Northgard is a Real Time Strategy game that puts players in command of a Viking clan who, after years of traveling, finds itself in the mysterious land of Northgard. In this land, filled with bountiful resources and dangerous creatures, clans must not only survive in their new surroundings, but also bring fame and glory to their newly-built civilization. You can colonize key locations on the map, document the history of your clan, or even conquer other clans looking to achieve the same goal. Inspired by Norse mythology, Northgard sets out to bring a fresh take to the genre by introducing new and interesting mechanics, wrapped in an intriguing theme that well-complements the gameplay.
Northgard is now live on Steam Early Access. In this current build, players have access to the Vs. AI portion of the game and can pick from three different clans, each with their own perks and talents to choose from as you progress through the game. These features allow each clan to have its own identity by specializing in generating a specific resource that’s vital for victory.
A game of Northgard can be won one of three ways. Players can either generate enough fame through colonizing areas or defeating enemies, generate enough gold though organizing trade routes, or simply kill off all the other clans in the area through combat. Even while each faction specializes in achieving a particular victory condition better than others, each path is more than attainable depending on how you play. Shiro Games, the developer behind Northgard, plans to release additional content for the game, while also listening to player feedback in order to create a more enjoyable experience as time goes on, including the addition of more win conditions.
At the beginning of each game, players start with a town hall which randomly spawns on the map with three villagers. By default, villagers will gather food, which is used to not only feed your clan, but to also colonize the areas around your base. They can also be instructed to build structures that are vital to the survival of your clan, such as Woodcutter and Scouting lounges, which are important for providing wood for the winter and information about the surrounding area respectively. As the game progress, the ability to micromanage your clan becomes an important factor. The conditions of your buildings and the amount of supplies and upgrades affects the growth of your clan and their general survival during the winter, where the rate at which resources are collected is greatly decreased.
The appeal of Northgard is the fact that you’re not only battling against the other clans in the area, but the environment itself. Enemies and certain events will spawn at random, each one able to disrupt production or outright end the game if handled poorly. It’s not uncommon for a pack of wolves to attack villagers or the threat of a blizzard during the coming winter to take your attention off of your current task. These events not only keep you on your toes, but also add to the realism of the world and provide a fair layer of difficulty to the game.
The only issue that exists in this current build comes down to the intricacies of control a full RTS game demands, specifically the inability to micromanage villagers into smaller groups. The ability to create multiple control groups for the same type of unit instead of just selecting all of them at once would greatly cut down on the amount of clicking that a player would have to do. There were times where I would want to split my war band up to either invade multiple areas or to leave a group back home for defense. In such cases, you end up just having to either leave a few sprinkled across your empire or individually instruct where you want each combat unit to go. This also applies to non-combat units as well. Assigning a member of your clan a new job, or relocating them to another area on the map, involves clicking on the icon that represents that unit and instructing it to go where you want. Even though the absence of hotkeys for this window slows down gameplay, the responsiveness of your units do make up for it.
Overall, Northgard is an enjoyable experience so far. The gameplay is fun and engaging, leading to multiple hours joyfully lost playing a round of the game. The winter seasons and random events that can occur add to the realism of the world, and each clan coming with their own set of traits that sets them apart from each other is a nice touch. Even though Shiro Games still has a bit of fine-tuning to do, the game as a whole is in great shape. As of right now, even in Early Access, Northgard is an experience that keeps on delivering after each playthough.