Northgard: A Real-Time Strategy Game Based on Norse Mythology that feels like a mix between Cultures and Civilization.
Genre: Strategy, RTS
Developer: Shiro Games
Publisher: Shiro Games
Release (Steam): 7 Mar, 2018
Release (PS4): 3 Oct, 2019
Northgard is a game that I’ve had my eye on since it first released on PC back in 2017. I’m a big fan of Norse Mythology and I enjoy playing anything based on it. Today I’ll be reviewing the PS4 version of the game which came with it’s 2 previous PC updates. Unfortunately, there’s no ETA on a PS4 release of their recent Conquests update but I’ll be keeping an eye out for a release date.
The game is an RTS game but it’s surprisingly relaxed compared to most in the genre. You aren’t rushing to build up a base and an army to swarm the enemy with. We’ll be getting into that shortly, and if you’d like to show your support to Odin, continue on with the review!
Much like any RTS game, Northgard has plenty of game modes for both single player and multiplayer. It’s story mode acts as a tutorial to the game and teaches you the basics regarding the game’s many features. If you feel lost at any time, I highly recommend playing through it as it explains everything you need to know.
There’s a single-player skirmish mode that allows you to customize various parameters regarding the game in question. There are two main game modes in skirmish mode, Northgard, and Ragnarok. Northgard is the base way to play the game while Ragnarok emulates the end of the world and makes the world incredibly hostile by default. In Northgard mode you have the option of choosing the world hostility, Ragnarok doesn’t have this option, however. There are advanced options you can choose from as well, including Map Type, Map Size, a domination only victory condition, and how many AI players you want. The amount of AI is dependent on the size of the map, the larger the map the more AI you can play against.
Multiplayer, as of the base PS4 version, mostly consists of skirmish battles against other players. The game creation screen is set up pretty much the same as single-player skirmish battles except for the addition of teams or free for all, public/invite-only and server type options. Up to 6 players can play against each other at a time. You can also choose to have AI fill some spots if you want a full game and there isn’t anyone else to join your game, or if some of your squad is offline.
One thing I was pretty impressed with in this game is it’s gameplay, as it should with any RTS game. Northgard is a much more relaxed RTS than any other game in the genre that I’ve played. It’s slower pace allows you to plan ahead and planning ahead is pretty important in this game.
Before you jump straight into the game though, you’ll have to choose a clan to play as. There are 6 unique clans to choose from, including the clan of the stag, clan of the goat, clan of the wolf, clan of the raven, clan of the bear and clan of the boar. Each clan has its own unique starting bonuses, fame bonuses and relics that alter the way you play the game. For example, The clan of the goat starts with one sheep and can build the sheepfold to store them in to generate food. They also have a 30% increased production bonus for feasts, spare tools, teamwork, and have Gefjun’s Jar as a relic.
Once you start, the game feels very much like a mixture between one of my favorite Viking/Norse themed series, Cultures, with a dash of Civilization mixed in. There are multiple ways to achieve victory in the game including, Domination, Trading, Fame, and Wisdom. It’s up to you to choose which you think is the more lucrative venture towards victory.
The game has a decent selection of buildings for you to construct, but the vast majority are basic buildings such as Farms, Breweries, Forge’s, Trading Posts, and The Longship Dock to name a couple. Your success in the game is largely based on your selected victory condition but also the requirement to have enough food and wood for your entire village.
Food is the single most important resource in the game, if you run out, your village will slowly starve to death and you’ll lose the game. Food resources are limited in how many there are on the map so you have to make use of everything you possibly can. You can build a farm, a hunter’s lodge, or a sheepfold, if you’re the sheep clan. These generate food but it’s not as simple as that. As your village grows and more people spawn, the need for more food increases.
The game also has a winter stage that decreases your overall food production by quite a lot, so you need to factor this into your overall strategy as well. There will also be times when there will be a blizzard that doesn’t last very long but it drops your food production exponentially and can easily wipe out your food stores.
Another thing you have to watch out for is the various enemies within the game world. There are animals, evil Valkyries, Jottun, and Draugr to name a couple. There will also be times when portals to Helheim will appear and enemies will spill forth from them. They start off weak but get stronger as the years pile on. Enemies will also attack your villagers if they border your controlled territory, so you need to watch out for that as well. Having defense towers built can help but you also need to factor in everything else you need.
Territory, it’s important.
Another area that this game borrowed from turn-based strategy games is its utilization of territories. The game is set up similarly to a board game where the map is split into various sections, or territories. You can only have a specific number of buildings in each territory so you need to think about what you want to place there that would benefit your path to victory.
In order to take control of a territory you must have food. As you can see, food is used for a wide range of different things in this game. As you obtain new territories, the food requirement increases until it requires heaps of food. Territory is important but it’s actually not a good idea to go all out on purchasing land unless you absolutely need it. This is largely because you can easily run out of food if you start treating the world like the Louisiana Purchase and start buying all of it.
Eventually, you will come across other players/AI on the map and if you choose, you can attack them. If you manage to defeat all of an opponents units in a territory, you can take control of it by keeping your units there. Taking territory takes a lot of time but you’ll not only weaken your enemy, but also strengthen yourself, so it can be a great victory option. If you manage to take control of your enemy’s headquarters, they lose the game, and you can then take control of their resources and territory.
As someone that prefers taking his time in strategy games (One reason why I enjoy turn-based strategy games more), I’ve found Northgard to be a pretty refreshing RTS game. Northgard’s gameplay requires planning ahead to survive long enough to become the victor and this might be off-putting to fans of more fast-paced RTS games. For players like myself, the different means of victory and the slower gameplay is a real treat, and I love the game quite a bit because of this. Overall, I’m giving this a Save, it’s one of the few RTS games that I’ve managed to really get into lately, and I had a blast playing it. It’s a very entertaining game and I’m going to try and convince my friend to buy it so we can play together.