Northgard is a strategy game from Shiro Games which was a part of early access for more than one year but this week, the game was finally finished and a full version of the game was released. Compared to early access, the full game offers a campaign telling the story of a main character called Rig. And considering the fact the game sold more than 500,000 digital copies already in early access, the question is how attractive the full game is and if it has a good potential to become a successful title. In the following lines, I will try to sum up all the pros and cons and to describe what to expect from the main campaign, from game mechanisms but also from music and graphics.
Review version: Windows
The campaign tells the story of Rig, a son of a Viking king, who suffers from a death of his father who was killed by Hagen from a Clan of the Raven. Due to that, your main goal is to avenge the father’s death and the betrayal of Hagen. All this connected with the northern fury and a wilderness of Northgard. This is how the game trailer was initially presented.
However, the reality is slightly different. I expected to control the character of Rig but he is just a figurine who advises you what to do or not to do. During the campaign, you don’t play as Rig at all. Instead, you control different clans which you meet during your wandering over the island. And as a new king and an heir apparent, you naturally attract the clans because everyone wants to be your companion. In the beginning, you are strictly ordered which clan to play for but later on, it’s only up to you which one you will choose. Thanks to that, you can influence which gaming style is your favourite and which you prefer.
Generally, the campaign could be described as just a tutorial useful for later PVP and PVE battles. The story is not bad nor excellent, just an average. Yet, there’s something I really liked. At the beginning of each chapter, the story is introduced by a short story and nice artworks which are very beautifully stylized.
In the game, you can choose from up to six different clans – Fenrir (Clan of the Wolf), Eikthyrnir (Clan of the Stag), Heidrun (Clan of the Goat) Huginn and Muninn (Clan of the Raven), Bjarki (Clan of the Bear), and Slidrugtanni (Clan of the Boar). If you think that these clans are not so important and they differ only cosmetically (different lore and clan symbols), you will be definitely surprised. Actually, the choice of the right clan is one of the most important things in the game because every clan is different and has distinct attributes. Some of them are focused on an aggressive style of fights, some of them on farming and money production. Some like to gain a knowledge. This is something that I totally loved about the game because there are numerous ways how to win the game. Thanks to that, every player can choose the right gaming style which he/she likes the most and which provides the most preferred benefits.
The only thing which could be changed is the style and textures of the clans, buildings and an army. There is only one common template in the game and every clan has totally the same buildings and people which only have a different symbol of the corresponding clan. On the other hand, this is only a detail and only a cosmetic problem so nothing serious. Personally, I would prefer if the developers prepared a possibility to change or choose your own skin and a different graphical style. This is something that could be additionally added to the game – no matter if it’s a bonus DLC or an unlockable content at the end of the chapter or the game.
When you complete the main campaign, you can still enjoy an unlimited number of battles against either AI or real players. In any case, you naturally want to show yourself as a great strategist and to win each battle. As I already mentioned, there are several possibilities how to win. A simple defeat of all your enemies is the most common way which could be expected by every player. However, the developers went much further so it is possible to win the game when gaining the sufficient knowledge and gods’ favour, when trading, when exploring Northgard and conducting raids, or when creating a mythical sword which can unite all the clans.
So, as you can see, the number of ways how to win is very large and you, as a player, have to decide which way to go. Of course, the decision depends on benefits of each clan and on a style you want to play. My favourite clan was the Clan of the Boar which is focused on the knowledge, and the population growth and happiness. In the beginning, it took me some time to choose the one which is best for me but now I am just improving my skills and trying to find new ways how to effectively use all the clan’s attributes. But I think that every player must find the most suitable clan and everyone will like a different one. Once you find the best clan and get the basic principle, you know all you need.
Villagers, game mechanisms, and UI
At the beginning of the game, you have a stock of food, wood, and kröwns (crowns). Besides, stone and iron are other resources you can get during the game. However, it is also very important to regularly check a happiness of your villagers – if they are not happy you can expect lower production of a given resource. Every game starts with only few villagers who are focused on collecting food by default but can be pushed to do other work as well.
For example, if you build a wooden cottage, you can accommodate a villager here and he will become a lumberjack. After that, he can only produce wood but nothing else. If you want him to become a regular villager again, you need to send him to a great hall to re-educate. This makes him just a villager who can be promoted to a different, more important position such as a warrior. This means it is crucial to systematically plan the work and duties of each villager in order to make your clan properly work and prosper.
Regarding localities, these are the places which must be discovered by scouts. Every land is somehow special so it is sometimes a game of luck where your village is located. Sometimes, you can find a fruitful land where you can build a farm and increase your food production but sometimes, you will find a land with a lot of trees leading to an increased wood production. Except for this, you can also find places where you meet enemies and if you beat them, you can gain fame which can also help you to achieve the victory. Last but not least possibility is to find important artefacts which were left across Northgard by the gods. Thanks to them, you can increase lore and knowledge leading to valuable bonuses provided by the gods themselves.
However, there are several more factors influencing the game. The most important feature is a current season which affects the happiness and the productivity of your villagers. During spring and summer, the productivity and the happiness are logically the best they can be. During fall, people are a bit upset by often storms. But the worst season is undoubtedly winter – the production is rapidly decreased and a lot of prayers to survive a dangerous winter appear. But that’s not all. There are more disasters you can experience. As an example, I can name things like an earthquake, a rat infestation, a draugr invasion or a blizzard. Every disaster is announced in advance and has a lot of consequences. Again, this is a great and a perfectly created functionality so the developers did a good job.
The user interface is quite simple and intuitive. Yet, the possibility of using keyboard shortcuts allowing faster actions is missing. The worst thing is that it is possible to mark only all the warrior units at the same time which is very limiting. And it’s also something I was really sad about. To better demonstrate it, I can give you an example of a battle where all axe throwers seemed to be looking forward to entering Valhalla because they were still running ahead. But if it had been possible to select only this group, I could have forced them to stay away and eliminate all enemies even before meeting them face to face.
Music and graphics
The music is just simply great and it really helps to create the atmosphere of Norse Mythology. Similarly, all words of Rig before the beginning of each chapter are perfect. Pronunciation of events and character names is very authentic. On the other hand, I was really upset when I found out the villagers lacked the ability to speak and a dubbing was missing. All people were able to only pronounce faint ‘Oy Oy Oy Oy Oy Oy Oy’. It was really funny to listen to these sounds in the beginning but after several hours, I was truly mad when I heard it again. Of course, I understand that the budget of the studio is limited but I still think it would be nice if villagers were able to say at least three simple sentences. The same applies to the main campaign. Again, you will find no dubbing when playing the game and if characters speak to each other, you can only read what they say. You can say that it’s a silly comment and it actually is but it’s something that made me disappointed most when talking about the game.
Regarding the graphics, the game is very well designed and the art style will attract a lot of players. Textures of buildings and warriors are nice. The environment is breath-taking and you can literally feel the wilderness and roughness of nature.