Saturday, November 5, 2016

Review: Star Vikings

Star Vikings
Developer/Publisher: Rogue Snail

Upon loading up Star Vikings, you are greeted by the most ridiculous and catchy 80's Saturday morning cartoony intro song I have ever heard. The song was so catchy and over the top that even after beating this game, I still catch myself singing, "Staaarr viikings!!!" then laughing a bit as I remember the silliness that is Star Vikings.


I don't mean silly in any kind of derisive or mean way, but Star Vikings could be a satirical take on an 80's cartoon. My point is, that you aren't meant to take the overall aesthetic seriously, instead when you peel back the layers of this title, you are going to be presented with a clever and challenging puzzle game.

Star Vikings is a weird mash up of Plants Vs Zombies meets XCOM with a big helping of puzzle elements. Well, okay less XCOM, because every shot actually hits when you are standing right in front of the enemy. You get the idea. I know that sounds kinda weird but stick with me. I am going to go over the game mechanics first and then touch upon the more obvious traits of the game.

Starting with the PVZ aspects, the game takes some ideas from the mobile game department and presents to you an overworld map with about fifty levels total. Each planet has different enemy units, modifiers, story based objectives/random objectives, shops, and recruitment stations. Once you select a map you are actually brought into the game itself where your units appear on the left side of the screen. The basic gist of it is kill everything in your way while moving right down five lanes and completing objectives. Objectives can be things like: progress five screens worth of enemies, kill sixty enemies, or open five treasure chests. It all depends on the level and it really does a great job of keeping things fresh.

Just like Chess or PVZ, there are six classes total. Each is dynamically different in the method they deal with enemies, what they bring to a fight or how they move. The six classes are Shooter, Tank, Sneaky, Hunter, Valkyrie, and finally Berserker. This allows you essentially tackle puzzles in hundreds of different ways. Collecting five treasure chests will be completely different with a Berserker then it would be with a Shooter, as an example. It's this gameplay that makes Star Vikings very strategic and makes you think ahead. One wrong step and you will lose a unit. Thankfully, unlike XCOM the deaths are not permanent.(Hint hint Rogue snail, Ironman mode)

Enemies are also constantly changing their method of attack and the game is always upping the ante by introducing new threats. As an example is the addition of traps, or mimics.

Now the way the game reminds me of XCOM, is that not every one of the six classes are always going to be the same. You can recruit new vikings with all sorts of different innate buffs. These guys come with a heftier recruitment fee. I should mention gold and fuel is earned through completion of levels. I personally had a Striker and a Shooter with the ability to avoid death 50% of the time, this was vastly useful, but very expensive. The recruits/innate buffs are all randomized based on a timer that switches out what is available .

On top of that there are MORE customization of your units, as each class has a skill tree that changes how the class might attack, or buff fellow allies. Just like XCOM, as your units level, you pick one of two abilities and this really gives you the opportunity to craft a team and strategy of your own design. It's really awesome watching your Vikings become their own person that looks nothing like their base class. This gives the game extreme replayability and longevity for those of you that like to find the best min/max for class builds and team builds.

I am not done yet though, there are also hats that come with other innate bonuses which add to your characters stats and modifiers. But wait, there's more, you can purchase/find items that you can use in battle to give your Vikings an edge.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like just a silly game about Vikings does it? It sounds freaking awesome. and it is. I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity and level of customization with my units. The puzzle aspects of the game continuously shine because of this, as there are a million ways to deal with a situation. It's like Chess but if your Pawn could suddenly do a backflip and throw an acid grenade, or your Queen could pull out an uzi.

My Vikings stare down a lone survivor.
There are some obvious strategies that do make the game rather easy, but I won't divulge those here. I mention that because by the end of the game I had my perfect five Vikings and nothing could stand in our way. To keep that from happening to often the game adds modifiers to certain stages. Normal stages are easy to plow through, but you begin to find levels with a fog modifier, plus five health, and plus two damage, suddenly all your best laid plans are getting put on hold.

What I am trying to basically sum up for you is don't judge this book by its cover. Star Vikings has its silly side true, but there is a deep game here.

The other areas of the game are going to be a hit and miss scenario from player to player. Funny is subjective and as Edmund Kean put it, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." The game gave me a chuckle a couple of times and when a Viking bares his buttocks to his enemies, that is going to make me laugh. Are all the jokes funny? No. The animation style is very 80's cartoon and that isn't a bad thing. The battle animations are more of the PVZ variety with explosions, zaps, and other cartoon like effects. Again this isn't at all a negative for me but it is going to be up to you if you enjoy this style.

There is a minor story here about a Viking called Thork and his quest for a holy relic that he thinks is a table wedge, but I think that is best savored in game. 

In other areas the game is exceptionally well made. This comes from the team behind Chroma Squad, Relic Hunter Zero, so the attention to design, UI, and controls are top notch. Not once did the game crash on me nor did I have any issues whatsoever. The controls are extremely simple and this game is very child friendly. You could use this game to introduce young kids to puzzle, logic and strategy games. The music, as mentioned before, is really quite catchy. Sound effects all have their proper amount of gravitas behind them.

The one thing I did get caught off by was that this game is extremely mobile friendly but isn't, as far I am aware, on any mobile devices. I would've loved to play this on a pad device while sitting on my iron throne. The game is extremely addictive and I really hope that a mobile version is in the works. There is a leaderboard in the game but it mostly is for Trials of Valhalla, a level where the modifiers are constantly rising. I didn't play it all that much. I am not super competitive, but it is there.


For the low price of $10 you get about eight hours of gameplay out of the main story. There are plenty of side secret levels and things to experiment with, giving replay value and obviously the levels are procedural. There are Steam achievements but no Steam cards. The game is criminally under rated and think that this title was lost in the avalanche of Steam games. It's not changing the wheel for gaming and it is probably not super innovative, but it does things in its own unique way enough to warrant your attention.

So if you are looking for an adorable puzzle/strategy RPG to take up your time, give Star Vikings a chance and it might make you smile.

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