I never found myself giving high praise to games such as Dark Souls. I often find them to have mediocre designs and never to enjoy the extreme difficulty. I understand the rewards are satisfying but with average gameplay and nothing truly dynamic to offer, I never engaged fully as others have. Still there is something that has captivated millions of gamers into playing these games and enjoying them to a great extent. I wasn’t part of that group until I downloaded the free copy of Volgarr the Viking on my Xbox one, which came out last year for the PC. Did this change my perception on difficult games
Volgarr the Viking sets itself up like a nostalgic classic such as Golden Axe and Ghosts n’ Goblins. The plot (or somewhat a plot) revolves around Volgarr, a Viking Warrior brought back from the dead to concur various locations and slay monstrous foes in order to face the ultimate evil. Like any great classic, it creates a vague narrative to follow and focuses on simple but challenging gameplay . But with some added twists into the mix.
Volgarr works on the principle of the classic 2D side scroller, You as Volgarr can walk, jump, roll and attack within the game world. The controls are all very easy to learn but how to use them tactfully is another thing. You can also throw spears to attack from long ranges and cleverly enough, create a means to traverse the world. Spears can be thrown into hard surfaces allowing you to escalate walls and gain entry to hard to reach places. A great way to obtain hidden goods around the level and also to help overcome certain maneuvers by the larger enemies, such as bosses. These are simple mechanics that can be used rather dynamically to fight, defend and overcome troublesome terrain. A great advancement over what the classics offered in their gameplay and an excellent system that requires both thought and patience to master.
Your health system works on the same level as Ghosts n’ Goblins. Depending on your how much armor you have on, determines how many hits you can take. Volgarr can collect fragments of his armored suit ranging from a basic shield, heavy shield, helmet and flaming sword which also provides higher damage. But if hit once, Volgarr will lose a piece of gear each time. The only way to claim gear and hopefully pick up any better items is to not get hit at all or very little. It’s a system that requires both skill and patience for you to survive and progress with better items. Which can also be rather punishing but produces an intense and thrilling experience to play that will have you cheering when you get that bas ass flaming sword of death.
The game is relentlessly difficult and one that will have you pulling your hair out at most times. Most enemies can be taken out with a simple attack, but all enemies will have different maneuvers and attacks which you will have to learn in order to defeat them. Your shields can take various attacks and your roll will avoid certain others so timing becomes essential to avoid damage. These, along with learning the layout of the level will help you progress as the game works on a trial and error formula. Meaning, you’ll learn some of the map, enemy locations and what to do. Die, start over again and repeat until you complete the level. Everything works on you memorizing the map and its contents, then hopefully perfecting your actions to make sure you succeed. If your a poor learner or not the patient type, you’ll never succeed. It’s a hard game and even after death, checkpoints won’t help much. Levels are separated into two segments with a checkpoint at the beginning and at the half way point. Dying takes you to said checkpoint and even to die at a boss battle, means you will be back to the half way point. Tough love.
So. Was it fun? I must admit, its a very fun game if you respect it enough. It will push gamers to the edge but somehow bring you back with a raw determination to get further and hopefully succeed. Boss battles are a massive pain at first due to the fact that, dying by them means you will have to start again, half way through the level. Its rather an extreme punishment. Yet if you memories the tactics of a boss, you will learn quickly how to overcome his attacks and deploy your own easily. Its a great feeling when you succeed finally. Yet starting half way through the level again, does give you a chance to obtain better items. Only with a lot of patience will you get both the better gear and be able to defeat the boss.
The game offers interestingly enough, multiple paths and endings as well. These can only be gained if the player is highly skilled. Go long enough without taking any damage, you’ll soon obtain strange orbs that act as lives for the alternative path. Collect them and at the start of the next level, you’ll be taken to the alternative path. Completing the alternative paths will reveal the true ending. A mammoth task it is but one that is extremely rewarding and different from many other side scrollers. Volgarr is rather challenging, but due to the simple design and the ability to restart your failure so quickly means this game has a strong, captivating nature that will engross most gamers. It’s a unforgiving journey but one that will grip you and make you relish in victory and rewards.