Northgard Review. Here Comes The Vikings!
If you think of Vikings as brooding bloodthirsty raiders, you’re in for a surprise. In Northgard, Vikings are a more colourful bunch. Northgard is an RTS centred around the harsh lives of vikings. Here’s my review of it.
What is Northgard
Northgard isn’t your typical, cookie-cutter, base building, Warcraft 3 clone RTS. In fact, calling it even an RTS is a disservice, since we’ve all been reinforced with the idea of what an RTS is.
Northgard is a PC strategy game about taming your surrounding, collecting enough resources, surviving winter, and kicking enemy arse in the process.
It turns the RTS formula to its side, shakes it around, tosses it up, dragon kicks it, and the end result? A very unique experience that you won’t find in any other game.
You may find some sites making comparisons with other classic RTS games, but those aren’t exactly accurate or fair. And I’m not into doing the comparative bullshit.
The big thing that makes Northgard unique, is the way it handles base-building. Instead of simply limiting buildings to a tech tree (which is what your typical RTS does), Northgard limits the number of buildings in an area.
This might seem like a step back.
But what it really does to the game is brilliant.
Building Your Viking Settlement
Building limits force you to ask yourself the tough questions on your early build and how you're going to expand into new territories. The first territory you begin the game with will only support up to 4 buildings.
That’s no way enough to build your entire economy on.
So Northgard becomes this rush to colonise new lands to expand your settlements and grow your economy.
This territory-centred economy reminds me a little of Relic’s classic RTS, Company of Heroes and its control point based resource system.
It’s just as good as Company of Heroes in this regards, if not better. Tying the economy to the number of territories you’ve colonised also means that you’ll have to deal with a larger border to defend.
This is a challenge that requires a bit more micro if you’re playing against an aggressive opponent since you'll probably be moving your single army around different areas of the map.
That’s not all though.
Territories don’t all come in a single flavour. There are different types of them.
Foresters get 10% more wood if built in a forest territory.
Ruins can be explored by a scout after it is colonised. You can gain treasure, a little bonus bit of resources when you explore them.
These areas continue to respawn wolves over time. Kill the wolves and colonise them to gain fame and some stone.
The only territory where you’re able to build fields to harvest food. Super valuable and could really boost your food collection.
Circle of Stones
Enables you to recruit loremasters which increase the rate at which you gain lore. Lore is used to research new improvements such as lower food costs or faster wood harvesting.
The Draugr are tougher than wolves and continually respawn here until you kill them and colonise this area. Draugrs are essentially zombies in Norse mythology.
Swamps have unstable ground making it more challenging to build on. To be avoided where possible. They mostly act as choke-points.
The only territory where you can build a fisherman's hut.
Shipwrecks lie along the coast and allows your scouts to explore and unravel resources once colonised.
How you choose to start could have big implications for your game. Do you immediately build a forester to collect lumber or wait till you’ve scouted a forest which will give you a 10% bonus?
There’s a real city-builder like quality to Northgard that is refreshing to see in an RTS. Expanding, cultivating the land and harvesting resources is at the heart of Northgard’s gameplay.
How you use the different types of territories is a big part of the game. You’re never really following the same build order formula in Northgard.
You’re constantly adapting your early strategy based on the first few adjacent territories you get.
You need to think on your feet.
And kick enemy posterior.
Resources in Northgard
The two most important resources are food and wood. Wood is used for constructing your buildings, while food is used for consumption and to colonise new land.
For each new land you colonise, the more food you’ll need to do so. Expansion gets pretty expensive mid-game, so you’ll have to get your food production up.
If you don’t expand you lose! It’s as simple as that.
Northgard isn’t an RTS for people who like to turtle. That’s sitting still in one defensive point and building defences to really reinforce that single area.
The only form of defensive structure you can build is a watchtower. These don't use up a building slot in an area but is limited to one per area.
A single watchtower won't be enough to repel back the concentrated attack of another human player. The only counter is your own well-balanced army.
Winter Has Come
The cold North can be an extremely harsh place to build a settlement on. Northgard is also partly, a survival game that challenges you to survive the cold winter.
When winter comes, you better have a stockpile of food and wood ready as the consumption of these two resources will dramatically increase.
However, surviving the winter isn’t as straightforward as colonising as many territories as you can and constructing as many food production buildings. It’s not that simple.
Since colonisation costs food, you’ll have to be mindful not to overextend yourself and use up all your food reserves in your rush to expand your holdings and economy.
On top of that, you’ll have to contend with rat infestations. The only way to safeguard your food stockpiles from going bad is to build food silos in territories with food production.
Fight You Vikings!
Combat is simplified in Northgard. There are no tactics involved here other than having better units and more of them than the enemy.
That said, you’ll have to weigh the risks of enemy attacks with how many soldiers you want to train. You train your soldiers from the same pool of citizenry, so the more soldiers you have, the fewer workers you have to build up your economy.
Your army, or more accurately your squad of soldiers, will consist of only a handful of units. You won’t be training massive armies here.
While Northgard isn’t entirely focused on warfare, you’ll still need to maintain some defence as your territory can and will occasionally be attacked by AI creeps such as wolves or even Draugr.
In multiplayer, there is a tendency for more aggressive play. So you really can’t skimp on your soldiers.
However, there are more ways to win in Northgard than to simply destroy your foes.
In the single-player story mode, each chapter may have a different victory condition. So your focus and strategy will never be the same for each chapter.
It's in multiplayer where the breadth of victory conditions open up the strategic options wide. There are five victory conditions.
The conventional victory condition that requires you to destroy the enemy’s town hall.
When you colonise a territory, you gain fame (fame can also be gained by raids). Get enough of fame and you’ll rank up. Reach the rank of King and you’ll achieve the Fame victory.
To get the Trade victory, you need to build a lighthouse extension for your longship or harbour. Then pick a great trade route that will give you Commercial Influence for Krowns (the currency in Northgard). Get 2000 Commercial Influence and you win.
This victory condition is all about the lore tech tree. Get loremasters to contribute lore points and unlock 4 blessings to win.
Map Special Victory
There are special territory that will give you instant victory if you manage to colonise it. But it’s a huge challenge as it’s guarded by powerful foes. Colonising these special territories also take much longer.
Whether you'll enjoy Northgard will depend entirely on what you like about RTS games. Are you the type that likes combat that requires heavy micro skill or even strategic use of large armies with deep wargame mechanics?
Or are you the type that likes to focus on building out your towns and perfecting your resource harvesting operations?
Northgard caters more towards the base builders and the economy optimisers. The strategy gamers that like to construct efficient towns or settlements.
It breaks out from the old formula of base building to introduce an innovative territorial expansion centred economy.
Northgard changes the playbook throughout the single-player campaign and makes you adapt your play style based on the rules it introduces at each chapter.
Multiplayer is a breath of fresh air as your clan lives or dies by your economy. This makes harassing supply chain a very viable tactic.
Northgard is one of the best new RTS games I’ve played in recent times. It may not have the depth of some older classic RTS games, but it makes up for in breadth.
I also find it quite interesting that Northgard doesn’t emphasise much on Viking raids, choosing instead to focus on the economy of Viking settlements. It goes to new places beyond our cultural stereotypes of the Norsemen.
Northgard is pretty unique in terms of being an RTS as well as its portrayal of Vikings. Because of that, I highly recommend it for anyone looking for something a little different.
Minimum Requirements: Intel 2.0ghz Core 2 Duo or equivalent, 1 GB RAM, Nvidia 450 GTS / Radeon HD 5750 or better, 400 MB available space
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