***Update as of 01/03/2021***
It’s not often that I report on a game and actually receive feedback from the developer when my experience turned sour, but I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what Plus Infinity Studios did when I first published the preview below. After reaching out to offer me the chance to play the game as intended, the man behind the code put together a Sunday morning session in Midjungard that was absolutely teeming with players and updated content. While I’ll dive deeper below, I am pleased to report that despite some lasting issues, this game has solid legs and is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
I need to correct several mistakes in the original assessment before we dig into the meat of my new experience. First, this is not a battle royale game in its current state (though I’ve been told that feature is being strongly considered). My first assumption that it was had been predicated on the fact that each match featured a wall of death confining players to a certain portion of an otherwise large map. While I had criticized the death wall for failing to constrict and being about as offensive as a bug bite, I have since learned that it was not meant to shrink (and the damage it deals has since been boosted a considerable degree). I’ve also had it clarified that in terms of a relation to Tolkien, Midjungard takes the Tom Shippey approach and focuses less on magic and more on the Norse underpinnings. This was a deeper dive than I expected but I found it rather endearing.
Personal failings aside, we can now turn to my time in the game as the developers intended. My primary gripe with Midjungard during the first foray focused solely on the deserted servers and lack of alternative gameplay. Having now had a chance to experience the bloodshed, I can confirm that hacking and slashing my way across a series of Viking ruins and fishing docks was both extremely exciting and ultimately gratifying. Perhaps some of this was built up in my head after having spent enough time in solitude wishing I could crack skulls, but I think the lion’s share of credit here goes to the developers. Ranged attacks required a sizable degree of accuracy and close combat resulted in panicked riots of steel plate and screaming. Yet amidst all the chaos was an underlying need for strategy, for knowing when to run (or roll, if you’re on fire) and when to press the advantage, and in that I found a fantastic balance.
Perhaps it had already been on their minds (or perhaps the original preview provided some impetus), but the developers had also implemented plenty of timely fixes prior to my Sunday morning escapade. Among these included adding fall damage, sprinkling in additional player sound effects, increasing the health/stamina/magic bars on the HUD, and renaming the teams from Red and Blue to Hetjur and Draugar (Tolkien would be proud), among adjustments to stamina regeneration, respawning, recoiling, and about a dozen other small but noticeable tweaks. Whether these updates were spurred by critical feedback or picked up on during playtesting, the rapidity with which they were implemented shows a great deal of care on the developer’s side and a dedication to their game post soft launch.
Now sure, some of the loot chests were still floating and almost everyone in our little band of heroes experienced a crash at one point or another, but I’m willing to believe these are not insurmountable problems. What I was more concerned with was both future content and public outreach, and while my worries weren’t sated when the developers mentioned microtransactions (though they insist Midjungard will never stoop to a pay-to-win model), they did lay out a convincing plan to shine more light and attract the public’s eye. Filling the servers will be an uphill battle, but I can begin to rest easy knowing it weighs on their conscience and keeps them up at night.
I will always be willing to forgive half-baked projects so long as their owner continues to care about them, and Plus Infinity Studios has done a fantastic job reinforcing that notion. At the end of the day, I am a single, tiny voice in a sea of millions slinging their opinion across the Internet. I am of no significance and possess even less power, but the team behind Midjungard took the time to seek me out, set up a play date full of other combatants, and quickly implemented changes I pointed out not days before. I cannot begin to tell you how important that kind of action and mentality is. They didn’t respond with anger or insults when I criticized a project two years in the making. Instead, they bent over backwards to make sure I was able to experience the game the way they had envisioned it. They took the time to explain things and listen to feedback.
For this reason and the fact that the combat really did get my blood pumping, I will continue to follow Midjungard as it evolves. It has a solid team of developers behind it with an aggressive schedule and plenty of promised content, and I hope the community at large recognizes the potential I had missed in my first look.
Original Publication: 12/30/2020
Early Access will forever elicit a mixed bag of emotions ranging from sheer admiration to utter contempt. On the one hand it’s a wonderful opportunity for smaller developers to exhibit their wares and gather community feedback. On the other it’s a haven of half-baked ideas and derivative copycats. Plus Infinity Studios’ new team-based battle royale, Midjungard, unfortunately falls in the latter camp, delivering a lackluster experience devoid of both interesting gameplay and player interaction.
