Northgard is a game that gets me excited. It’s barely takes thirty seconds into developers Shiro Games’ new title that I clock that this game is essentially a mixture of Age of Empires, Civilization and Settlers. A strategy-cum-exploration game based on Norse mythology, players take on the role of a tribe of pseudo-vikings landing on the eponymous continent of Northgard.
There are almost too many comparative games to mention when looking at the game, but Northgard still manages to present itself as something very unique. The landscape is colourful, slightly cartoony and, frankly, quite enchanting. The land around your initial settlement is split into hexagons, upon which are scattered various resources, other tribes or monsters. Expansion is done by assigning villagers to gather resources (though they’ll do that on their own), taking over neighbouring zones and conquering rival clans. Before your game is generated you can select from three distinct types of clan to take over depending on what your style of gameplay is: aggressive, gatherer or diplomacy.
Though a good bulk of the game will involve selecting and sending your various villagers around the map, making sure your resource gathering is in tip-top efficiency, the game will throw challenges in your way to keep things fresh. Dungeons will spawn monsters from direwolves to dragons to raid your village and attack your poor colonists. To deal with them you’ll need to send a fairly large band of warriors into the depths to defeat the creatures. There are exceptions, too: giants, who are the native inhabitants of Northgard, can be befriended with gifts of food - get a high enough score with them and they’ll join your armies in defence and conquest.
Balancing your population and villager roles is crucial to make sure you’re ready for the onrushing winter. Much like Banished, Northgard will punish players who aren't ready for the onset of the colder months, Food becomes scarce and your villagers are easier to lose to the elements.The season lasts roughly half as long as spring but Shiro Games tells me that often it can feel a lot longer, especially if you’re caught unawares. Your village isn’t entirely vulnerable, however, as gaining experience can unlock a research tree of “runic knowledge” that will enable the player to upgrade their gathering, warriors or survival capabilities.
The dev team are planning on implementing a multiplayer for the game as soon as possible, but the AI has been programmed to give the player as much of a challenge as possible and has been outfitted with a number of “personalities” to keep things interesting. Northgard is also furnished with a variety of victory conditions for players who get tired of just killing everything on the map - games can be won through trade, research or gathering enough “fame” to outshine the rest of the colonists on the continent and become high king.
Shiro Games tells me that the title is planned to go into Early Access or a beta by the end of 2016 with a release on the near horizon. If you’re as intrigued as I was by the title then I’d keep your eyes peeled.