Tuesday, May 29

Review: Die for Valhalla! [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While the Switch got off to a pretty slow start with side-scrolling brawlers / beat-em-ups we’ve now hit the point where there are a pretty fair number of quality options available. Defined by arcade classics like Double Dragon, Final Fight, and several other classic series the genre isn’t typically known for its depth but can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re able to play with some friends. Die for Valhalla hits the Switch eShop lacking without too substantial a base challenge to it, but the inclusion of an option to play it in roguelike mode does at least add intrigue and help differentiate it among its peers.


In the game you’ll take control of one of 4 Valkyrie (4 players is cool but the screen gets awfully busy) who have some base ability to attack but are generally very vulnerable in that form… the only one you can truly “die” in. In order to more safely and effectively attack your foes you’ll want to take possession of something. The traps and objects on the screen can all be possessed and have at least some minor beneficial effects, but for the most part you’ll be looking to resurrect fallen viking warriors. Each class plays quite a bit differently but on a general level you’ll have up-close-and-personal warriors, ranged warriors, and somewhat “crowd controllers”. As you play you’ll gain the ability to change your selection by aligning yourself with different clans, each with its own distinct combination of 3 warrior types. You’ll need to figure out how you want to play things, as inevitably once things get intense you may need to opt to go with another class by design or desperation, so the choice very much matters.


In general the action is quite simple, you’ll have a basic attack, a special ability, a dash (that can have a weak attack), a block, jump attacks, and a charged special attack. There are some basic combos that you can get rolling with and the flow with each class is obviously quite different. In particular your special abilities (which have a simple gauge) vary between alternative attacks and stuns to things like setting traps or summoning NPC warriors to your side. Throughout the game enemies will become more varied and formidable and you’ll need to be familiar with tactics to defeat them all if you want to survive. Each of your warriors starts out a bit weak but as you make kills and gain glory you’ll get stronger and more deadly. Between levels every time you gain enough experience to upgrade you’ll need to carefully consider your options as they will absolutely make drastic differences in how you play. Some abilities give you straight stats while others include healing on hit, doing damage when you collect glory, and many other variations. It is this diversity of potential enhancements you get to choose from randomly that help ensure that every run is a bit different.


While you can certainly change up your abilities, your clans, and which classes you primarily roll with the game’s greatest weakness is that for the most part it is simply a good brawler but not necessarily much more. The difficulty does ramp up, and some of the boss fights can be a real grind as you’ll need to switch to different fallen heroes as the ones you’re controlling get chewed up, but for the most part it’s a very straightforward experience as opposed to something like Wulverblade which is far more diverse and demanding. In addition there are times when the game inexplicably stutters a little bit when a new wave of enemies are loading but it isn’t generally a big deal. All that that said, there small are touches like warriors being as likely female as male, that are appreciated and help change things up visually. When you stack that on top of the full selection of classes in the game, and then the clans that define which are available to you it does help add longevity even if you may be treading over the same general ground each time. The fact that you can opt to go roguelike is a nice one, but it also doesn’t change all that much. By far the biggest difference is the finality of your Valkyrie’s death so the tension ramps up quite a bit when your warriors fall.


All in all I enjoyed playing Die for Valhalla for its relative simplicity that really does bring me back to the classic arcade quarter-pumping experience. Paired with some friends it can be a blast to simply maul your way through enemies and then fight for the glory that spews onto the screen at the end of each level. As long as you keep your expectations in check, and don’t count on it to deliver a very deep experience, it can be some good fun for at least a handful of hours of hacking up bad guys and bosses.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A genuine classic arcade brawler feel with pretty basic controls that still have nuance to them
  • Some diversity in the class selections once you unlock all of the clans
  • Ability and stat selection are pretty wide open for experimentation to help each run feel a bit different
  • Your warriors being as likely to be female as male is an appreciated touch

Cons:
  • Doesn’t aspire to be much more than a solid brawler mechanically
  • The roguelike mode is nice but doesn’t offer that much of a contrast to the normal mode aside from the finality of Valkyrie death
  • Occasional hiccups in performance from loading