Ladies’ Might: War Of The Vikings Add Shieldmaidens

By Alice O'Connor on May 15th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

I'd let her 'spear' me, if you know what I mean. With my own spear. While hanging from Yggdrasil. To gain wisdom.

Tch! So much for realism. Those silly sausages at Fatshark have only gone dragged their historical man-murdering simulator War of the Vikings into the realms of folklore and mythology by adding fe-male warriors. See, most accounts of Viking ‘shieldmaidens’ come from folklore and legend, with scant few historical records of them, so I don’t even know what they’re thinking. That some might like to play a lady in a video game? Pssh! But fine, whatever, if you want to trash any historical accuracy it had, you can now be a shieldmaiden ‘thanks to’ a free update launched yesterday.

The update added ladies in several ways, with a new defensive spear&shield-y Shieldmaiden class and female faces for all other classes. If you want to customise your Shieldmaiden, though, you’ll need to pay £3.99 for the Shieldmaiden DLC. That also includes extra spears and helmets and whatnot. It’s certainly a better option than charging people to be a lady, and perhaps a decent way to fund ongoing support for a niche game.

It’s not all girls, girls, girls, mind. On the flipside of the gender binary, you’ll also find extra beards in what Fatshark call “the first major update,” along with two new maps, balance tweaks, a 100% boost in the drop rate of coins used to unlock items, bug fixes, and so on.

All men must die.

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98 Comments »

  1. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I endorse blood-crazed women with axes.

  2. Smion says:

    I certainly don’t want to piss them off, at any rate

  3. Michael Fogg says:

    Shieldmaidens are okay, but axemaidens and spearmaidens kick much more ass.

  4. Orija says:

    Well this is all good and proper, but was this worth making an article about. No, “Well, why can’t you just ignore it?”, is not a valid reply when this is the first thing I see when the site opens.

    • dE says:

      Every once in a while, amidst all the angry bullshit, it’s actually quite refreshing to see a raised middlefinger, to the people that try to argue with “historic accuracy” in an attempt to segregate gender in fantasy videogames.

      • Jenks says:

        I’d love to see a game like this (in that I have no intention of ever playing it) add women as playable characters, but with significantly less strength and speed than men in the name of historical accuracy/realism, just to watch the shitstorm that would unfold here.

        • SillyWizard says:

          I think something like that could be excellent, given that a highly-skilled player with the strength/endurance deficiencies still be able to wreak just as much havoc.

          Being pwnt by a lady with reduced stats would add so much insult to the injury.

        • Newt says:

          Reduced strength but increased dexterity/speed?

          It could work.

          • JFS says:

            Morrowind.

          • Zelos says:

            Dexterity for sure, but women aren’t actually faster and they’re definitely a good deal slower in heavy armor.

            Adaptability would be a reasonable trait, but I’m not sure how to express it in a game like this. In other games it could be expressed as an experience or tradeskill bonus, but that doesn’t work. Perhaps one could slot a number of fighting styles, and women get an extra one, or can swap between them faster in combat.

        • carlfish says:

          For full realism, every character would need stats that were determined randomly from a normal distribution. To prevent cheating, you would have to buy another copy of the game to re-roll your stats.

          Sure, you’d have just as much chance of rolling some weakling who could barely lift his sword as you would a massive beefcake, and your ranking in PvP would be mostly dependent on how lucky you were when your character was created, but that’s realism, right? Blame science.

          • Zelos says:

            The majority of your real life “stats” are not determined by genetics except in extreme cases.

            It would be more realistic to assign random ranges at birth with min/max values that can be filled with training. Your genetics are important, but not nearly so much as your training is.

            Incidentally, this is exactly what Pokemon does. You have genetics(IVs) that are based on the stats of the Pokemon’s parents, and training(EVs) that are gained through battle and steroids.

          • RedViv says:

            That also handily shows why the whole idea of differentiating gender by some made-up statistics is silly. You’d only be doing that to sum up differences within the statistical middle point – which EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUALS of neither biological sex would actually be close to. The core anatomic differences wouldn’t even matter then, since you can always work around, say, the biological bias of the STR stat – male physique developing more raw muscle mass – purely by how and where you apply it.

          • Canisa says:

            Let’s not forget the ~40% chance that your copy of the game doesn’t work at all because the person who would’ve been your avatar died before the age of five due to some horrific yet historically accurate disease.

            Or the fact that because re-spawning didn’t exist in real life, you have to buy a new copy of the game every time you die in battle.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Well, then every time one gets hit by a sword, a body part would either chop off or they’d bleed to death. Perma-death, just for historical accuracy.

    • Fox89 says:

      Yes. “Video game releases new update” is a headline (usually accompanied by an enjoyable pun) that is very often seen on this website. For example that Prison Architect one that let you serve time in your own jail.

