What with God of War, Hellblade and now Die for Vahalla, I feel like I’ve moved to Scandinavia, taken up residence next to Thor and live just around the block from Odin.
This game however is not frightened to poke a tongue out and give a crafty wink to the whole mythology surrounding everything Norse. But is it worth a table at the great hall of Valhalla? Or is it doomed to that lonely cold walk to the realm of Hel?
Die for Valhalla is a 2D action brawler that provides plenty of action and non-stop fighting for your money. You play in the land of the Vikings where a monstrous portal has opened. The Great Old One is plotting to take over the world, and novice Valkyries – along with their new mysterious friend who takes the form of a floating cloud – set out to save the world. And it is up to you to choose from four Valkyries to fight it out on a stage by stage journey into battle.
Now when it comes to the fighting this is where Die for Valhalla really excels. You can fight as the spirit of the Valkyrie if you want to, but I wouldn’t really advise it. Not when you can do the one thing that makes this game a bit special; giving the ability to possess the graves of fallen Viking warriors. Yes, you heard me, you can reanimate the dead!
A quick hit of the relevant button will see you bringing to life a berserker, swordsman or archer to fight the good fight for you. The controls are simple enough to get used to, but like any decent experience it will take a while for them to be mastered. You do however have a simple attack that is complimented by a special, an ultimate super duper attack, an escape/dodge option and a shielded defensive move. You’ll need to use all of them too as the enemies come thick and fast and it’s up to you to weave in and out of the attacks while destroying everything in your path. You can use the environment to help your cause too, for example using traps against the enemy or exploding barrels to knock them out of play is very much par for the course. But be careful because when your Viking dies, you have a short amount of time as the Valkyrie to reanimate another dead Viking, else it’ll be game over.
Completing stages allows you to level up and here there are two options; the first seeing you add a new skill, like an extra attack ability, whilst the second sees you actioning a sort of puzzle section where you choose tiles that could gift you extra points in terms of defense, spirit or attack. It’s a very ingenious system.
In fact, the whole gameplay is both enjoyable and challenging, with a big old range of enemies flying at you constantly. As with anything, it isn’t just about the little guys though and when you stumble upon a boss battle, you’ll find yourself up against a creature that fills the entire screen, leaving you to take in a big breath and go at it. The multiplayer element is great fun too, and I think this is very much where the game really comes to life with utter chaos happening all at once. And for as much as you’ll enjoy the gameplay, the writing also shines, with its throw away humor, but quite dark storyline. It has to be said though that you may start to tire of the level structure as you approach the 3-hour mark and may well wish for another dynamic, but it was never enough to stop me playing.
The visuals found in Die for Valhalla are cartoony but work really well with the gameplay and tone of the whole story. I love the designs of the characters and especially enjoyed the boss levels. The cutscenes between each stage are fun and nicely drawn too. There is also a damn fine, addictively pumping soundtrack that runs on a seamless loop throughout, one that had my girlfriend commenting “THAT REALLY STICKS IN YOUR NOGGIN DOESN’T IT?” Yes, it does. She’s right you know.
Die for Valhalla is a very good game, one that, if I’m honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to overly enjoy – but you can’t go much wrong in purchasing this little Norse wonder. Multiplayer is a blast and single player won’t let you go, even though you might get tired of the grind about halfway through. There’s also a neat story to be found and the cast of characters that keep reanimating are delightful, with some very original game mechanics on show.
I’m glad to be back in the land of all things Norse again, so much so that I feel like I should buy a big axe and tie my hair into plaits.