Vikings! Who doesn’t love ’em? The rampant success of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim should speak to the all-encompassing appeal of these mighty warriors of the north. Today we’re going to look at another Viking adventure…though it’s a bit on the unusual side. Valhalla Hills is less about beating things up with Vikings and more about looking after them like a concerned Viking parent.
Valhalla Hills is, at its core, similar to the classic Settlers series. As Leko, spurned son of Odin, you’ve got a civilization full of Vikings to run but you’re not capable of controlling them directly. Instead, you sort of guide them along their way by placing buildings and paths, nudging them in the direction you want to go. They’re relatively bright, but if you’re the type of gamer who wants to have your hand in everything your minions do you’re probably going to get frustrated quickly as they’re working on their timetable instead of yours. Expect your Vikings to get distracted by shiny things on the way to work. Expect to wish that you could slap them.
You’re a city administrator rather than a general here. Your primary focus is on ensuring that your Vikings have their needs met in order to perform their best. Placing buildings near necessary resources ensures they’re collected and processed effectively, using workshops allows you to upgrade your Vikings’ gear and so on. Once you’ve got a solid, efficient infrastructure going, you can then get some warriors together to go and lay waste to your foes, should you choose to do that.
The goal of each stage is to get through one of a series of gates to Valhalla; you can approach this in a violent way through obvious means or by offering sacrifices and gifts to the spirits that guard the gate. Either option is viable, though I found combat to be my preference…these are Vikings, after all! The basic gameplay loop expands but doesn’t really change throughout the game, so don’t expect the frustration from your guys failing to do your bidding effectively to abate anytime soon. There’s also an Open mode available if you’d like to mess around with various buildings and upgrades without having to go through the campaign unlocking things.
Graphically, the game is adorable, boasting a sort of paper cut-out look that’s immediately appealing. The Vikings, pains in the butt they might be, are immediately appealing with their Asterix-style helmets and beards, and the randomly-generated terrain certainly looks like places that these Norse warriors might inhabit. The soundtrack is equally full of Viking flavor; basically, Viking fans have little to complain about here!
Valhalla Hills is a cute and enjoyable game if you’re able to temper your expectations going in. If you’re looking at this as an RTS about crushing your foes with giant axes in the traditional Norse way, well…sorry, not really going to happen. It’s closer to a city-builder like Simcity, a game where each level is a puzzle pushing you to design the most efficient settlement possible to accomplish your goals. If that sounds appealing and you can deal with some frustration from your bearded servants, Valhalla Hills might be the game for you!