      The update for this particular videogame in question is introducing female characters to play with.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      A new class, more skin options, and two new maps for a game I’ve known a few people to enjoy? Sure!

    • Penguin_Factory says:

      I’m wondering why this caused you such distress that you felt the need to not only read the article but then comment on it, despite supposedly not being interested in it.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I can feign little interest for MOBAs, but you don’t see me bellyaching about news of their updates posted here just because I personally find them of very little significance. I just scroll past them.

      So, no, “Why can’t you just ignore it?” is a valid reply.

    • Canisa says:

      “Game that was previously identical to about half a dozen other offerings in its genre now might be worth checking out” isn’t worthy of an article? That seems like pretty big news to me.

    • davemaster says:

      This article author is a maximum of half as funny as they think they are.

    • The Random One says:

      “Well, why can’t you just ignore it?”, is not a valid reply when this is the first thing I see when the site opens.”

      Unless your mouse wheel, page down, end, and arrow keys are all broken, then yes, it is a valid reply. Every post is the first thing you’ll see if you open the site for at least one hour.

  5. hbarsquared says:

    That rollover text on the first image is brilliant.

  6. Fox89 says:

    Question! Can the shieldmaidens wear the new beards?

  7. Jerppa says:

    I like drinking beer.

  8. Tsumei says:

    The insinuations that women were in “traditional” roles in viking society have always really annoyed me. It’s often brought up that noone has ever proven decisively that women engaged in combat at the time. But the opposite is also true, there was no god saying “Thou shall not bear arms for thy be weak.” or whatever.

    Besides that there is also evidence that women could be held in high esteem in viking society, considering they buried two women in a massive ship. They literally buried a ship on land, that’s a lot of dirt they had to pile up.
    ( The dirt is still there and can be visited, if you find a random large hill on a flat field to be interesting )

    Rant aside. Glad to see you can play as ladies in this game, that’s always fun regardless of “historical accuracy”.

    Worth remembering that historical accuracy itself sometimes needs scrutiny though.

    • biggergun says:

      You realise that women being in “traditional” roles has way less to do with religion than with economics? God or gods was the last thing that prevented women from becoming soldiers. Common sense says that norse women could be held in high esteem and even rule in case of high birth, and indeed such cases are known. Same common sense says that, as in every other primitive agricultural society, they most likely didn’t go to war en masse, due to basic human biology and of how an agricultural society works.

      Rant aside, I don’t care much about historical accuracy in videogames, go shieldmaidens.

      • Doomsayer says:

        Just because there probably weren’t many women who fought in any one generation, doesn’t mean there weren’t many skilled warriors throughout the years. I find it very implausible that all those stories came about without many grains of truth.

        • biggergun says:

          I don’t agrue agaist single cases, or the inclusion of shieldmaidens into the game for that matter; the stories are most likely based in reality. I’m just saying that most women in viking society definitely were in “traditional” roles.

          It just annoys me no end when people have this hollywoodized version of history where gender inequality or lack of democracy or other injustices of the Middle Ages are precieved as some sort of policy enforced by evil men and otherwise entirely fixable. I’m sorry, but unlike today those stemmed from very real material limitations.

          • Stupoider says:

            I don’t like the anachronisms either. Glossing over the actual wrongs done to women throughout history by deluding yourselves into thinking it was inclusive and accepting screams of ignorance.

            Of course, I don’t think that’s the tone War of the Vikings is going for, perhaps it’s more of a Deadliest Warriors type thing where being a Viking is awesome instead of incredibly, painfully brutal. Lest we forget the treatment that a Viking’s prisoners would suffer.

            Leave the accuracy to films and literature, keep the games fun.

          • Canisa says:

            You realise that men were pulling the ‘material limitations’ argument in real history to deny us various things like voting, economic independence, education and birth control, right up until we got all those things and actually, nothing bad happened at all and those ‘material limitations’ that would surely destroy society as a result never materialised, right?

            Oppression is never presented as “I just don’t like you so I’m not going to respect your rights” because such obvious evil tends to get you killed. It’s always “I totally think you’re great, but there are just these certain objective reasons that you have to occupy a subordinate position to me that I’m going to go to huge lengths to actively enforce, even though it’s supposedly a result of nature”

            You could just as easily claim that if men are stronger and women are more dexterous, then men are better suited to the physically strenuous work of ploughing fields and women are more suited to the complex and fast work of manoeuvring a sword.

          • biggergun says:

            I’m sorry, but opression or not, only women are capable of childbirth. Given the ridiculous mortality rates for both infant and mother up until very recently, women had to be either pregnant or caring for the newborn most of the time, otherwise the population wouldn’t have survived. You may call this opression, but this is a reality of life in an agricaltural society that is constantly in need of workforce – men are expendable, women are not. Is it good and/or ethical? No. But thinking this could have been changed by anything but transition to industrial society is naive.

