Note: The mobile version of the game was launched in 2015. The browser version was released in early 2017. This is a review of the game on both platforms. Most screencaps are taken from the mobile version of the game.
Within the same genre as many of the recent Clash of Clans spin-offs, Vikings: War of Clans is a breath of fresh air in the freemium real-time strategy game market and can be played on either mobile or in your browser. You play as a Jarl, a Viking tribal warlord, and you along with your town’s hero are tasked with building up a powerful fortress, acquiring resources, rallying armies, and leading raids on neighbouring settlements.
Once you’ve mastered the basics you can build alliances by joining clans, upgrade your hero by slaying mighty monsters, and improve your forces with potent gems, as well as conduct (and defend from) raids on rival towns.
Being an isometric real-time strategy game most of the gameplay centers around fortress construction and improvement. You must construct buildings which either support, create, or upgrade your army and fortress hero on preset plots. From there you’ll find yourself in a race to build up a military force, superior to your rivals, and then deploy it to capture additional resources to supplement your reserves.
A basic economy system of five resources – food, lumber, iron, stone, and silver – is present. Resources are produced from associated buildings i.e. food comes from farms, lumber from lumber mills, ext.
However, after a few hours, I found that resources being procured from raids and quests to be just as valuable and indeed necessary to advance. The most important resource, though, is time. The game is structured in such a way that all building or combat unit construction, as well as all upgrades, take up an increasing amount of time to create as your fortress becomes more advanced. So learning how to think ahead and on your feet, simultaneously, is a must.
Occasional reward time bonuses can hasten the building and upgrade process. Alternatively, you can complete them instantly by spending gold. Of course, gold is the rarest in-game good and I found that it’s easy to too quickly spend, particularly if you’re impatient. However, for just a few real dollars you can buy more bullion along with sweet bonuses and other resources.
For the most part, there are no real fantasy elements, such as dragons or frost giants to contend with. Instead, everything centers around strategic time and resource management along with well-coordinated troop deployments. It is for this reason and the isometric format, I would consider Vikings to be a sort of lovechild of the Civilization and Age of Empires franchise.
Ease of Play
The learning curve is quite low so virtually anyone can download this game and enjoy it with ease. In fact, with a combination of the helpful hints and one-touch shortcuts which re-orient the screen directly to upgrade or build locations, this game almost feels like it was designed by a team of engineers who started their careers at Apple. Consequently, some people may really appreciate (or intensely hate) this streamlining user-friendly feature.
On of the first things I noticed after downloading Vikings was its visuals: they are truly gorgeous! Everything is bright and colourful so you don’t have to worry about not noticing a particular location due it to mixing into a bland location.
The isometric backgrounds are 2-D but blend well with the moving 3-D character models. Given the style of the game, character animations are limited and mostly serve as ambience. However, the character animations that do exist are fairly fluid and are aesthetically pleasing.
As with any historical fantasy game all buildings, avatars, various other icons are era and culturally appropriate. Yet they all possess a sense of epic grandeur without being ostentatious.
As this is a real-time strategy game, improvement of individual characters take a backseat but nonetheless later become an important component of Vikings. When you begin the game you start with a Hero unit who leads your raiding forces. Said characters abilities, skin, and name can be customised, and their arms and armour can be upgraded with rare items. Exposing your hero to single battles with monsters and invaders will garner him (or her) with experience much like a basic RPG.
Initially, investing time and resources to upgrade your Hero isn’t needed. Building up armies and your fortress will take precedent. However, as you progress, your fortress level rises and you join a clan, having an upgraded Hero will give you a much-needed edge during intense PvP raids.
Multiplayer is fairly straightforward and consists of either solo attacks on or defending assaults from nearby towns. Alternatively, you can conduct coordinated attacks on rival clans with your own. Clan battles can be local or global and center around controlling coveted Places of Power.
As previously mentioned, Vikings: War of Clans is a free game which you can get on iTunes or Google Play app store. It is also available as a no-download-required browser game. And as I also previously mentioned, Plarium loves to up-sell the player more gold, other resources, advanced combat units, and various bonuses for real money. To be clear, you won’t have to spend any money to have a good time playing but as the gameplay becomes more complex and as your fortress level improves, putting up some IRL coin is highly recommended.
As for the most important MMO question “is Vikings buy to win?” I’ve come to the conclusion that (technically) yes, it is. Or at least as much as you can “win” an on-going strategy game.
Most packages are reasonably priced, being around ten dollars, but are often discounted at half off.
The biggest gripe I – and a lot of other people on the interwebs – have for this game is the repetition you’ll eventually find. Within a few hours, you’ll do nothing but build constructs, upgrade said constructs, occasionally create combat units, then continue building constructs, and finally, upgrade said constructs…again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
So unless you pony up a considerable amount of money to speed things up, you’ll probably hit a lull between raids about five hours in where you are staring at your mobile device waiting for construction, upgrades, or unit recruitment to finish.
However, this time mechanic can be advantageous as it allows you to play in small snatches of time throughout the day, rather than devote an inordinate amount of time to this game in a single stretch. It’s perfect for us filthy casuals!
Overall, I found this game to be strangely addicting. Since Vikings: War of Clans is based on constant improvement interspersed with action, this game is ideal for both casual gamers and a select number of hardcore RTS strategy devotees. That said, I’d recommend investing a few hours, or upgrading your fortress to about level seven, before you decide whether or not to commit. From there you should join a clan, start getting into intense PvP battles and perhaps even step your game up with some real money upgrades.