TL;DR: You can lead a viking to water, but you can't make 'em play poker.
Combining horses with sharp objects doesn’t usually end up in fun — as anyone who’s seen Equus will agree. However, The Viking Way takes a pretty good stab at the open-ended Viking RPG, especially considering the game began as an indie project by the talented team at Ica Lava Games.
You can lead a Viking to Water, But You Can’t Make ’em Play Poker
The setting is in the harsh, peasant- swamped land of Calradia where many different factions are vying for control – God knows why, as it’s actually a very dull place, with little much else for the population to do except look miserable or indulge in malnutrition. You begin the game by creating a character and by choosing a series of multiple-choice questions about your family and your upbringing, you define a character with a host of stats which range from strength and agility to weapon proficiency and those essential prisoner management skills.
The Viking Way structure is rather like the Mount & Blade games, with a map screen you can use to move your character and any recruits between the settlements, and if you encounter any random attacks, you can choose to surrender or join the battle in full 3D. It’s here (and in the fight-for-cash battle arenas in the larger towns) that you have to employ your offensive and defensive combat skills to survive, using the standard WASD keys to move and the left-hand mouse button to strike enemies or fire arrows.
The Viking Way structure is rather like the Mount & Blade games, with a map screen you can use to move your character and any recruits between the settlements
While the horse handles rather well, the heralded mounted combat is patchy. The archery is OK but largely ineffective with large numbers of enemies, and the sword, knife, ax hits are annoyingly random in their effectiveness (which applies to on-foot fighting too).
Hiring recruits for battles with more than 20+ units, visiting taverns for the local gossip, trading items for more cash, upgrading your weapons and be-hooved companion, racking up quests, and claiming the throne in a bloody coup will provide much entertainment, but they won’t dispel the feeling that despite the horse-based combat, The Viking Way is really an anorexic Mount and Blade clone which is a shame because it could have been so much more.
This game isn’t for everyone, but where The Viking Way successfully wins is to innovate and re-invent the genre, it does a good job of specializing in the Crusades setting. The five leaders’ powers come in handy, the secondary objectives are something that the game makes it worth going back to, and the religious relics are a nice way of working game-like stat bonuses into a 200-year religious conflict that was pretty low on leveling up.
This game isn’t for everyone, but where The Viking Way successfully wins is to innovate and re-invent the genre, it does a good job of specializing in the Crusades setting
The Viking Way just doesn’t reach the depth or the heights of the Mount and Blade series though. That may be an impossibly cruel comparison, but it’s one that’s forced by the blatant similarities of this game.