    • Lone Gunman says:

      Well queen Victoria was held in high respect by the Victorians. Didn’t mean diddly squat for your average female pleb.

    • RedViv says:

      Most women, as one would expect due to biological and society-building reasons, were in “traditional” roles. The question was in which way a woman (and man!) seeking a deviating role would be shunned.
      But after a decade or so of re-examination of Anglo-Saxon and Viking era burial grounds, with much better tools than before (DNA analysis etc.), there’s a pretty consistent deviation of funeral gifts to be seen in both male and female graves, somewhere between 3 and 5 percent. Women with axes and most importantly spears (already established a sign of the Shield-Maiden in literature, due to the phallic-male symbolism of this gift), and men with rich garments and hundreds of beads and finely crafted clasps – both usually previously considered to just be errors due to the skeleton of the partner missing. As the funeral gifts in Germanic cultures are supposed to represent the greatest achievements and the life of the inhumed, this does paint a rather interesting picture.

      If anyone is interested in that stuff, Peace Weavers and Shield Maidens is a really interesting book all about it, and much more.

      • twaitsfan says:

        Right! Doesn’t everyone know that women fighting en masse in wars stopped just about the time we have actual historical records of war participants??

        • ohminus says:

          En masse? Please, point out where the issue is mass fighting. Are you effectively telling me that the game consists of scores of players having their characters trudge in step with a shield wall towards the enemy and NOT, in fact, one-on-one fights?

          The truth is that the game was never a realistic depiction of Viking “wars” to begin with. The truth is also that finely sorting folklore from history in this period is not as trivial as the authors make it to be.

  9. steviebops says:

    Another gender debate? On RPS?
    Well I never.

    • dmastri says:

      Stopped coming here for this reason (and the ever weeping nathan grayson uggghhhh). First time checking back in months. I miss the old RPS and the old crew. You know when it was about games. Not that I have any issue with Alice’s writeup here other than the game being terrible. Chivalry is way better.

      • The Random One says:

        Wait, are you sleeping on RPS’ basement? Because if you stopped coming here, yet clearly ARE here, that must mean you never leave…

  10. 65 says:

    It’s a bit eery as I’ve actually read those exact same arguments (albeit a tiny bit less facetious) about the shieldmaidens in the TV series Vikings. The existence of gods, magic and dragons is taken for granted in that series but female warriors apparently cross the line for some people.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Last time I checked, Vikings didn’t have any dragons or magic.

      • 65 says:

        I don’t know what you’d call the near constant flood of prophecies and visions that are, without fail, coming true but I call it magic.
        As for dragons, we know of at least one dragon (Fafnir), whose demise at the hands of Sigurd is seen as a matter of fact rather than faith. That may not confirm their existence but considering there is magic in that universe, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be believed.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Because it’s a show based on history, not fantasy. The Norsemen’s beliefs are part and parcel of Vikings, but doesn’t mean the producers are suddenly going to start trotting out CGI dragons and soothsayers that can shoot lightning out of their hands. Embellishment can only go so far.

  11. almostDead says:

    What you did there, I see it.

    Maybe try writing for a living.

  12. Lone Gunman says:

    Where are the naked Valkyries that sweep you away to Valor when you die?

  13. Eightball says:

    Obviously War of the Vikings is only a little historically accurate from the get-go, but is it sexist for other, more history-based games to deny gender equality in their portrayals of past times? Is unmodded Crusader Kings II a tool of the patriarchy?

    • Vinraith says:

      I can’t answer for others but personally I find it far more disturbing when otherwise historically-grounded games whitewash the way women were treated in a given era in order to make it more palatable to modern audiences.

      • Canisa says:

        What, as opposed to the much better alternative where because women were oppressed during the equivalent time-period in real life, they just write us out of the game’s narrative altogether? If you’re going to make a game about oppression that actually focuses on the consequences to the people affected by that oppression – for example, Analogue A Hate Story – then by all means, do that. But if you’re just going to make a story entirely about white men that is totally uncritical of the devices you’ve used and scream “Historical Accuracy!” whenever anyone asks you about your narrative choices, that’s less desirable.

        It’s worth remembering that games are primarily a fun activity, if you’re going to subject your players to hardship there should probably be some pay-off at the end – like in Mount and Blade, where you can make a list of every misogynistic lord who shit-talked you when you were just starting out, then when you’re a combat goddess, go through the list selling every last one of them into slavery. That was an exceptionally good feeling. If however you just prevent people from playing as women and all the female characters are totally flat sex objects there is no potential for the player to obtain pay-off from sitting through all that bullshit, which raises the question of why it’s there.

