My earliest memories of Real-Time Strategy video games started with Command and Conquer on the Nintendo 64. More memories were made later in middle school when my best friend and i would start up LAN games on Age of Empires II. Though the RTS genre has never been my most favorite, it always has a special place in my heart. That very same reason is why the genre holds such a significant place in the gaming industry. Though there are still new RTS titles being released from time to time, some of the oldest video games in the genre still have a large fanbase and dedicated community. Northgard has brought me back to this genre that rejuvinates so many fond memories.
What makes Northgard unique from the rest is the Viking/Nordic theme. This setting has become popular across different forms of media very recently and only increases with television shows like Vikings and video games like Jotun, Viking Squad, and Trial By Viking. This seems to be the key element that Northgard has going for it. Having not been sucked deep into an RTS for some years, I was pleased to find a familiar formula from the Age of Empires series, reducing my learning curve. The way these mechanics are executed in a simple way, someone with any amount of experience can get an idea of how things work pretty quickly.
Know that this is an Early Access title on Steam, so it is not even near its complete state. Two of the most demanded features are not even included yet: multiplayer and campaign modes. However, there is enough to chew on within the single-player skirmish-type mode that is currently available. A few settings for this mode are present for players to customize the match to their liking, such as difficulty level, number of A.I. players, victory conditions, and color of your units. Though what is offered is limited, I discovered some unique features and enjoyed the hours I put into it.
A special thing I noticed when playing is that seasons change during gameplay. These weather effects are apparently similar to another popular RTS called Banished that I have not yet had the opportunity to play. The seasons are ever-changing and they affect resources in various ways. When started up Northgard, I assumed I was going to be spending much of my time battling rival clans—I was wrong. Along with rival clans, players are facing the environment itself and other dangers all across the map.
The way I discovered some of these other dangers is unlike any other RTS I have played. The “fog of war” is typically removed by having your units travel around the map in an RTS. In Northgard you must actually build scout units that can do this for you and colonize new territories. Before you can even build anywhere else you must actively claim these territories; some cannot be colonized until you handle whatever dangers currently occupy that territory. If all units and buildings are destroyed in a particular territory, it will no longer be yours. Controlling as many territories as you possibly can is instrumental if you want to build a strong clan and see victory.
Some of the dangers I encountered in the world are various kinds of creatures. The most common and easiest to take down are the wolves. They come from dens that will no longer spawn any more once you take over the territory. The other foe that is particularly dangerous are the orc-like creatures that spawn from a portal of the underworld—they will actually attack your territory whenever they feel the need to do so. The third kind of foe that you must face if you want their territory are the giants. They are large troll-like creatures that carry huge weapons and build their hideouts out of bones. Your rival clan is definitely the least of your worries in Northgard.
Having been at the top of the Steam charts, Northgard has a bright future ahead. Once the campaign and multi-player modes are released, we will see a dedicated community rise from it, as the mechanics are simple enough on the surface and yet deep enough for any RTS fan., expert or novice. The developers have borrowed from all the right franchises that made the genre what it is today. In that aspect, this was very much a nostalgia trip for me. I look forward to building a fleet of longboats and raiding my friends’ in the future. Even in its early state, Northgard is worth a purchase.