Ever wanted to see what happens when a zombie gets hit by a Viking bomb?
Genre: Strategy, Tactics
Developer: Liron Peer, Roman Levin
Publisher: Mashmashu Studio
Release date: 19 Jun, 2020
Before Bungie became a household name with the release of Halo, they create a real time tactics game called Myth: The Fallen Lords. It was a bloody game about small bands of warriors who went up against hordes of undead, and most importantly, it had bomb throwing dwarfs that turned said undead into tiny little gory pieces (and also your own troops, if you were not careful).
Despite Myth’s popularity, there’s been no real imitators, with the games that has taken inspiration from Myth still straying quite far from the formula. That is, of course, until now. Nordic Warriors is a game that draws a lot of inspiration from the Myth series, without just being a modern-day reimagining of it. It’s a game about a small number of Viking(like) warriors, fighting hordes of undead. And yes, there are bomb throwers in this game.
Story & Setting
In a world not entirely unlike our own (circa year 1000), there were tribes of Norsemen. On a faithful day, a young shaman named Freja sets out to find a group of missing people. Being attuned to the world she’s able to sense that something is wrong.
As she returns to her village, she finds that it’s been attacked. Hordes of creatures from beyond the grave has slaughtered everyone who lives there. She fights her way through them, and finds her father, mortally wounded, and with his dying breath, he tells her that she’s the only one who can stop this.
Freja sets out with the few remaining warriors she has, in an attempt to seek aid from the king, and put an end to this nightmare.
Nordic warriors does not have the most inspired plot ever, but it still gives you a good motivation for why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why you need to stop the enemy. The setting itself is a somewhat generic pop-culture Viking setting, with fantasy elements, so it has most of the things you would expect from it, like longboats and big burly shirtless men with an axe in each hand.
Nordic Warriors is a fully 3D real time tactics game, with a fully rotating camera. It looks a bit like a big budget RTS or RTT from around 15 years ago, running at a higher resolution. That is not a complaint about its graphics, the game still looks pretty good, but as the game has a relatively realistic art style, the somewhat simple level geometry and character models is more noticeable than if the developers had gone with a highly stylized look.
There’s a bit of variety to the character and enemy models, and despite their (for the most part) human-looking models, it’s still easy to tell everything apart. You don’t have to worry about not being able to tell the difference between a common zombie, and an armoured enemy. The only exception to this are the archer enemies, who do blend in with the regular zombies, but other than that it’s easy to tell what’s going on by just glancing at the screen. The enemies that are the most destructive also really stand out from the pack.
Speaking of destructive, you’ll leave quite a mess behind you, wherever you chose to fight. Whenever someone dies, they’ll leave a pile of bloody chunks behind. These are then affected by things like explosions, and will roll downhill if given the chance, and wherever they go, they’ll leave a trail of blood. This might be a bit excessive, but it’s also something that Myth did.
The sound effects are overall pretty good, and the meaty explosive effects when you manage to lob several bombs into the enemy ranks are quite satisfying. The voice acting is also surprisingly good, with each unit giving different verbal confirmations whenever you give orders. Props also goes to the narrator, who speaks before each level, which helps set the tone for the game. Finally, there’s the music, which also works well.
in Nordic Warriors you’re trying to lead a ragtag band of warriors to victory against the undead hordes. Each level has you start with a pre-set group of units, and you can’t recruit more. On a few levels you might be given additional reinforcements at certain points, but more often than not, you need to beat the level with only your starting forces. Thus it becomes really important to try and preserve your troops, and minimize how much damage they take. Units also level up as they fight, and become more powerful, and they’ll retain their levels between missions. The difference between a brand new unit and a leveled up one is not massive, but it’s still nice to be able to field a force of experienced soldiers. And because of this, you don’t just want the most powerful units to hog all the EXP.
Combat is swift and deadly. Most units that are not built for melee will go down in two-three hits, and even melee units will go down fast when under attack from multiple enemies. Thus making sure that your soldiers don’t end up in situations where they take a lot of damage is the key to success. Instead of rushing in with your melee troops, it’s usually better to try and kill as many enemies as possible with ranged attacks, and only move in to melee once the enemy is getting too close. Friendly fire is also a big concern, and your bomb throwers can, if you’re careless, wipe out your entire army with a misplaced bomb or two. The enemy does of course also have units that can lob explosive projectiles at you.
All ranged attacks, apart from those from your shaman, have a certain amount of travel time, and thus you can (and need to) dodge the enemy’s attacks. It’s of course far easier to dodge enemy projectiles with one or two soldiers, than your entire army, so you often need to make the call regarding how many units you want to use at any given time. If there’s an enemy with ranged exploding attacks, then just sticking with one or two soldiers is safer, but against slow moving melee units, controlling as many soldiers as you can is likely a better strategy.
Nordic Warriors only has a campaign, with no skirmish mode or multiplayer available. The campaign itself is of a decent length, and does not overstay its welcome. The mission variety is not the best though, particularly not early on, with many missions being about going from point A to point B, fighting enemies along the way. Some do spice things up, with more creative enemy placement, and there are levels that have you do more than just try to get to a specific place on the map. The levels that spice things up a bit tend to be the best ones.
There are a couple of things that don’t work quite as well as the developers likely intended. For one, instead of assigning control groups to the regular 1-0 keys on the keyboard, you now use the function keys above, and the 1-0 keys are used for setting formations. Using the function keys requires a bit more finger gymnastics than usual, and the formations are really not all that important. Units also don’t sort themselves in the formations in a way that makes a lot of sense, and archers often end up in the front. There is a system to the madness, with the position of your units being dependent on where they stood where you gave the move order, so if all your archers were standing on the left of your warriors, and you just select both your warriors and archers and give a move order, you’ll end up with all your archers clumped up on the left side of the formation. You can also not give any waypoint commands, which means that if you want to walk around a hill that has enemy archers on it, you need to repeatedly give move orders to your units.
Nordic Warriors might not be the deepest, or the most complex tactics game out there, but it is really fun to play, and that’s what matters the most. It’s oddly satisfying to land a perfect bomb throw into a group of enemies, seeing parts of them fly all over the place. The fact that you need to dodge projectiles gives the game a slightly more actiony feel than many other tactics games, but it’s never to the point where it replaces the need for proper tactics. The more straight forward nature of the game also makes it an easy pick up and play game, you don’t need to spend a lot of time learning the ins and outs of the mechanics to play it properly. It is a game you need to approach on its own terms though, if you’re the kind of person who just want to rush in and see things blow up, you’ll end up losing all your troops very fast. You need to play this game in a slow and methodical way.
I said earlier in the review that the game looks about 15 years old, and that was not meant as an insult. There are games from that time, like Spellforce 2, that still look remarkably good. It might not be on par with games like Dawn of War 3 or the latest Total War, but 15 years ago we were past the “awkward phase” of 3D graphics.
Fans of real time tactics games, and particularly those who have been yearning for a game similar to Myth, should really check this game out. The few rougher edges are easy to ignore, and the game also runs very well, even on a modest PC.