        • Fiyenyaa says:

          I think games don’t have to be about fun, and also that what fun consists of is pretty subjective.
          I play a lot of historical grand strategy games; if I’m trying to win the first world war as the German Empire, I don’t endorse what I’m doing if it were extrapolated to real life (sidebar; not that I find any of the combatants in WW1 particularly worthy of moral support from a modern perspective); I find the challenge compelling, and the satisfaction of completing it “fun” in some way.
          As for the way Crusader Kings 2 handles it; I think the injustice of it speaks for itself. CK2 is not a game with a fixed narrative; you can choose to play as a powerful white man if you want, but you could equally choose to play as an Ethiopian Jew, or a Countess in France, or an Emir in Iberia. The events that happen to you are based on random chance of scripting; they aren’t prescribed to always happen to this character. I don’t think this is made to endorse medieval inheritance law, or the way people treated women 1,000 years ago; I think this is made because the company that makes it strives to make games that are at least rooted in history, if not completely accurate.
          I love it when games don’t have this stuff in; example, I like the world of The Elder Scrolls doesn’t have the same “hey look how downtrodden women are because DARK FANTASY YEAH” that so many things have now. But when they do, I don’t (always) take it as a statement from the creators that historical attitudes should be revived. Much like whenever I read about history, it makes me glad I’m not alive then.

    • Shodex says:

      I love the way that a female player character is treated in Mount & Blade. Noblemen are often rude to you and you sometimes get the option to sass them, with consequence. Marriage and titles are harder to come by. The game changes to reflect medieval sexism.

      I exclusively play female characters for the sake of the added challenge.

      • Vinraith says:

        That’s exactly how it should be in historical settings of that sort. By all means, make it possible to play a female, but make it clear that you’re going to have to overcome some major cultural obstacles to succeed. It makes it all the more satisfying when you beat their patriarchal asses into the ground.

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      In my opinion, if an entertainment product of any kind is going to contain real-life discrimination, it needs to justify it. As it stands, it seems to be the other way around, especially within the fantasy genre. Apparently containing swords and castles is grounds marginalise anyone who isn’t a straight, white male, because history. Historical accuracy is not a good enough reason to marginalise and exclude anyone.

      I’ve spoken to people who don’t think it has any place in fiction. I can’t agree with that stance, as it’s basically stating that some bad things are allowed to be depicted for the sake of entertainment and some things aren’t. Even if I was going to accept such an argument, I’d question any standard that said that discrimination was off-limits, but widespread murder and death was okay.

      George RR Martin gets a lot of flack in some circles because the cultures in ASoIaF are, by and large, incredibly sexist, however at least that’s actually a feature of the books. The discrimination faced by the female characters is a major part of their narratives, not just an automatic assumption. It’s also openly criticised and questioned by the cultures that aren’t like that, such as the Dornish. Same with Crusader Kings or Mount & Blade; the discrimination isn’t an automatic inclusion with a vague nod to accuracy as justification. It’s been thought about and a decision has been made to include it. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating that my self-insert lesbian Mary Sue Viking queen has to marry a bloke and pop out kids for my game to continue, but it’s better than being forced to play as another Generic Gravelly-Voiced Bloke protagonist in a RPG.

      • ohminus says:

        The problem with your argument is that the experience would be a markedly different one in a lot of games for the sheer fact that women would be treated differently. In games with dialogue in a historical setting, the whole dialogue would likely have to be rewritten. That’s often not feasible. So it’s far easier to integrate both sexes in games that are either pure action or are in a fantasy setting. It should be noted that historical societies were organized also around the prejudices they held, and that as such, you can’t simply take out one prejudice without in fact pulling at a loose thread unraveling the fabric of society as such.

        • Shieldmaiden says:

          I may have been less than clear. I don’t particularly want to see real-world discrimination in games, but it’s often there just because of some bizarre idea of realism in medieval fantasy. If you’re going to include it, it should be a conscious decision. Otherwise, gender equality all the way.

  14. kwyjibo says:

    For fans of melee combat, there’s a Chivalry free weekend on right now – http://store.steampowered.com/app/219640/?snr=1_4_4__40_1

    However, I don’t think you can enact violence against women in that game, which probably makes it worse.

    Also, trigger warning.

  15. bill says:

    Where is her armour? It seems highly dangerous and unrealistic for her to fight without armour.
    I can’t see her cleavage or her stomach or her ass, so she’s almost totally unprotected!

  16. bstard says:

    ‘Hey bigtts looking for some action?’ might have an unwanted effect here.

  17. Shieldmaiden says:

    I approve, unsurprisingly.

  18. Darth Gangrel says:

    That picture reminds me of TES: Oblivion, because it also has helmets that look weird on people. It looks like there is a lot of air between the face and the helmet, as if she’s not actually wearing it, but rather has it suspended in the air above her face.

  19. heygoo says:

    Is it just me or is this article a bit too ironic? haha..

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