Abyssal Pixels: Where Are The Viking Games?
Historical periods and games go together like milk and Oreos. There’s a massive pool of existing stories that inspiration can be drawn from or it can provide a fascinating backdrop for a narrative. Our world is filled with wonders both unexplained and documented, with a rich heritage just waiting to be explored. Some events in the past almost sound like fiction when you tell their story, but some day long ago, this all happened. It may be over-romanticized or slightly altered through the passage of time, but it still happened in some capacity.
I’d argue that games explore our history better than any other medium. Sure, you can watch a documentary on the History channel (if there are any left) and maybe not fall asleep from the tedium or read a history book which is always the pinnacle of entertainment. Or you can be placed into the shoes of someone living during that time and actually seeing what happened with your own eyes and living that experience.
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There are so many examples of games that take a historical period and expertly rolls with it. The slew of World War 2 games placed us into the shoes of a soldier on the front lines against the Nazi warmachine. Assassin’s Creed may be many things, but one cannot fault their amazing attention to detail when it comes to historical periods they represent. I’d wager it’s possibly the best interpretation of our past that one can experience. Where else can you walk around Victorian London, America during the Revolution or Italy during the Renaissance? The amount of research that went into these settings is staggering with faithful representations of many aspects of that time period.
However, there is one part of history that I feel is woefully under-represented and that is the time of the Vikings. I’ve recently started watching and enjoying the TV show Vikings that tells an interpretation of the Vikings in the past and some of the events that transpired during that time.The show is quite good and explores many aspect of Viking culture in detail. Norse Mythology is obviously one of the primary focus points for the show and they often explore it in great detail.
As a child, I was obsessed with Vikings (the real ones). This ancient tribe of warriors that pillaged places, didn’t fear death and worshiped gods with distinct human characteristics. Their idea of Hell, called Hel, had you freezing for all eternity rather than burn. The concept of Valhalla where if you died in battle or in an honorable way, you will gain passage to a great hall where you will feast and drink with the gods for all of eternity. Ragnarok, the spectacular cataclysm that signified the end of all life and the universe. For an impressionable teenage boy, this was endlessly fascinating even if my resources were limited to some picture books and comics that skimmed the whole “brutal warriors that will murder the shit out of you and steal all of your stuff” part.
As I was watching the show, I wondered about the games that represent the Vikings and I couldn’t really think of many. Vikings are usually represented in PvP multiplayer games or as a faction in an RTS, but there really hasn’t been all that many explorations into it in terms of narrative. The only one I can think of that kind of accomplished it was Viking: Battle for Asgard which was a B-rate hack-and-slash which had some decent ideas and a nice exploration into Viking culture, but was ultimately lacking in mostly everything. The other one is Too Human, a sci-fi interpretation of Norse Mythology that had a you playing a cyber version of Baldur. Unfortunately, the game wasn’t that good with it being woefully tedious and badly designed.
I’m not saying Vikings are completely discarded from games entirely. They always exert some influence on games even if it’s purely superficial. One might argue that the Nord race in Skyrim and the overall aesthetic of Skyrim as a whole is a loose representation of the Vikings. Anything that has a medieval theme to it also probably has Vikings there in some capacity. But there really hasn’t been a stellar Viking themed games that really got into the culture and not just use the Norse gods in a superficial way such as giving them capes and beautiful hair. I’d like a game that didn’t even the show the Norse gods (since they’re not real), but focusing on it much like the TV show does. It’s also perfect for gameplay because the Vikings were great warriors and it can make for some stellar sword fighting gameplay.
I’m possibly missing a really obvious Viking themed game and someone might be shouting at me in the comments, but as far as my memory serves me, I haven’t seen them at all. As I’ve established, games are an amazing way to explore a culture or a historical period in great detail and one that can wield a great deal of entertainment.
Are there any historical periods that you feel are not represented enough and that you would like to see as a game?