It's been a while since I played a good RTS on the PC. Seems no one wants to make them like Command & Conquer or Starcraft any more. So it was a pleasant surprise when I came across indies title Northgard on Steam. It's not quite in the same style but there's enough resource management and unit control to make it fun to play.
Story? Well, let's just say two vikings are out to get revenge on someone in Northgard.
v1.2.9182 of the game was used for this review.
If you play the campaign then every map pretty much starts off the same way. You setup a wood cutter hut for your main building materials, a scout tent to begin scouting and a house so that your population grows. After that you basically have to keep all your resources in check - wood, food and gold or you're probably headed towards a game over. Every resource plays a vital role such as food keeps your villagers healthy and happy while gold keeps also keeps people happy by keeping them paid. Wood on the other hand gets used for maintenance and keeping everyone warm during the winter. Now this is one of the unique parts of the game.
There is a time cycle so that every time winter hits, both food and wood becomes really scarce so you have to be prepared by stocking up. You actually need food to colonise new tiles too so because of this you kind of have to be careful when you expand. You might not want to use up that stock pile of food just before winter time.
Getting the right balance between stock piling resources and when to expand is the challenge of the game.
Each map feels more or less the same if it wasn't for the different abilities each hero possesses. For example, one hero can help you herd sheep which gives you an extra way of harvesting food while others don't so you might end up scouring for tiles with food first. Another can actually gain food from defeating the more aggressive wild animal enemies. These abilities add enough difference to the strategy to keep the campaign maps interesting. Without them, the maps would pretty much play out very similarly.
Other than that, you have your usual research tree which also changes depending on the hero. It's not hard to max out a research tree on some maps then have nothing left to do.
A lot of people have compared the game to Civilisation because of the tile based map but, I think it's actually more similar to Settlers since you have to actually colonise each tile before you can do anything with it.
I think the only gripe I have with the game is how villagers aren't automatically assigned to the buildings they're building. You also jump to a villager's location when you try to select them and assign them a building manually which is a pain because you have to then scroll back to the building. I found myself resorting to select all and sending them all to a single location instead to speed things up.
Combat is a very simple affair. There's only three different unit types and personally I don't think they make much of a difference which is probably a good thing because, you can keep an eye on balancing your resources instead. Basically if there are enemies on a tile you need to clear it out first before you can colonise it. There are no healers during combat - at least outside your own territory. You send them in, fight and afterwards, return to your own territory and if you have a Healing Hut (or two) built they'll get healed.
It's very slow paced for the most part of the game so if you're used to rushing the enemy, you probably won't like this. It's more of a sim than an RTS yet, the eleven chapter campaign probably won't take long to finish but the single player skirmish mode should keep the game replayable.
Visually the simple cell shading looks good and because it's simple, you won't need a very modern PC to play it. You'll be looking at the same things on every map mostly which is probably why it isn't very space demanding and only requires less than 1GB of space. There are a few cutscenes but they're still paintings which seem to be the trend with indie titles.
It's not big on variety but if you're after a fairly entertaining and slightly different RTS then Northgard might just be what you're looking for.
- Winter season cycle adds an extra interesting element to the game.
- Difficulty at normal feels just about right.
- Hero perks and abilities add enough variety to campaign.
- Randomly generated skirmish maps adds replayability.
- Fairly good visuals.
- Assigning a villager to a building can be tedious.