INTERVIEW: Dustin Hendricks – Creator of Trial by Viking

Admit it, we’ve all wanted to be a Viking and hack our enemies to death with a giant axe. Well, thanks to the new game Trial by Viking (Kickstarter here), you now can. We caught up with creator Dustin Hendricks to find out more:


AP2HYC: What is it about Vikings that fascinates you?

Hendricks: There are a lot of aspects of the Vikings that fascinate me. In a way, they are mysterious. A lot of what we know about Vikings came from those who were attacked by them, so it’s very biased. Only recently have we started finding out more about them from burial site digs. They were brutal warriors who raided European towns, but they were also fearless explorers who reach as far as the new world hundreds of years before Columbus. Some of the coolest characters in entertainment are Viking, which has definitely influenced me. If you ever have time to check out Vikings on The History Channel, it’s one hell of a show, and the characters are very unique and often bad ass. That is what I’m striving for with Trial by Viking.

AP2HYC: Will the game draw from Norse mythology?

Hendricks: Trial by Viking very much draws from Norse mythology. It’s such a rich world to borrow from! While many of the characters and themes are inspired by Norse mythology, the game doesn’t attempt to convey any of the actual stories found in the Eddas. You will definitely find something both familiar and new here.

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AP2HYC: We’ve seen some fantastical creatures in the footage and images. On Kickstarter, you also mention that the player will “come face-to-face with terrors so horrifying that the earth trembles beneath their feet.” Can you elaborate?

Hendricks: Well, I don’t want to spoil too much here, but I will mention that I love playing with scale. I love the feeling of a very small hero, needing to overcome larger-than-life enemies that break all of the previously set expectations from the game. I want you to feel small and terrified, which will in turn make you feel extremely powerful and awesome when/if you finally beat the challenges laid out for you. There are 27 bosses in the game, so you can expect to see a wide variety of crazy battles.

AP2HYC: Can you talk about the art style?

Hendricks: The art style is sort of this eclectic blend of things. It mixes orthographic 3D rendering, with a more retro-styled presentation of the levels. The platforms, for instance, are almost like pixel art, but mapped onto 3D objects. You will notice some 2D parallaxing for the far backgrounds, as well as some lightmapped 3D for the closer objects. The human characters are very stylized and comically proportioned, while the enemies are more gritty and realistic. The contrast creates this feeling of being a stranger in a strange land, which is exactly what you are in the game.

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AP2HYC: Will the game be particularly violent?

Hendricks: There will be blood and there will be death for sure. It will not be particularly gory, however. Probably the most brutal thing about the game are some of the ragdoll deaths for enemies. They sometimes flip about into some pretty painful looking positions. You play as a Viking whose primary actions involve a very large axe, and you will definitely embed it into your enemies’ skulls when you get the chance.

APTHYC: Can you talk about the story?

Hendricks: So the story plays out over 27 pretty short cut scenes. Odin has pulled you into the worlds of the gods in order to help him thwart Loki. Not everything is as it seems, however. There are some twists, and you will have to make some tell-tale-style narrative decisions that can steer the story, as well as decide your final boss and the story’s ending. You will meet a lot of characters, like a viking spy girl and her pet owl, a cynical valkyrie, and a standoffish but wise Jotun. The game has it’s darker moments, but it tries not to take itself *too* seriously.

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AP2HYC: What about the soundtrack?

Hendricks: The soundtrack was put together by a few different groups of talented musicians, and I am trying to create even more tracks using the KickStarter funding. I wanted to give the music a more cinematic, orchestrated feel, with a mood that is mysterious and creepy. There is a bit of fantasy epicness thrown in at times, however, especially during the boss battles. You’ll find that the music changes to a more upbeat tempo battle song when you get near larger enemies, but then slows down a bit when you’re exploring and generally figuring things out about the level. It definitely amplifies the feel of the game.

AP2HYC: Are there RPG elements?

Hendricks: I never know how to classify Trial by Viking because there are RPG elements, and there are Metroidvanian elements, and then some good old fashioned action platformer elements. While there are no experience points or levels to gain, you will get character points after each boss fight. You can use them to boost your character stats like your critical hit rate, armor, and life drain ability. On top of this, you will be collecting sunstones in each of the levels, which you can use to buy equipment such as a frost axe, bombs, grappling hook, or everlasting breath. Some of these items have stat boosts associated with them as well. The interesting thing about the sunstones is that each one has it’s own hiding spot within the game, and you can only get each one once. It adds this sort of treasure hunt element to the game, which can be fun. To help out with this aspect of the game, you also get to see the percentage of sunstones you have already found within each level.

AP2HYC: And the levels are hand-crafted?

Hendricks: I sometimes compare Trial by Viking to Rogue Legacy, because that game was hugely inspirational in the way it handles combat and level design. Rogue Legacy, however, is of course rogue-like, which means the levels are randomly generated. This creates a ton of content, which is awesome, but you do start seeing some of the same situations popping up. In Trial by Viking, all 130 of the levels are hand-crafted, with lots of unique scenarios that you will have to figure out how to tackle. To keep it interesting, you will find lots of objects that can work together to unlock new areas such as switches, keys, air vents, mini-fying potions, conveyor belts, pressure plates, ropes, gears, and all types of hidden areas.

AP2HYC: There are a lot of side-scrolling games on the market today. Does yours stand out from the rest?

Hendricks: I like to think so. I think it has a unique feel and mood to it, as well as some pretty unique level design and combat. I tried to mix the feel of action platforming, like say a Mario WiiU type of game, with the feel of Metroidvanian dungeon exploration. The elaborate story elements also help make it stand out. I think the result is a game where you will definitely not feel like, “oh, I have played this game before.” It’s going to be its own thing, and I am hoping you will finish it and think, I want more like this.

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AP2HYC: Will there be a lot of replayability?

Hendricks: There will be a good amount of re-playability. For the completionists, there will be the task of finding all of the sunstones on all of the levels. On top of that, depending on the narrative decisions you make, the story, as well as the final boss and ending can change, so if you play it again, you might have a different experience. I am also working on adding an online leaderboard for best level completion times, for anyone into speed running. There is a lot of content in just the base game as well, so there will definitely be many hours of play for anyone who picks it up.

AP2HYC: You also say on Kickstater that if fully funded, only a zombie apocalypse will prevent the game from being released?

Hendricks: And maybe even not that. As long as we can keep the power on, I’ll fend off as many zombies as I can.

You can check out the trailer for Trial by Viking below, or head on over to the Kickstarter page.


How does Trial by Viking sound to you? Are you interesting playing? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Davidde Gelmini