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As tragic as it is when a youngster loses his/her way in this crazy world of ours, at least there are a wealth of alternatives at the frustrated parent's disposal. Time outs, groundings, military school in Alaska, or even a good, old fashioned, politically incorrect spanking. But with no naughty stick to whack it back into line, what do you do when an otherwise promising game has no direction?
It's a question that somebody apparently couldn't answer for Valhalla Knights, an RPG that had enough potential, but sadly comes out mediocre. Real-time battles, random enemies that you can actually avoid, and heavily customizable characters all sound great. And we’re happy to report the character progression, consisting of classes and sub classes (Fighter, Mage, Priest, Machines to name a few), and battle system both work well enough in execution, even if all it amounts to is a brutal hack-and-slash-a-thon.
But Valhalla Knights gives you veeery little direction as you start out. A generic passerby will give you the vaguest of tutorials, but what he won’t tell you is that after accepting a quest, doing anything other than speaking to a specific, yet unspecified guild member who will give you the details leads to an exercise in utter frustration.
In fact, tedium is in high supply. Tons of the quests are random or stupid side missions that you'll have to do anyhow because you need the money to hire more party members. You have to slog through many dungeons multiple times because people keep sending you back to them for lame reasons. Early in the game, you’ll encounter an obscene number of doors sealed by an “unknown/strange” force. Eventually you’ll topple a tombstone that’ll inform you that a door has opened… somewhere. But since you’ve already come across 50 or so doors, that’s like calling 911 to tell them a crime happened somewhere in East St. Louis.
Characters and guild members are introduced unceremoniously, and what little story is present, involving your main player's loss of memory and speaking in ellipses, won't be enough to keep most players mashing buttons. Not that we consider all thumb workouts unnecessary, but if enemies are going to successfully melee attack you regardless of their proximity, rendering any dynamic evasion moot, it makes us wonder why they didn’t just keep it turn-based. Maybe it's because watching your entourage scurry around stomping ass is still kinda fun.
It's likely Valhalla Knights will either lead to you pulling out your hair in consternation at its difficulty, or have you convinced you're doing something wrong. It’s a hard-lined dungeon crawler of the strictest caliber, and that's fine for anyone simply looking to fell a couple hundred skeletons or trolls in the most painstaking way possible. But it would’ve been nice if Valhalla had been something more polished and player-friendly; something that acknowledged that this genre has evolved since its inception back in gaming's Viking days.
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