In the midst of Paradox Interactive‘s Pan-Asia tour we were given the opportunity to meet with Gordon Van Dyke – project lead on Fatshark Games’ War of the Vikings – and be given a hands-off presentation and first look at the brutal online multiplayer close-quarters combat title, set for release Q1 of 2014 for PC.
After exchanging pleasantries, Gordon got right down to a presentation he had prepared, starting off with the announce trailer. This was a great introduction to the theme of the game and the job that was being a Viking back between the 8th and 11th century. And that’s something that should be reiterated; Viking wasn’t an ethnicity or race, it was a job. As Gordon put it; “People say ‘I have Viking blood!” No, you don’t! You have Scandinavian blood!” This wasn’t the only misconception that Gordon squashed and educated us on…through his research, he learnt many things about the often-misrepresented people who took on the mantle.
For instance, Vikings are always seen as simple brutes who lived for war, but they actually had a greater understanding of the world around them than most others. Interestingly, to that end, a Viking’s tomb was excavated, and inside they found the warrior buried with a Hindu amulet, which was probably acquired through trading. They were also extremely clean and carried combs with them. The unfortunate thing about their time, and the disadvantage we have in putting the pieces together on their history, is that they chiselled on stone and so much of their ‘written word’ was lost. But, that obviously doesn’t mean we don’t have solid facts on their existence.
Did you also know – and this is a nice tie in to War of the Roses – that the Vikings discovered York? And that visual we commonly have of them with their horned helmets is completely inaccurate – the fact of which is reflected in the game and the visual design of its characters. It’s thought that this depiction actually came out of the Victorian age, where monks who wrote the scripts for many plays would portray them as “children of the devil” and hence the horns were added to their now iconic image. As Gordon said; “if I grabbed [the horn], I could rip your helmet off” and seeing as everything they did was to stay alive, they would never have given themselves that disadvantage.
Moving on to the game itself, the developers working on the project consist of an entirely new team than that of War of the Roses. For those who are wondering, War of the Vikings isn’t a straight sequel or successor to WotR either, but is a new entry in the newly established “Paradox War” franchise. It is utilising much of the same tech that WotR did, but will not be offering the same experience. And being set hundreds of years earlier than War of the Roses (15th century), you will not be seeing guns of any kind added to the arsenal, unlike with WotR (post release).
There wasn’t a giant plethora of different weapons back then either, so this go around, the focus will be on fine-tuning and perfecting the feel of the axes, swords, etc., that the Vikings did have at their disposal and making the core combat mechanics as satisfying and as deep as possible. The basics of striking entails simultaneously pressing the left mouse button to initiate a swing and using your mouse movement to determine the direction of the slash – parrying works in the same fashion. The shield is assigned to the right mouse button, and so the two must be used in strategically timed combination in order to survive and defeat your foes.
If you’ve never played WotR before, then don’t fret because WotV will feature a tutorial mode that can be accessed offline, with its own play-space for you to practice in without the fear of complete noob embarrassment. There are skill upgrades and unlockable abilities that will be detailed in the future, but Gordon did state that they will not be the sort of all-empowering enhancements that create imbalance in matches, making you effectively invincible against a lesser opponent just because you have them.
Something new that will aid in differing the gameplay of WotR and WotV is a dodge system and the inclusion of special moves, which are one-button executables that are linked to a stamina system so you can not spam it. You still have to aim it much like a normal strike, but anyone can pull it off; the balance between accessibility and complexity has been a big focus for the team. Throwing weapons such as javelins and daggers are also included in the weapon base, and the pace of the action has been sped up when compared to WotR.
This was all relayed to us during the slideshow, but then we got to see actual in-game footage from pre-alpha, which is when we saw it all come to life. Something to note is you can achieve head shots with your throwing weapons, and the death animation system is dynamic – depending on where the final blow is dealt, and from what angle, your character will react accordingly. During the video, we saw the player character walking around with an arrow sticking out of the side of his head, and a decapitation happen right in front of us…brutal.
The end of the video was also the end of our time. The closed public alpha is starting on August 22nd to coincide with Gamescom, and there will be servers in Pan-Asia (victory!). The game looks like a hell of a lot of fun, with an amazing hit detection system (probably the best in the business) and tons of brutality!
You can sign-up for the War of the Vikings alpha right here. Also, check out our hands-off preview of Europa Universalis IV. And if you were lucky enough to have attended ‘the Platypus Homecoming Event’ on the 7th, let us know about the experience in the comments section below!