Sons of Valhalla

Sons of Valhalla

Pixel Chest sends players on a revenge quest in this tug-of-war-like strategy game.

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You might be getting a little bored of Vikings in entertainment these days. Everywhere you turn, there seems to be Viking or Norse references or entirely dedicated works, be it Assassin's Creed Valhalla, God of War, The Northman, and even how a lot of JRPGs tend to lean on Norse mythos and references. But regardless of whether you're yet to be satisfied or truly full to the brim on Viking-inspired works, if you enjoy basic strategy gameplay, you won't want to miss Pixel Chest's Sons of Valhalla.

Sons of Valhalla

This is a strategy game about a resurrected Viking warrior who is looking to take revenge against those who wronged him all while finding and saving his captured partner. You do this by upgrading settlements and developing a horde of warriors and then leading them into battle to raze towns and castles to the ground across the UK in the Middle Ages. It's not the story or the narrative that sees Sons of Valhalla stand out, as frankly when you boil it down it's pretty much the same revenge plot we've seen used countless times before, but rather it's the strategic tug-of-war-like gameplay that impresses.

This is a 2D game in practice. You load into a level and begin walking to the right of the screen with the intention of overcoming farms, towns, and then castles, which serve as checkpoints for each level. These checkpoints are defended by enemy soldiers and defensive structures, and you have to use an army of differing warriors to overcome the challenges that they pose. This isn't a tower defence game where you add units to the field that run off and join the battle when you have enough resources to spawn them. This is a strategy game with fortress building systems and unit commanding elements that give the player tons of agency in how they go about their business.

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For example, you could start a level by deciding to upgrade resource-generating buildings to increase the amount of passive resources you earn. Likewise, you can decide to get into the meat of the action right off the bat and build a force of troops and attack the first settlement in your way. Whatever you decide to do, you will have to eventually explore the opposite element at some point as the enemy will attack your settlement and you will reach a point in the level where tougher opposing units get in your way or hardy structures need to be torn down. When this becomes the norm, you'll need a better quality of units, which can only be acquired by upgrading your settlements and the buildings that are found within.

Sons of ValhallaSons of Valhalla
Sons of Valhalla

All in all, the settlement building suite is quite rudimentary but it suits Sons of Valhalla because this isn't a complex game nor a long one. There are only a few levels to work through, and while each can take a good hour to overcome, your settlement improvements don't carry over between levels, meaning you have to start from square one each time. Granted, the process of streamlining your upgrades becomes more apparent as you grow more familiar with the system, allowing you to spend more time planning out attack strategies and figuring out the weakness of the new ally and enemy unit types that consistently make their debut.

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Sons of Valhalla has no shortage of unique units and ways to command them on the frontline as the character of Thorald Olavson. You can tell them to attack without mercy, hold a defensive position, assume a shield wall, and even command individual unit types. When you have melee fighters, archers, special mercenaries, shamans, siege weapons, and more at your disposal, you need to take a firm grip on command, else you'll find archers in the frontline being hacked down by enemy melee fighters. You can help in the fight too, as in the shoes of Thorald you'll be able to hack and slash, block attacks, roll out of danger, and even use various special abilities, all in the effort of aiding your troops and leading them to victory. It's worth becoming familiar with Thorald's kit too, as Sons of Valhalla has boss fights that pit Thorald against deadly foes in a one-on-one match-up. Should you die, you will be able to respawn and return to the fight, but Odin will require you to sacrifice one of your earned or acquired talismans as payment, with these effectively acting like perks that boost damage, health, unit statistics, and so forth.

The main issue that Sons of Valhalla faces is that it can become quite stagnated and repetitive. When the gameplay is a tug-of-war, progress is never quick nor that fascinating. You have to really enjoy strategy gameplay to fall in love with this title, but if you do have an inkling and a knack for more methodical warfare, there's a lot to appreciate here.

Sons of ValhallaSons of Valhalla
Sons of ValhallaSons of Valhalla

The art style is also quite typical pixel artwork but it's packed with detail and works well to bring the world to life. The fact that Pixel Chest has invested resources into giving characters voiced dialogue also goes a long way for its immersive qualities, even if some of the voice acting isn't exactly top of the line. The main problem that the art style faces is that since Sons of Valhalla is 2D and all played on a horizontal plane, in hectic action scenarios everything can merge together, making it difficult to keep tabs on the finer elements of the battles and even where you, as Thorald, are in the middle of it all.

Even though this isn't a game that overstays its welcome, there is already an included horde mode for those looking to hunker down and spend hours building and improving a settlement. It's not the prize gemstone of this game as that goes to the campaign, but it's a good effort to keep you coming back for more.

Sons of Valhalla is a great strategy game and definitely a title worth taking a look at during this steadier April. It's not a flawless project and it has its vices, but the setup, the simplicity, and the minor elements that all work hand-in-hand to make this feel more premium (like the voiced dialogue) and show that Pixel Chest has developed something worth being proud of here.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Quality strategy systems. Doesn't overstay its welcome. Plenty of depth. Voiced dialogue. Simple where it matters.
Can be a little repetitive and get stagnant. Hard to keep tabs on the game during the action.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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Sons of Valhalla

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Pixel Chest sends players on a revenge quest in this tug-of-war-like strategy game.

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