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Apr 02, 2024

Sons of Valhalla Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $19.99
We Recommend: $15.99
  • Developer: Pixel Chest
  • Publisher: Hooded Horse
  • Genre: Action, RPG, Simulation, Strategy
  • Released: Apr 05, 2024
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

Sons of Valhalla is a side-scrolling RPG and strategy game set during the Viking Age. To be perfectly honest, the comparisons to Kingdom are unavoidable. Though, this is a game that emulates much of that game’s style and gameplay, but iterates on it in pretty significant and impactful ways. Sons of Valhalla brings a lot of new things to the table such as raiding and a full tactical combat system for your hero, just to name a few. Sons of Valhalla may be historic in setting, but offers a future for these kinds of games that we’re sure to see more of.

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You are Thorald Olavson, and as the story goes, you must fight for love and heroism as your home has been burned down and your wife taken from you. After falling from the sky, you’ll traverse the lands of England to reclaim what’s yours, and do what it is needed to get into Valhalla. The motivations you’re given are great fuel for working towards progressing through the story. There are multiple levels as you work throughout the region towards your end goal.

There’s an overarching gameplay loop here: establishing a base, developing passive income, gathering resources, and strengthening your following. It does become a roguelike of sorts, as there’s potential for you to die. In doing so, you’ll be resurrected, but in order to do so, you’ll have to sacrifice a rune to do so. Some runes have negative effects, there are definitely some that are easier to part with when it comes time.

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After resurrection from death, the buildings and what you’ve built up are just as you left them. The only real loss in starting over is giving up a rune, and not much else. As you play, there are things that happen passively, like Vikings fishing for food. Should an enemy make too much headway towards your village, you’ll need to put up a good defense to keep what’s yours. This is true of your own life, dying won’t hurt you too much, but it’s better to retreat from a fight. The guidance to rebuild or replenish over replace is always the best in terms of finances and resources.

Being an active aggressor is just as important as being a decisive defender. You’ll work to chip away at an enemy’s defense and bases by raiding them. Even in a single level, raids won’t work due to their high defenses. This is where you need to work to make the resources to build-up towards full-on sieges. It’s wholly exciting to bring a whole force to take out a whole enemy fort.

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Sons of Valhalla is broken up into regions, separated by six bespoke levels to work through. These levels take several hours to complete on their own. The game will autosave throughout your time playing. And upon exiting the game, will make specific saves. I had no instances where I felt like my time spent was lost at any point.

Commanding adds layer of depth that Kingdom never really felt like it had. You’ll be able to task your mercenaries, melee, siege, and ranged fighters to follow or attack you. Even Thorald has ways to engage in active combat. He can swing a sword, charge a sword strike, throw up a shield in any direction, and even sling arrows. If he needs it, he can eat meat to restore health or drink mead to replenish stamina. Having a hero who can be an active participant in the battle is not only very Viking, but much appreciated.

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Thorald can collect resourced dropped by enemies or from broken structures. Managing the resources is pretty straightforward, with stone, gold, wood, fish, and people being the ones. Collecting enough will let you upgrade existing buildings into something more powerful or provide greater benefits or alternate units from it. There’s a lot of wash, rinse, repeat from area to area and level to level, but it feels like a tangible growth in character as you make your way in achieving your goals and ascending to Valhalla.

There’s an easy-to-read map that shows current town build, where enemies are, and how far you’ve progressed on the map. This allows you to plan and strategize when to defend, or when to attack. As you progress and take over outposts, you’ll be able to fast travel between each of them to make things easier on you, and is simply a nice quality-of-life feature I can’t do without.

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I think aside from the hand-crafted pixel art, the most striking thing about Sons of Valhalla is the bloom. It’s used to great effect here, making each scene really pop in color and light. This is a world that feels lived in, with everything made specifically for the player to see and experience. Throughout my time with the review build, there were inexplicable slowdowns that I couldn’t overcome. The game doesn’t come with a wealth of graphical options, so my ability to adjust something to make it better was non-existent. A recent build prior to release seems to have fixed most of these issues. It’s simply a beautiful game with great gameplay.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Sons of Valhalla may be a Kingdom -like on the outside, but it’s one of the best to follow that formula, while also surpassing it in every way once you peel back its layers. The developers at Pixel Chest clearly love the Viking Age, and this era offers a lot of cool things you’re in total control of. Everything about the game feels handcrafted, except you’re given the tools to craft your own destiny for a fantastic adventure. Sons of Valhalla excels at being a fully fleshed out game where strategy, combat, and role-playing come together to form a viking voltron for the ages.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes