Northgard is the latest title from Shiro Games, the team behind the Evoland series. While I enjoyed the Evoland series for what it is, I was excited to see what Shiro Games would branch into next. It was apparent that the group behind Evoland was a talented bunch, and Northgard doesn’t disappoint. It could be one of the best early access games to date.
On the surface, Northgard looks like a Civilization type game, but the focus isn’t on building a sprawling empire across a giant map. Instead, these games are compact, with you controlling a Norse clan that is settling on a new island. You can control individual members of the clan, and assign them jobs; if you build the appropriate buildings. You’ll need a building to produce loggers, farmers, warriors, etc.
Like Civilization, you’ll be competing against other clans to control a map by meeting certain victory conditions.
While it may look like a Civilization type game, it plays more like Banished, the fantastic city building game from 2014. Think Banished, but with victory conditions. While I enjoyed Banished, it needed something to keep me playing, and victory conditions are the answer.
You start with one land tile, and you have to produce scouts to open more of the map. To open more of the map, scouts have to spend time at the edge of your tile and actually scout. It is a neat mechanic that actually has some strategy behind it. While the scouts are pretty autonomous, they can be killed or hurt while scouting new areas.
When a new area is scouted, you can use food to settle it, but only if all threats in that area are taken out. To expand your reach and also protect from other players, you have to produce warriors. They start out rather weak, so strength in numbers is the way to go. But after mining iron, you can upgrade weapons, and also produce a war leader, which is a strong unit that boosts other unit’s attacks. There are low level enemies, like other warriors and wolves. There are also legendary enemies that; if defeated; help increase your notoriety, which is one of the victory conditions.
While you will be tempted to build out your empire quickly, which costs food and wood, there comes a time every year that you need to stockpile those supplies so your clan can survive the upcoming winter. During winter, food and wood production is reduced, and if you didn’t stockpile enough, members of your clan will die from starvation or the cold. I had a clan go from a strong 20 members to 8 because I didn’t stockpile enough food. This is a nice little mechanic that keeps your expansion in check, and adds one more hurdle to a grueling environment.
The game shines in the exploration and management aspects of the game. The exploration is very satisfying, and it is easy to switch between different members of your clan to get them the job you need at that moment.
Aesthetically, the game oozes Norse mythology. From Norse gods, to throwing feasts, to opening breweries, to the fantastic soundtrack, it just feels like you escaped into northern Europe.
Overall I’m extremely happy with the state that Northgard is in, especially for being early access. It will run you $20, and it will only improve from here on out. The developers have said they will add a campaign and a multiplayer mode in the future, which I am excited to see. If you enjoy games like Civilization and Banished, you will love Northgard.