Viking Squad, a lane-based brawler developed by Slick Entertainment Inc., drops you into the boots of a viking warrior. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable beat-em-up experience with precise combat, tight controls, and a rewarding progression system.
First things first: Viking Squad isn’t a story-driven game. The viking narrative is one that’s rich with lore, drama, and seriousness, but you won’t find any of that here. Rather, you’re just a regular viking on a humorous quest to re-open the gates of Valhalla by recovering a series of gems stolen by the mischievous Loki. Simple, straightforward, and just enough to push you from one beautiful locale to the next.
Your quest takes you through environments ranging from dark, frigid caves to cemeteries, rooms covered in purple gloop, and even to a boxing ring, and all of them are pleasant and charming to play through. Plus, the cartoony graphics are a perfect fit for the silliness of the game, and the soundtrack that alternates between ultra-relaxing ukulele tunes and soft rock-and-roll does a superb job of rounding out the atmosphere. Solid level design backs up all of that, with each area featuring a happy mix of obstacles and enemies that keep combat lively and fun.
Loot, Pillage, & Smash Everything That Moves
That brings us to what Viking Squad is all about – beating stuff up – and it’s a grand time. Combat takes place across four vertical lanes – you’re free to jump and dodge between them at will, but so are your enemies. It’s largely a game of pattern recognition and good timing, though you can brute force your way through some fights, especially with the ability to guzzle potions as needed. Still, potions aren’t exactly in high supply until later in the game, so there is some element of resource management until you reach that point.
With four characters to choose from, any player should be able to find a comfortable fit, and they play differently enough to warrant spending at least some time with each of them. You start the game armed with a few basic attack combos and a more powerful rune attack that’s on a short cooldown timer. There’s one more attack that more or less wipes out everything on the screen, but you have to collect four orbs and spend a few coins to activate it. The orbs aren’t extremely rare and they can be purchased in town, but it does take some time to build up a charge. Overall, your attacks are varied enough to keep combat fresh, and they provide multiple ways to approach a fight.
One of my biggest gripes with this type of game is enemy diversity, and I have to say that it’s not bad here, though similar areas feature one too many re-skins. Later levels do offer new enemy types, but the attack patterns don’t really change enough for anything to feel truly different. As a result, it starts to feel a little samey as you move towards the end of the game. Frequent boss fights do help to shake up the monotony of beating up similar enemies over and over, and although they’re quite enjoyable, only a few require a substantial amount of focus and skill to best.
Of course, you can’t have a viking game without looting and pillaging, and Viking Squad has plenty of that. As you complete each level, you’ll collect two types of currency: treasure and coins. There’s a town hub area that you can sail to between levels where you can spend both. Treasure upgrades your character’s stats and can be used to purchase new pieces of equipment, while coins let you buy potions, keys that open locked doors and treasure chests, and more. Coins are persistent across levels, but unspent treasure disappears upon exiting town, incentivizing you to move to the next level without a town stop.
ONE STEP AHEAD OF REPETITION
Viking Squad edges back and forth across the line of repetition, but never fully crosses over to the dark side. There are just enough elements in play to keep the experience exciting and prevent the sad slide into boredom. As you level up your character, additional attack combos unlock and your rune ability strengthens and evolves. There’s also a generous amount of equipment to collect in the form of weapons and armor, and each piece comes with its own set of strengths. Neither changes the core equation of the game, but together they do enough to encourage you to continue fighting.
You’re also free to repeat past levels for extra treasure as often as you like, and unless you’re a pro, there are times when you’re going to have to do this. I found the difficulty jump between areas to be mostly reasonable, but I did occasionally revisit previous maps to build up my stats and collect enough treasure to buy stronger gear. Most levels come with a mystery area to unlock (and usually a good laugh along with it), however, and that alone makes them worth replaying.
Just in case you’re still worried about repetition, there’s always co-op mode. I ran solo for most of my time with Viking Squad, but I have to admit that the three-player online and local co-op definitely spices up the experience. It’s a lot more frantic, but it still feels balanced and the enemies scale to the number of players. Add a beer or two to the mix and you’re in for a satisfying Saturday night.
Viking Squad is a genuinely fun hack-and-slash affair that doesn’t take itself too seriously and always manages to stay one step ahead of repetition. The story is so minimal it’s not even worth mentioning, but it’s not the main focus of the game. Brawling is, and even though it doesn’t stray too far from the usual, it’s done well. Combat requires timing and coordination with a splash of resource management and the loot system gives you a reason to keep pushing forward. If you like side-scrolling beat-em-up style games, there’s no reason you won’t find a good time in Viking Squad.