Barbarians on Facebook: Vikings of Thule brings intense PvP combat
After watching a three-minute long tutorial video, I am ready to pillage. Yes, Vikings of Thule for Facebook is that intense. Developed by Icelandic studio Gogogic, Vikings of Thule places you in the leathery shoes of a viking who escaped Norway and its oppression for Thule, the Nordic promised land. It's your job to settle this land and we highly recommend you watch the video if you want to get good at it. In order to become one of the top 39 viking chiefs in the game, you'll need to train your ability to manage and organize as much as your fighting prowess.
Sneak a peek of Vikings of Thule after the break.
After creating your barbarian, you'll find yourself looking at a map of Thule with almost too many options in front of you and the wailing of harsh winds throughout. Thankfully, the game contains a "Chapters" feature that when clicked will give you small text tutorials for nearly every aspect of the game, rewarding you with small amounts of resources for reading. Scratch that, this game is so intense it has two tutorials.
After reading the tutorials--if you're still interested at this point--you can embark on your very first quest: slaying a Wyrm. Clicking on the dragon in the center of the Map will send you into a small sequence of text and illustrations to set the scene, which do an excellent job of getting you psyched for what's to come. If there's one thing Gogogic seems to know, it's exposition and immersion. After that's through, players will find themselves staring at a large map with various numbered bullet points. Clicking on the highlighted one sweeps you into your first exciting albeit automated battle with a pack of wolves. The comparison of yours and the enemy's stats will decide the outcome. However, these fight sequences lean on the terribly long side and skipping is not an option. So, go off and enjoy a sandwich while your warrior dukes it out.
After a few fights, you'll probably want to do something else rather than sit and watch some flying wolves and bloody scratch marks, so click on the Map and then enter the glowing city icon whose name won't even bother trying to reproduce. It's here that you can access the Quartermaster who sells weapons, the Blacksmith who sells armor and shields and other important features. (This is also where Silver coins, the game's paid currency, comes into play.) Most important here is the Weapon Master. This mysterious fellow will teach the moves you need to compete in player versus player (PvP) combat.
Forget the overcomplicated Land Management system (more on that later), Vikings of Thule shines brightest in its combat. Named the Battlefield and accessed from the lower left corner of the Map, this real-time battle system features a live chat room and random matchmaking service. It's here that players will be able to talk trash and organize matches with one another. Once inside a duel, things happen more strategically than you would think for a game revolving around mindless, bloodthirsty warriors.
Fights are broken down into a series of rounds on what looks strikingly similar to a chess board. While the matches occur in real time, the way brawls go down is turn-based. As soon as you enter a match, you'll notice a wide selection of ability cards (movements, attacks, spells, etc.) with only three open spots for moves. Within the time limit, decide on three moves for your warrior to perform on the battlefield. Then, your and your opponent's moves will trade off turn-by-turn until all three moves for each player have been used. Rinse, repeat and you have yourself one of deepest PvP systems I've seen in a Facebook game to date. Trust us, battles become strangely cerebral when things get down to the wire.
However, Vikings of Thule becomes entirely too cerebral with its Land Management system. Clicking on the icon to the most immediate right of your character while on the Map screen will take you to your property. From here, you can claim new stakes of land in Thule, recruit more peasants and other units to inhabit and tend your land and upgrade your home. This all sounds easy enough, but it's the interface that confuses things. All of these actions require Ore, the game's main currency, and the aptly named "Resources." Ore, Resources and Runes (spent for using special moves in combat) are all found through quests, collecting various "windfall" icons on the Map and defeating opponents in battle.
All things considered, Vikings of Thule is most definitely a social game for the hardcore crowd, which is both refreshing and off-putting. For the genre's sake, it needs new ideas like this game's unique and rewarding PvP system. However, the rest of the game is simply too complex for the average social gamer to grasp. (Hell, I even had to ask around in the live chat to find out what Runes did.) Those looking for some real challenge in their social games look further, but for those trying to kick back and relax, move along.
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