It’s been a particularly busy week for Xbox. Or at least as far as game releases go. Perhaps many are stuffing their games on the marketplace before E3 2018 comes and steals everyone’s attention? Who knows. The bottom line is that many of these games have tanked. They’ve either been cheap senseless cash-cows, or lack any form of innovation and depth. It takes something quite distinct and unique to stand out in a crowd. Does Monster Couch’s Die for Valhalla! manage to achieve that? Put it this way, it’s got me hooked.
Die for Valhalla! is an action RPG that enables its players to take on the role of one of four Valkyrie. The kicker here is that of its interesting possession mechanic. This mechanic allows you to take control of dead vikings and, oddly, objects too. This comes in handy seeing as though the Valkyrie are quite slow and lack that added punch. Players will embark on two different adventures, each of which independently include beat ’em up gameplay and rogue-lite gameplay. There’s over ten viking clans to enjoy and seven viking classes to discover.
On top of this, the game supports local play for up to four players as well as deathmatch and survival. A simple and intuitive tutorial will feed you into the basics of the game, starting you out as a ghostly Valkyrie with the ability to float around, hide in bushes and reanimate the dead. During the initial stages of play, you’re only afforded a total of three different classes to choose from; Sword and Shield, Archer and Berserker. Each of which can serve two main attacks and a unique skill-set to use against the horde of enemies that you’ll take on.
The tutorial also gives you a firm understanding as to how the different items function within as well as some basic moves that you can use, to then later master, before the game lets go of your hand completely. From here, Die for Valhalla! sees you moving from level to level, killing enemies and then taking on a boss. It’s not a terribly hard game to bond with at first. In fact, standard enemies offer very little of a challenge until they begin to horde up against you, which typically tips the scale of its difficulty largely away from your favor.
There’s a wide range of enemy variants within, which helps to keep the game interesting and fresh, which when grouped with the diverse portion of classes, rids the game of the repetition that many like-minded games fall short at. It helps, of course, that enemy behavior also remains quite interesting; enemies that charge at you with daggers, enemies that will spear you and enemies that will lay down bear traps before pouncing on you, to name but a few. All in all, I quite enjoyed Die for Valhalla!’s deep pool of variation.
As you battle your way through each level you will gain what’s known as “Orbs of Glory” which will go towards upgrading your chosen Valkyrie. More Orbs of Glory will be showered down at the end of each level, which offers a nice reward. There’s a choice of four Valkyries at the start of the game, all of which are named after the seasons. These Valkyries can be leveled up independently via stats and general additions typically expected; attack, defense and health. It’s a light system, indeed, but it does enough to get the job done well.
Moving back to the two modes mentioned earlier, beat ’em up and rogue-lite, these largely share the same outcome, however, each mode differs in its execution. The beat ’em up mode procedurally generates a larger world to explore with a more relaxed difficulty curve. Whereas the rogue-lite mode generates a smaller world featuring steeper difficulty curve and perma-death. Yes, that means in the latter, you’ll need to take extra care when playing or else that’s it, you’re screwed. Ultimately, these cater for a wider target audience.
The game has a quirky comedy value to it, which is actually pretty funny and sits well with the cute cartoon-theme. It’s not a game for the younger children by any means, simply due to its gore, but overall, I thought it to be quite accessible and far-reaching. I also quite enjoyed the diverse locations within, which help to retain the game’s variation elsewhere. This is further upheld by its solid soundtrack, which sits in-line with the entire experience. My only gripes sit with the, at times, sudden flip in its difficulty and the lack of online play.
I understand that smaller developers cant afford to run the risk of implementing online play, but Die for Valhalla! seems perfectly suited for online multiplayer. As for the shift in difficulty, Die for Valhalla!, by and large, has a decent difficulty curve. Though, there were a handful of occasions in which the game threw far too much at me to handle, regardless as to how capable and well equipped I was at any given time. Moments like this are few and far between, but when these moments do occur, they break the steady immersion.
The core possession function is easily the game’s most interesting aspect. There’s something oddly addictive about dying or moving from corpse to corpse as you bring them back from the dead to use at will. Combat is relatively easy to utilize and sits more simplistically than that of, say, Wulverblade. I had a blast with Wulverblade and although you would be forgiven for drawing comparisons, Die for Valhalla! is a game of unique standing. Despite its niggling difficulty issue and the omission of online play, it’s well worth a purchase.
Die for Valhalla!’s possession mechanic never tires and remains every bit as addictive as it is enticing. It’s a very accessible game that comes with some intriguing design choices and a great deal of variation across the board. I found issue with a few instances of unfair difficulty and it would have been nice to see support for online multiplayer, but when all is said and done, Die for Valhalla! is easily one to recommend.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.