February 22, 2017
Welcome to Northgard brother, a land filled with mystery, danger, riches, and warring clans of Northmen who have set sail to explore and conquer these new shores. Will you bring fame to your clan, writing history through your conquest, trade, and devotion to the Gods, or will you be defeated, meeting Odin in Valhalla? This is my review of Northgard, an early-access Strategy game from Shiro Games.
In Northgard, you are in control of your Viking clan, seeking to expand your borders and conquer the land. You must defend yourself from various beasts and other clans who are all fighting for territory. The story follows Norse tradition, but in strategy games like this there isn’t much story-line to be had outside of using influences from the Viking Theme.
Northgard is a strategy, city-building game. You start off by picking one of the various clans, each of which have a unique bonus that can help you win. The game is currently in early-access, but the developers plan to add at least one more clan to the three existing ones by the time of release, which is expected to be late 2017.
After choosing your clan, a map is randomly generated and you are given your initial claimed tile to begin your conquest. This is all live, not turn-based like Civilization, so you must act swiftly so you don’t fall too far behind.
Using your villagers, you must gather various resources, construct new resource buildings like a logging camp or merchant quarters, build new houses to increase your population, and ensure you have enough wood and food to survive.
The game has a weather mechanic that adds an interesting element to the game. Every winter, your camp will consume more firewood, and food production is extremely nerfed. This means you must choose your expansion items carefully so you don’t over expand too quickly and starve over the winter. You can mitigate these effects by corralling sheep, and researching various traits that will help you survive more efficiently.
Outside of the elements you have to battle, there are natural events that will occur as well, setting fires to building, causing food to be infested by rats, and more. You’ll get a warning about the event coming up, so you can prepare, but sometimes the warning is too late and it can really mess up your game if not cause you to completely lose if you aren’t ready.
Finally, you have various NPCs that will attack you, and three other clans as well, all fighting for dominance. You may see a tile with wolves or a bear in it, and you will want to send warriors to fight and kill them. If you don’t, they have a random chance to enter your borders, attacking and killing any workers you have there.
The other clans are fairly difficult, and in typical strategy fashion (and in the current build), the AI cheats a bit. It seems like they always want to attack you over each other currently, though some balancing will of course happen as patches come out. You can win through one of multiple win conditions, which include defeating every other clan, owning a certain number of tiles and gold as an expansionist, researching all the great research items, and possibly other ways to come.
Honestly, the gameplay was great for me and I found even the easiest difficulty a challenge at first due to my lack of recent time spent with strategy games, but after winning a few times I stepped up the difficulty to normal and still found a great challenge.
Visually, I found the game to be quite beautiful. In strategy games, you often overlook things like graphics up to a point, because you have a top down perspective and aren’t getting in close to view every detail as you would in a first-person game.
Northgard, however, still gave a good show. The workers have great animations, the modeling is well done, and the textures are pleasant as well. I was impressed with it from the start, and while it’s not as detailed as some AAA games out there, it’s still a great showing with its own sense of character.
Moving into audio, I found the sounds in Northgard to be very pleasing. The light soundtrack, the various commands and voice acting you hear from your workers, and sound effects of battles, it just all plays well and really left not much to discuss. There wasn’t much more I could have asked for here either, as I feel this is a really complete game at this point.
Replay ability wise, Northgard has all the typical things you’ll find in a strategy game. Really, you can play it as many times as you like, trying the various clans, new strategies, and attempting different win conditions. There’s over 30 achievements on Steam if you’re into the achievement hunter route, and best of all, the game is in early-access still which means you are getting a complete game you can play over and over again from the start.
The developers do plan to add multiplayer support in the future by the time the game is launched as well, which means you can play against real players, which we all know in strategy games is where the real magic happens in replay ability. The AI is great, but there’s nothing like playing against another human being.
Overall, I truly enjoyed Northgard. This is a game I purchased myself, where the majority of the games I review are gifted to me by a publisher or developer. I bought this knowing it was in early-access, but is a complete game as it stands now. I’ve not had any issues or bugs personally with the game outside of a patch that caused the game to crash on me at startup, but they fixed this quickly and I’ve never looked back. For $19.99, I feel the game is worth the price as it stands. Knowing they are adding additional features, at least one more clan, and multiplayer support makes this a total buy for me if you are into strategy games like this.
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