A tl;dr haiku:
Eats time through difficulty.
Also, flaming swords.
There are certain camps of gamers who complain about difficulty in modern games. Not that they are too hard, but rather too easy. Old gamers who are for some reason disgruntled that intense challenge has ceased to take central focus in games. These old gamers, with their long white beards and walking sticks, declare loudly and often about how all these new games are too damn easy nowadays. Well, turns out, someone was listening. Specifically, Crazy Viking Studios was listening. And they responded by producing Volgarr the Viking: a fantastically well-designed game for Windows that permits no crutches, punishes mistakes, and grudgingly tolerates success.
For a game I haven’t able to progress in further than the second level, Volgarr surprisingly never crosses the threshold into frustrating difficulty. By that, I mean I don’t feel like I am getting cheated when I’m reduced to a pile of exploded meaty bits. The controls are tight, but unforgiving. Jumps have a specified jump arc, which force me to actually look before I leap. I’m completely well-equipped with just my sword and javelin to tackle any challenge in the game. It’s just a matter of quickly analyzing (or memorizing, with how bad I am) enemy habits and actions in order to attack and defeat them without eating a face full of death myself. The game isn’t as unforgiving as a single blow spelling death. It has an armor upgrade system, wherein I can find chests with items in them. These are upgrades which allow me to take an additional hit before I’m in danger of being killed. The items are preset. From unarmored, the first chest gives me a wooden shield, then a metal shield, then a helmet, and finally a flaming sword, which doesn’t give me any extra durability, but grants a significant boost to my damage. Once again, I find myself impressed by the design of the levels in that the chests appear often enough to give me a chance at obtaining full upgrades, but not often enough to allow me to simply chain armor throughout the levels.
Speaking of the levels, the ones in Volgarr are pretty lengthy. Not in terms of time needed to complete a level (if you know what you are doing) but in how far I have to go before getting a breather. There is a single checkpoint in the first level and I haven’t even able to make it to the second level’s checkpoint, if there even is one. To add to this, the game has to be fully completed in a single session. If I close the game, progress is reverted back to the first level. So much for sleeping on a tough portion and coming back to it later.
As one might expect, there isn’t much of a story to this game. Be a viking, kill monsters, get treasure. The graphics are sprite based and while the monsters designs are decent, they actually have has a tendency to look a bit fuzzy at times. There’s also nothing particularly extraordinary about the music. In fact, after my first forty minutes of dieing or so, I ended up muting the game music and putting on my own.
Volgarr is a fun game to play if when looking for a challenge. It’s simple and easy to learn, but you’ll probably spend a lot of time dieing before you start making real progress through the game. Its weaknesses, the below-average graphics and bland music, are often forgotten due to the excitement and harshness of the gameplay. It’s one of the cheaper games available on Steam and definitely worth a look.
Comments? Complaints? Leave a comment below and let me know!