Vikings: War of Clans Review
Pros: Great graphics, lots of features, gameplay is tried and tested
Cons: Too similar to a lot of other titles, including their own
Recently we got to try out Plarium's newest RTS MMO Vikings: War of Clans, a new city building browser strategy that follows in the footsteps of the developers other titles such as Stormfall: Age of War, Sparta: War of Empires, Nords: Heroes of the North, and a number of other similar strategy titles. In Vikings: War of Clans players take on the role of Jarl of their own Viking town, tasked with building it up to prominence, fielding an army of Viking soldiers and battling against AI invaders and other player Viking clans in PVP.
First impressions, as ever with the majority of Plarium's games, is that the game looks great and it's clear to see the art department worked hard on the title, ranging from NPC and unit artwork to the detail that is put into the animated player town. It's beautifully designed and looking across the settlement and watching the various NPC guards and workers going about their business adds a real sense that you are controlling a living town.
Early gameplay consisted of a simple enough tutorial mode with an NPC character guiding the way and breaking down the basic mechanics and features, particularly constructing buildings and training up troops. The tutorial transitioned seamlessly to the standard game and the tutorial tasks simply became normal "quests", though the quests were generally just tasks you would inevitably be doing anyway but presumably a more efficient path of progression that also rewarded you for completing them. The biggest problem with the quests, and in turn the early game content, is that it is extremely monotonous; there's little else to do than build up your settlement in the early game, which means constructing and upgrading building after building after building. Our quests actually tasked us with building four farms, then four mines, then four barracks, then upgrade various other buildings, then build more and more and more...
The thing that was frustrating is that when constructing a building (and you can only do one at a time) once it gets below around 5 minutes to completion you can rush it to finish for free (normally it costs premium currency) and all our fresh buildings took less than 5 minutes, so around the first hour of gameplay was just constant clicking to construct buildings, it would have been far better if after the tutorial that teaches you how to build if the NPC said "Okay we've got the workers up to speed with what you want and they've made some good progress" and just hand waved all your basic buildings into existence instead of forcing you to pointlessly construct them all. The path to the end game, where all the PVP and exciting game content is presumably at, is paved with monotonous, pointless and simply boring gameplay.
From barracks come troops and we seemingly had a healthy selection to choose from with 30 different troops available, sort of. The troops are broken down into different categories; Melee, Ranged, Cavalry, Siege, Killers and non-combat Scouts that aren’t really attached to your main fighting force, with this there is a rock-paper-scissors element where a unit will be strong against one unit, but weak against the other. From here there are five tiers of units, each tier covering the six categories and so giving us a final thirty different troops. On paper 30 looks good, the more units the more individual strategy and army customization a player has, but in truth we've no idea whether players would use a lower tier troop once they unlock its higher tier version, so effectively players may only ever have 5 combat troops that they choose their army composition from.
There are ways in which to customize your army a little differently and this comes in part from upgrading your Hero character, equipping him or her with acquired or crafted gear and sets, and learning new Hero Skills that allows them to learn skills and gain bonuses and boosts to improve their military and city economy such as improved resource production, giving a long tree of branching skills to progress down. Players can also unlock "Knowledge" through the Oracle building and learn knowledge and gain bonuses and boosts to improve their military and city economy such as improved resource production, giving different trees of branching knowledge techs to progress down.... déjà vu? Yeh, the game essentially has the same system twice, which is pretty confusing, albeit the Knowledge is broken down into different trees and the Hero Skills needing Skill Points, we couldn't see any major difference between the two features and both seemed to offer a lot of crossover.
Combat is as we would expect, build up your army, choose a target from the World Map which would either be the dozen or so inactive level 1 player houses (fortunately players can move their settlement to more active areas on the maps if there are any available "Wasteland" tiles) or resource nodes to replenish stocks. AI Invaders and their lairs can be attacked when specific technologies are unlocked, but mostly the game is a PVP oriented MMO (at least in the later game) and so we get the chance to send out our Scouts and spy on rival players to check out their defenses allowing us to adjust our attacking units composition accordingly. From there, as is often the case with these kinds of MMOs, combat is automated and our success or failure is given to us through a Battle Report listing how well (or badly) we did and our recovered resources.
Vikings: War of Clans is a solid strategy MMO, the features are strong, the graphics are great and the gameplay is enjoyed by a lot of players, which it should be as Plarium have made the same game over half a dozen times. Their "tried and tested" formula and gameplay style has been echoed in the majority of their titles where the mechanics and features stay roughly the same but the new title offers a different theme (Pirates, Spartans, heavy Fantasy). The problem is that Vikings: War of Clans is, unsurprisingly, a Viking theme... but we'd argue that so is Nords: Heroes of the North (albeit a little more fantasy driven as well), and in truth we think that Nords is a lot better, higher production, fully voiced NPCs (with a famous actor) and a higher budget; we're not sure why you would choose Vikings over it without a side by side comparison of all the features to say "This new game is far better" (and honestly we can't imagine such a list would even be possible).
For what it offers Vikings: War of Clans is still a strong contender, some of its biggest competition coming from its own developer, but as that competition is in many ways the same kind of game then for that we can't fault this new title or Plarium for sticking to a design that works for them; as a stand alone game it should definitely appeal to the city building strategy crowd.