So you’ve played strategy games? The glory days of Age Of Empires, when one had to tiptoe down to the basement to play the game? Or in the later days, when innovations in video games started, and the first ever strategy game to feature so-called “futuristic” graphics came – Starcraft 2? The days when one had to write down tons of build orders in order to move up the ranked ladder in Starcraft 2? Or when Age Of Mythology and Warcraft brought strategy games to the masses? Or when one had to build big cities in some of the first ever 3D city builders – SimCity? Or the Settlers series which combined both strategy elements and elements of city management to give a perfect combo of hours of relaxation and competition in online gaming?

Well, The “old” glory days are over. People just don’t have the time, and patience for matches which extend for decades (in-game time). But sometimes (luckily) they do manifest themselves occasionally in various forms, including new games which resembles the old games. And Northgard, a city builder with various elements of strategy; is one of them.

For the purpose of context and narration, Northgard is based on the invasion of the frozen North in search of riches by the Vikings. In the unknown land of the North, dangerous creatures abound. Wolves zealously guard untold riches left behind in their caves. Big bears hold their ground near mineral wells wielding gold,copper,iron,silver and other untold resources. There are untold Guardians of Trees that grant immortality, or powers beyond one’s imagination. Draugr the reincarnated soldiers of the Underworld (people who die in a rush to claim resources) guard their burial grounds zealously, eager to prevent intruders from accessing the secrets of the new world buried along with them in their grave.

Even so, the worst enemy on the North are not the native inhabitants, but the weather. Long and harsh winters sap the life force out of the strongest people to land on the North. The ground remains covered with ice for almost half of the year, which means no crops, and reduced appearance of animals in the forests.

Only the bravest survive, and it is the spirit of the brave Viking warriors and the leadership of their elders, which give them the strength to survive against such odds, and to seek out glory and riches beyond one’s wildest imagination.

Full disclosure, currently the game offers a solitary game mode; a Single Player “Skirmish” mode (for want of a better word). There are plans to add a single player campaign mode and a multiplayer mode to the game soon (Mid April-ish is where the dev team is leaning towards).If so many modes are locked away, why even buy the game? It’s simple – the nostalgia of the Settlers series (before Settlers 7 came out and the series became shit) combined with the thrills of living out the “good old days”.

The gameplay options offered by Northgard include Campaign, Singleplayer, and Multiplayer.

The above mentioned mode is similar to “Skirmish” mode in many strategy games, where players play against other AI opponents and try to achieve victory.  The game offers the ability to play against upto 3 AI opponents.

The customization offered by the Singleplayer menu, where players can set their name and color of their clan and adjust the number of victory conditions and opposing AI factions.

The game runs in a fashion similar to the Settlers series. Populace generated from the Town Hall are made to work in multiple roles to help the colony in the North succeed. The player can assign them the tasks as necessary, while idle villagers always tend to gather food instead of sitting still. After all, one has to make up with huge food reserved to survive the harsh winters.

The starting screen in a typical Northgard skirmish (or sandbox)

The player can order construction of structures, which also allows roleplaying amongst the populace. In order for a colony to succeed, there should be a balanced number of people in every role.  There should be hunters to hunt animals, farmers to grow crops, warriors to fight the enemy, healers to heal the people of sickness and injuries, miners to extract minerals from ores, worshippers to gather lore about the North, woodcutters to collect wood from trees, and so the list goes on.

The build menu, from where the player can issue instructions for the construction of buildings. Only colored buildings can be built ; grayed out ones cannot be built. The buildings are grayed out either because 1) the prerequisite buildings have not been built , or 2) the player does not sufficient resources to build them.

The game relies on victory conditions like technological progress from Lore produced, or annexing the territory of the World Tree, or destroying the other players with the help of military power, or achieving the riches the Vikings truly came to the North for, or for acquiring a certain amount of territory and holding it. The victory conditions are flexible, one can easily focus on victory through one option while others can be pursued freely.

The victory conditions offered by Northgard

Added roleplay elements is included in the fact that one gets to choose from a variety of 3 clans in the beginning, each with their distinct characteristics. There are a total of 5 planned clans in the final version of the game. Each clan offers unique benefits,starting bonuses and fame bonuses of its own, which is different from the other clans. Moreover, each clan’s play style differs from one another. The 3 clans which can be selected for playing the game now include – Fenrir, the Clan of the Wolf, the most reckless and the most aggressive, ready to face the dangers lurking in the most remote corners of Northgard, Eikthyrnir, the clan of the Stag, the most adventurous bunch of people, seeking out the treasures of the new world eagerly, expanding their empire on the Frozen North far and wide, adding yet another horn to their crown of achievements, and Heidrun, the clan of the Goat, the most enduring of the all the Vikings to land on Northgard, having the power of building settlements that stand the test of the winters, and surviving in conditions of occasional famine during winter with the fewest casualties.

The clans from which one gets to choose before they start playing Northgard. Each clan has predetermined starting and fame bonuses.

The game itself is a very relaxing one, and takes pace slowly, allowing one to play calmly at one’s own pace. The UI is a relatively friendly one, which means that one can jump from one part of the game to another without worrying unnecessarily. It also displays the number of villagers assigned to each job, which allows easy switching of roles between the villagers. The variety of structures and roles means there is a decent amount of strategy involved in deciding what to build, and when to build. Of course, the actual building part has added concepts of city-builders.

The graphics has a very soothing effect on the brain when played. There aren’t any graphics corruption issues or texture bugs in the game, which shows the amount of polish it has, atleast graphically. The game is also very well optimized, as it runs without a single hiccup on lower-end systems too. The game occasionally freezes when it is writing save data to the hard disk, otherwise there are no unnecessary hiccups that ruin the gameplay experience.

The game’s lack of a tutorial is one of the points to look down upon. It does not do justice to players who newly enter the strategy franchise, who are stunned by a singleplayer screen greeting them without the tutorial option. The game is quite easy to handle, but the lack of a tutorial can put many people off. Also, the game is quite slow, and is not recommended for people who don’t have sufficient time to devote to one game.

The game is a highly recommended one for both newer players having the basic concept of strategy games, and for RTS veterans who like to spend some quality time relaxing in place of remembering hectic build orders. It is a nice addition to the Steam library, as long as one spends time actually playing it, and not holding back on it. However it is not a “add-to-the-library-immediately” kind of game, as a lot of features are actually missing (including a properly functioning multiplayer and a tutorial). But its something to keep on your Watch list in the next few weeks.


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