The games through Games with Gold have been relatively simple, of late. There hasn’t really been anything difficult on offer from the initiative, with possibly the hardest game being Halo: Spartan Assault. Though that was only hard because it was bugged to high hell. And it was shit. That was until Volgarr the Viking, that is. Volgarr seems to be a completely different beast. It’s retro gaming at its best, but it’s a modern game. However, there is no ‘modern twist’ to this game. It’s tough, it’s unforgiving, it’s relentless and it’s the most frustrating game I’ve played in a while. Overall, it’s perfect.
I used to love playing games like Sonic, Mario and Metroid. Those games are absolute classics. They don’t make them like that anymore, though. Games these days are all about checkpoints galore and constant saving, or tutorials every five seconds. Developers pretty much hold your hand through the entire process, with games like Dark Souls and Lords of the Fallen as exceptions to the rule. Volgarr, however, is a hark back to the games of old. In fairness, there is a ten-second tutorial scene in which you have to learn how to jump, roll, move and attack. But that’s it. From then on, you’re on your own to discover everything by yourself. There’s no warning about certain enemies, how many times you have to hit them or how difficult they are to hit. There’s no advice about how best to tackle a boss, and there’s only one checkpoint per level. You don’t even get a health bar, you just rely purely on your armour for protection, until it gets hit off of you – then you’re screwed.
I love games like that, mainly because I relish the challenge. I’ll sit and run through the same level on Volgarr, dying and restarting repeatedly until I’ve timed every attack, every enemy movement and ever puzzle sequence to perfection; because that’s the sort of gamer I am. I like perfecting my runs and doing the best that I can before completing a mission, and Volgarr really plays into that obsessive nature of mine. Volgarr really reminds me of those classic games on the N64, or the Megadrive. They were intentionally difficulty (mostly because games were short and, were they too easy, you’d complete them in a matter of hours), but I know that this sort of game isn’t for everyone.
Often, with tough games, I’d tell you to stick it out, to keep on pushing because it’ll be worth it once you get through it. But the problem with Volgarr is that the struggle is part of the fun. There is no rest-bite, it’s relentless. But once you complete a world, the sense of satisfaction you’ll experience is unparalleled. You have to struggle through it, otherwise it won’t be rewarding. But that’s why I’d say that, if you’re not enjoying the struggle, you might as well give up and move on. If you’re not that kind of gamer, you won’t enjoy Volgarr; it doesn’t get any easier, people!
So I’ll say this. If you like a challenge, and you think that you can get on with the constant death and lack of checkpoints, then I beg you to play Volgarr – it’s one of the best modern-retro games I’ve ever played. But, if you’re easily frustrated and you’re not a fan of a challenging challenge, then you should probably not bother with this game; Volgarr the Viking will probably break you.