Preview: Sons of Valhalla Demo – User Article

Preview: Sons of Valhalla Demo - User Article


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Featuring the 2D pixel art roguelike base builder tower defense action game Kingdom (in the check) I already had a lot of fun in 2015. 2018 appeared with Kingdom-Two Crowns (in review) the co-op-enabled successor. The expansion was last released in 2021 Kingdom – Two Crowns: Norselands (in the test).

with Sons of Valhalla the German developer Pixel Chest would like to blow a similar horn. After the “2D base building strategy game” was funded via Kickstarter in 2022, it is now part of the publisher Hooded Horse’s portfolio. From February 6th you can play the new demo as part of the Steam Next Fest, which consists of the complete first level and offers, among other things, a revised rune system. I was able to play a sample in advance and tell you what to expect.

The story is told in fully voiced cutscenes and dialogues. It is very classic and therefore refreshing. The look reminds me of 80’s fantasy and classic The Black Eye.

Revenge story with a mythological twist

The story is initially a very classic revenge story that fits the scenario and is not written that often anymore. While you, Thorald, were on your way, your Viking village was raided and burned down. Many members of your clan died and your father died as a result of his injuries. But you can still save someone: Valgard took your wife to England. And by the way taken some slaves. Of course you set off to rescue her and take revenge while your brother takes over the business at home. However, the crossing does not go according to plan. Your ship goes down in a storm and you drown. When you meet Odin, you learn that your time has not yet come. He sends you back to Midgard. Not just to save your wife, though. Because apparently the worlds of men and gods are in danger and Thorald might be the salvation for both of them.

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The game’s mythological approach also explains why there are runes that you can equip on your belt in different categories, for example to increase the fighting power of your warriors or the profitability of your production buildings. And he explains why you can always start over when you die. If you die in battle, you will find yourself in Odin’s Hall. There you have to sacrifice a rune to keep the balance. That’s not so bad, because runes can drop as loot. Then it goes via Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, back to Midgard.

base building

In the demo, the entire first level is playable. You only have one tent at first, you can equip yourself with meat (provides healing) and mead (regenerates stamina) for free. A ship from home is kind enough to drop by regularly and bring you the resources hacksilver, fish and wood. You also have two building slots. When you are at the construction site, you can use the radial menu to decide what to build. Available are fishermen, lumberjacks, barracks (trains melee fighters), archery range (trains archers), forge (new items for Thorald) and siege workshop (catapults, rams).

Provided you have enough resources, you upgrade your main building twice. You can then recruit more troops and get two building sites each, so that you can build each building once in a fully developed city. Or you tear down the barracks in the safe city at some point and erect another production building. After upgrading the main building, you can move the other buildings up. Units are then trained faster. You can also research better and better buffs: faster fishing and chopping wood, more storage space, faster attacks by melee fighters, better blocking chances for shield bearers or a longer range for archers. The expansion of your settlements and the improvement of your troops and Thorald are of enormous importance if you want to get through the level successfully.

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The interface is convincing. In the lower bar you get a rough overview of the locations (triangle = city, rhombus = base), underneath you can even see individual units, more in close range.

Combat system and progression

Your enemies keep attacking you. With Thorald you then intervene in the action yourself. You can block, punch and force punch, shoot arrows and roll. Later, you throw javelins, for example. But you won’t get far on your own, you’re dependent on your men. Basic warriors cost one slot, others like shield bearers also cost more.

Once recruited, you can give your men various orders, such as stand still, follow you, or attack. Then they always seem to fight their way to the next entrance or, if it’s yours, the exit of the next town or outpost. Unfortunately, you can’t send all newly recruited guys to a specific location. To give commands, you open a radial menu and select the command. Unlike when you select your ranged weapon, the game does not pause. The ground below you will then glow with runes and you can move before you give the order. All units captured by the runes will carry out the command.

During the fights, I mostly tried to eliminate the enemy archers first. It also works quite well to shoot enemies from towers. With a headshot you send your enemies straight to the afterlife.

You control production and research in your buildings via the radial menu. You can also do multiple research/recruitment at the same time. But there is only a queue for troops.

As you fight towards the end of the level, you can liberate the cities and outposts already mentioned. To do this, you must clear the area of ​​enemies and wait a moment by the flag in the center. In the first level I liberated two outposts: a farm and a logging camp. Like a city, they regularly produce resources, but you cannot expand them. You can exchange fish or wood for hacksilver. You can expand the newly conquered city as normal. At the beginning I had to get into the game a bit and find the right balance between attack and expansion phases. I lost the first outpost again on the normal difficulty level. But as the game progressed, my troops and I fought more and more efficiently.

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Sons of Valhalla really appeals to me in terms of setting and look. No wonder: I also really liked Kingdoms. And the orientation to Kingdom is unmistakable. But there are some differences: In Sons of Valhalla you don’t have to train your subjects to get resources. It’s also more transparent. In Kingdom, many mechanics weren’t immediately obvious, even if they were often somehow logical. For example, the horse’s stamina builds up when it eats grass. In addition, there is a very clear interface. By ship you can fast travel between your cities, but not the outposts.

I also like Thorald’s direct involvement in the battle, making Sons of Valhalla noticeably more action-oriented. When really large troops meet, it can get a bit confusing. The fact that Sons of Valhalla also relies on boss duels is exactly the right consequence. The magical buffs via runes and Thorald’s “revive” fit very well into the gaming experience thanks to the story.

I had a lot of fun in the almost two hours in the demo, like you can also be seen in my English language video. If you like 2D Action, Vikings and/or Kingdom, you should check out the Steam Next Fest free demo available February 6th not to be missed.

After almost two hours I finished the level and with it the demo with an exciting 1v1 final battle.