Shiro Games has a pretty good game on their hands with Northgard, a viking based real time strategy that is out on early access on Steam. Those of you out there that have read my reviews in the past, know that I have always struggled with real time strategy games. I just can’t handle the micromanagement aspect that many of these games require. While Northgard may feel shallow to the hardcore rts gamer out there, it felt almost perfect to me. Northgard is still underdevelopment, so what we received was the early access version, and only the skirmish mode was unlocked. Like many of our other previews, this information is based off of the version that we played, and could change in a later build or even upon release of the full game. Because only the skirmish mode was unlocked, I’ll have to skip my typical review of the story, and move right into game mechanics.
You start a game of Northgard by picking a clan: Raven, Stag, Goat or Wolf. Each clan has their own bonuses and advantages, making a game against other clans asymmetrical. When the game begins, you begin in typical fashion as many other rts games on the market, with a few peons to gather food and a central building. What makes Northgard immediately different is that your peons will also serve as your Scouts, Warriors, Healers, Traders, etc. You will select a peon and give that person another job, and they will become that person. You don’t create more warriors to invade a neighboring section, you assign peons to the warrior job, and then set out to kill your neighbor. This gives you quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to organizing a work or attack force, but it also means that your resource production will be severely hampered if you suffer major losses in a fight. To make things even more interesting, your peons can’t be bought, but you gain one every few weeks or so as long as you have enough food and happiness in your village.
Another big change over your typical rts games, is that you have to conquer sections of the world in order to expand your territory. That means you have to send out a Scout to discover new sections, then pay the expansion cost before you can build your expansion. Each section also have a building limit, so you will need to constantly expand if you wish to keep on building. Your workers and military will automatically go about their business and won’t just stand around waiting for you to tell them what to do. This feature, alone, made me love this game. The workers will stay in their section, but will continue doing the job you assigned to them.
Northgard also includes a time tracker, that tracks the changing of the seasons. As winter approaches (brace yourself), your food and wood production decreased while your consumption of these resources increase. Some years will have harsher winters than others, so you will need to pay attention to what the winter will look like. This will change how you will behave in September and October. You might find a new land with some enticing resources, but may not want to expand if it’s October and the winter outlook is particularly harsh this year.
Northgard also let’s you choose your path to victory, which is something that I hadn’t seen in any other rts game before. Usually, you fight until either you or your opponent is too decimated to continue. In Northgard, you can still bury many an axe into your opponent’s skull, or you can win by reaching the Trade, Prestige, or Lore Victory requirements. Each one of these has different requirements for victory, and really allow you to customize how you want to play Northgard.
Northgard is going to be a very good game, once it actually released. Even in Early Access, Northgard is looking top notch. With the addition of a single player campaign and multiplayer (both coming soon), Northgard will quickly rise to the top of the current rts games on the marking for people like me. For the hardcore of you out there, Northgard may not feel as deep as other games on the market, so you may or may not find the game as top notch as I do. I love how the game allows me to focus on the actual game itself, instead of worrying about what each and every little knucklehead is doing across my land. Northgard is currently on Steam Early Access for $19.99.