Midjungard’s Steam store page labels it as a “Tolkienesque Multiplayer Game set in the primeval world of a pre-Viking Midjungard,” and while at first glance it’s clear that this game has nothing to do with The Lord of the Rings, the two do share similarities in that there’s too much walking and not much else. The glaring absence of anyone in the single available lobby turned this game from a battle royale to a subpar walking simulator. The Early Access disclaimer does state that online player matchmaking is still yet to come, but then it goes on to note that 3v3 multiplayer PvP is already available. Assuming the latter means I should be able to play online with others in its current state, Midjungard is by all means a ghost town at its soft launch (and we all know how well that turns out).
Given that I was utterly alone without a friend in the world, Midjungard gave me plenty of time to analyze every other detail apart from player-to-player interaction, and what I found was far from promising. Combat seemingly boils down to spamming one of each player’s two attacks split between two ineffective weapons, alongside a ranged attack with limited ammo that has all the impact of a stiff breeze or a slight insult. Stamina seems to drain only when players jump or roll (so sprint and hack to your heart’s content) and fall damage seems to have been completely forgotten. Players can also employ special abilities by using up their magical Brugga, but as far as I can tell this just gives you a chance to light your enemies on fire.
Loot chests can be found scattered throughout each level (usually floating around forehead level) and contain health and magic potions, ranged attack refills, and attribute upgrades. It’s a bit odd to see “+5 dexterity” as an item in your inventory, but I suppose they had nowhere else to track the various in-match upgrades given the noticeable lack of a character interface.
Being a battle royale clone, Midjungard employs a map barrier to reign players in and force confrontation, but despite the wall of death being described as “fiery, flesh-eating insects” that will consume the player alive if they step outside, all I found was an irregularly timed health deduction that chipped away with all the ferocity of a single hungry gnat. It doesn’t help that the barrier is also several miles off the ground in some portions of the map and doesn’t seem to actually constrict in size, but at least it’s something spooky to look at.
The apparent highlight of each match (apart from killing members of the opposite team) consists of battling your way to an altar in the center of the map to claim a comically oversized hammer and morph into Grimace from McDonalds (if he put down the nuggets and hit the gym for a week). Players who are lucky enough to grab the fabled Urhammer, or me every time since I was alone, transform into a raging beast that for all intents and purposes appears to have the same kinds of attacks with less mobility and more body odor. In an amusing twist of irony, this hulking trashbag of magic can turn invisible and sneak up on players, which is by far the funniest part of the game since it’s about the size of a Mack Truck.
Midjungard also sports some fairly questionable design choices. The player’s HUD is in a current state of panicked disarray and for some reason displays a mini-map and a separate compass even though the former includes directional notations and the latter tells you absolutely nothing useful. The match timer seems to skip a beat every few seconds and the on-screen weapon slots are so much bigger than the health/stamina/magic bars that it leads me to believe the developers thought we might forget about the giant battle axe in our back pockets for more than a split second. I’m also petty enough to note that these teams of superhuman mythical creatures battling in a dreamlike world of ancient power are quite literally called Red and Blue (Tolkien would be so proud).
From a visual perspective, Midjungard looks like a great example of randomized asset plastering. The developers tossed weathered fishing docks, medieval villages, grassy meadows, and ancient ruins into a blender and poured out a mishmash of oversaturated set dressing for players to explore, and none of it feels natural. The most glaring visual issue, however, is the overly aggressive lens flare that will absolutely blind you at any given turn. This isn’t helped by the fact that there are only two available visual settings for adjusting overall quality and presumably the amount of foliage. The sound effects aren’t much better and only stand out for being excessively repetitive.
Midjungard hit Early Access far too early and with absolutely zero effective advertising, which is the perfect recipe for disaster when your game relies solely on the multiplayer experience. Maybe things would be different if I actually got to play as intended, but my patience is thin and my time is valuable, so spending three hours nitpicking everything else is all I can give a game that refuses to give me anything back.