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Hello! Ragnar son of Jarl here, to tell you about my adventures.
An average Ragnar moment.
So, I’m at home in the village, about to be formally sworn in to join the Odinsblade for proving myself as a warrior. Ulf insists on fighting me first, because he’s like that. Was like that. That’s the next bit, see. Soon as I’m in, we get word that Conrack has betrayed us and razed Kopperud, so we sail over to stop him. Turns out he and Sigard are have thrown in with Loki – actual bloody Loki, no less – and kill the lot of us with an evil spell.
Next thing I know, I’m miles under the earth in a flooded cavern, face to face with Odin himself. “Warrior,” he says, “you don’t die here. You’re my main guy now. Conrack wants to begin Ragnarok, so I need you.”
“What must I do?” I ask him, all respectful like. He pauses. Good with the pauses, is our Odin. Then he looks at me. “Ragnar, you’re a Viking warrior, the last of a clan murdered by a traitor.
“Fuck shit up.”
I paraphrase. But barely.
You don’t get much clearer than that. He didn’t even need to elaborate, and it’s not like you can really argue with the all-father. So, I picked up whatever weapons I could find, climbed through those caverns and ruins, and plain rampaged across pretty much the entire known world, murdering absolutely everything in my path. It was a lot of fun, I’ll tell you that right now.
It might sound simple, and sure there were a few times where I ran out of momentum and got a bit lost, or stuck trying to fathom where the hell I was supposed to be climbing next. More than once, I felt like I wasn’t quite in complete control of my body, and my arms refused to grab onto obvious ledges, and it felt like I’d died a dozen times in this spot before, through no fault of my own. But the sheer joy of swinging and hacking and leaping and occasionally flinging swords was irresistable once I’d got into it, and while puzzles aren’t my thing, they helped break things up and gave me time to catch my breath.
It’s very much like a late 90s FPS, but with swords instead.
After escaping from that cavern, I fought my way through Hel (easily the worst part, those bloody undead warriors getting up again every time without a perfect decapitation. Screw Hel), the goblins, the dwarves, Conrack’s human lackeys (this was a highlight. I dunno, humans are just more fun to fight. Plus we do better mead), and on and on, picking up bigger and better weapons the whole time, until that final confrontation with the Trickster. It felt like a real epic adventure, befitting the situation and the threat facing the world, and by epic I mean “like an epic”, not just pompous and bloated to absurd length. Each new realm led comfortably to the next, with big dramatic appearances from Odin or Hel or a particularly shouty Viking popping up now and then, and everything felt enjoyable cartoony and melodramatic, from fending off warriors to chugging healing mead and shattering the flagon on the floor in one smooth motion. I even managed to beat one guy to death with his comrade’s arm, and made a habit of throwing heads around just because I could. Sound sick, but it was all too colourful and charmingly silly to feel gruesome. I wasn’t a Viking warrior, I was a VIKING WARRIOR!!
Lop off a skellie’s head and he’ll run around swinging blindly.
Odin helped by knocking over a few obstacles with his laser eyes (because let’s face it, of course he has laser eyes) and guiding me to his Runes of power, which gave me more life force or magic, and imbued each weapon I found with a new magical attack, one launching massive boulders, another adding their life force to mine. I could have done with more of that, really, as it was a bit hard to find much magical energy. Variety was a bit of a problem too, I soon found a couple of weapons plain better than anything else, and once the dwarves showed up, there was no point even trying to use anything but the giant weapons. That first couple of hours in Hel got pretty tedious too, there’s only so many times you can fight the undead before getting bored. The scenery was surprisingly nice, but soon became another reason that breaking into a new area couldn’t come soon enough. It did at least give that moment when I broke free to the surface a bit of extra impact.
The platforming set pieces are occasionally frustrating.
Still. I can’t say there’s ever been an experience quite like it. Typically when you pick up a sword, you’re in for a nerdy experience about having bigger numbers than the other guy, or don’t even have direct control of your swings and movement. This, though? This was all me. Running and leaping from platform to platform, climbing ropes while the cavern below floods with magma, dodging in and out of arm’s length to block an axe and clock an opponent on the bonce, that’s what fighting should be. None of that combo memorisation, light and heavy attack nonsense. Just move and swing and jump and do whatever it takes to see your blade connect. It was a refreshng change, and while certainly a challenge, there was an underlying sense of humour to it that kept things from ever feeling too serious. When I fell for a simple trap set by some goblins taking advantage of my curiosity, I couldn’t help but laugh and admire their cunning, and bludgeon them both to death in a distinctly friendly way. It’s not exactly sophisticated, but what can I say? Sometimes all you need is an endless parade of righteous, over the top violence and magic, egged on by the giant rumbly head of Odin.
Take back your personal space, Ragnar.