Depending on how well you keep your ear to the ground of the gaming scene, you will know that there is a series in which the main protagonist must pay back a debt to a higher being in an earlier instalment, whilst the setting for the most recent game in that series is steeped in Norse mythology, bringing a loot-heavy experience that requires constant upgrades to your attacks and weapons.
That’s right, I am of course talking about Void Vikings!
You weren’t thinking of God of War, were you?
Void Vikings is a 2.5D top-down space shooter. You control a ship named after a Norse god e.g. Tyr, Skadi or Odin and must destroy enemy ships to collect upgrades for your ship. These upgrades can be used to improve your own ship, or they can be melted down for money. Money is the main resource you are wanting though, because – for reasons unknown – in Void Vikings you find yourself paying off your student loan with the funds you make from destroying enemy spaceships.
That’s the gist of things, but I am confused why the team at Ugly Beard Games decided it should be a student loan. Even after multiple loans have been paid off, I am still none the wiser.
At the start of each game you will choose the university you wish to study at, what you are minoring in and – after completing your first loan payment – what electives to add on. All these have effects to your ship such as shield regeneration, starting health and boost duration to name but a few, and these are likely to be the main factors in choosing your ‘degree’.
You can then choose which difficulty to fight against, and this determines the amount of interest your student loan gains (yes interest is a thing in this space dogfight also). The higher the difficulty, the better the rewards but the higher the interest rate. On top of this, the harder difficulties come with a steep curve compared to the Casual and Easy settings.
The item drops you receive from fallen enemies all have randomised stats and are graded on rarity. In the age of looter-shooters such as Destiny, Anthem and The Division this quest cycle of looting and upgrading your ship scratches a similar itch, albeit in a much shallower experience.
These drops do not alter your ships abilities though; these are unique to the ship you choose at the beginning and the only attack upgrades available are on your basic attacks.
Electives are available to use after your first completion and these allow you to increase or decrease cooldown on certain aspects of your ship, in exchange for paying back a higher fee. Other than that though, they don’t offer much more of an incentive to see you bother with them.
What’s more, this whole student loan thing just seems a precursor to the actual ‘meat’ of the game. Complete a campaign – that is, pay off your entire loan – and your ship can enter Valhalla. This acts as an endless mode where there are no longer waves of enemies, and instead you fight for as long as you can, attempting to get on the leaderboard. This is the only chance to compete on a scoreboard, as the first part of the game does not have any real form of competition. Even then though, this leaderboard only shows the top eight scores throughout the world, so you don’t even get a chance to see whether you are making progress up the board by besting your high score.
The ship you pay off the loan with is the ship that you will take to Valhalla, including any upgrades. That gives you a good starting advantage no doubt, but in the endless mode there are no more loot drops available, meaning there is no chance to further your progression.
Graphically speaking and Void Vikings is lacking here as well. From a distance when playing the game, the ship models are distinguishable as to which enemy type they are, but when you see your ship in the Select Ship menu, you begin to see just how basic the designs are.
Void Vikings has 23 achievements, and these are the only things that will give the game any replayability and longevity, delivering a grindy list. There are lots of achievements for destroying 1000 of a specific enemy type, some of which will only appear every five or so minutes into an endless game. Then there are more for accruing $100,000 in interest, which goes hand in hand with the achievement for paying off a total of $1,000,000 in student loans. It is safe to say the fun to be had with Void Vikings will be long gone before you get anywhere near these numbers.
On top of all this, it becomes boring quickly, whilst the soundtrack and overall effects will start to grate also. Perhaps even before the gameplay does.
Void Vikings on Xbox One has some questionable design choices that really hamper the overall experience of the game. The bizarre paying off of student loans makes utterly no sense, but the loot system does tingle some enjoyment out of me – especially since it follows the same colour conventions adopted universally: green, blue, purple and then gold. But then not applying this element to Valhalla mode has again left me questioning the motives of the developers.
There are many 2D space shooters out there – some that have been around even longer than I have – and I would still recommend them over this jumbled up experience.