it sails its ways for the shores of release in the first quarter of 2014.