Around the time when old Harold was getting one in the eye at Hastings, the Vikings were holding a little sideshow up North. Lots of men with big red beards and names like Thorvin Skullsplitter had popped over for a weekend of rape, pillage, murder and more rape, and Stamford Bridge was the most popular spot for it. They had such a good time that thirty years later they were back for a reunion at Menai Straits, and now you can join in the fun at both events with Challenge Software's strategic simulation, Vikings.
This isn't the kind of game which is going to appeal to arcade enthusiasts: it's a realistic and complex simulation which seem to rely heavily on a good deal of historical research. For instance, did you know that mediaeval battles rarely had heavy casualties, because once one side saw it was losing, they usually ran away? Well, Vikings simulates this historical fact among others, though you can pursue a fleeing army and hack them to bits with your cavalry.
The on-screen graphics are nicely colourful and well laid-out; the backgrounds for the two battles include grass, bridges, roads, woods, walls, undergrowth, buildings, rivers and beaches. Several different types of forces including irregulars, cavalry, infantry and bowmen are represented by different icons, and using the SCAN option from the on-screen menu you can call up a display of the make-up, strength, organisation, morale, experience and armament of each unit.
As you would expect, options for each turn include moving, (joystick or keyboard controlled) firing, choosing to stand your ground and ending to let the Vikings take their turn. Unfortunately the game doesn't have a two-player option, or allow you to take the side of the Vikings.
In order to win you must have three times as many surviving units as the enemy, and you can save and reload games at any stage. What's really missing is any sense of close combat; there's no "arcade sequence" (I know purists hate this sort of thing anyway) and the computer works out all the casualties in each conflict. Sound is absolutely minimal - just the odd beep to let you know that a command has been executed, but what more do you need.
The brief instruction booklet contains a good deal of background information on the Vikings. Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Normans, so at the very least Vikings proves to be an educational bit of entertainment.
Label: Challenge Software Price: £9.95 Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
Reasonably engaging mediaeval strategy bash.