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Sons of Valhalla review: Fun but short

Sons of Valhalla review: Fun but short

Sons of Valhalla, from developer Pixel Chest, is a side-scrolling, base-building action game. From that description, it may sound like there's a lot going on, but the formula is quite manageable and fun, albeit slightly short with regards to the campaign mode.

Quick notes

  • Beautiful pixel art style with detailed environments
  • Good range of troops and bosses throughout the campaign
  • Campaign is quite short

You play Sons of Valhalla as Thorald Olavson, a Viking warrior on a mission to track down his wife Raya, who has been abducted, and brought to England. After getting shipwrecked, you gather troops and resources to advance towards your goal of defeating the enemy to rescue Raya. Starting off with a mead hall, you slowly upgrade buildings like lodges to gain resources, progressing to basic troop recruitment with the barracks and archery range. Furthermore, you directly go into combat with your army, wielding a sword and other ranged attacks that get more powerful as you upgrade your character. Along the way, you also pick up runes that give upgrades, like granting critical attacks or faster stamina replenishment. Now, it may be tempting to just neglect the base building part, and go Rambo with Thorald, but that will just cause you to die a lot. 

Credit: Pixel Chest

When you die, you get revived by Odin. The downside to dying, though, is that a rune will be taken from you. This penalty is lifted if you play in easy mode, so that's an option for those who want to run through the campaign quickly. The game plays linearly from left to right, like a side-scroller. The boss in each campaign level is on the far right, and you move towards that goal by raiding other towns and outposts along the way. While each level feels pretty similar because of the linearity, the kinds of enemies and town/city defences you encounter differ, and will require you to mix up your units. Controlling units is a matter of issuing commands like “hold” and “attack” to troops near you. I was occasionally frustrated when units rushed forward (to their deaths) when instructed to follow me in a retreat.

Credit: Pixel Chest

Getting to the end of each level rewards you with a boss fight. This is when the games feels the most like a side-scrolling action game, as you have to suss out the boss fight patterns and use your dodge roll, projectiles, and charge attacks at the correct time to defeat the bosses. For me, the boss fights were a highlight, with colourful characters that looked and felt different, one level from the next. However, don't expect the variety and difficulty of bosses from pure side-scrolling action games — this is no Hollow Knight. There is no jump action so that greatly reduces the moves you have to think about.

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Sons of Valhalla is presented using pixel art, and it is done well. The environments change with the progress of day and night, rain and shine. My main complaint is that the campaign is quite short, you should be able to complete it in 10 hours or less. Beyond the campaign, there is also a horde mode with waves of enemies. Overall, its combination of a side scroller and base building works, and is worth a playthrough. Sons of Valhalla will launch on 5 April, and is available on PC through Steam and the Epic Games Store. Its price has not been announced yet.

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Fun but short side-scrolling base-building game

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