[Beyond PlayStation] Northgard Review
Northgard from Shiro Games is a single-player and multiplayer real-time strategy game with a dose of Norse mythology. Learn more in our Northgard review!
As you begin your time with real-time strategy (RTS) game Northgard, you will learn about the saga of Rig, the King’s son, who will set out on a quest to conquer Northgard… or so they thought. The group is ambushed as they are making their plans for conquering Northgard. Hagen, of the Clan of the Ravens, leads a group of mercenaries that attack the group without notice, completely destroying everyone. Rig, unable to fight back, decides to act as if he was dead so that they wouldn’t end up killing him as well.
Rig finds a group of runaways from the Stag Clan that is being led by a young man named Brand. It turns out that Hagen’s forces had decided to torch Brand’s town, killing his father, the clan’s Jarl – its chief. With an enemy in common, who is now on its way to Nortgard with the stolen map and royal horn, Rig and Brand decide to work together to avenge their fathers. It will be a long journey, and you will learn many things along the way.
Before you start with your first mission, you will see some information on the starting bonuses, for things such as wood, food, and krowns. There are also fame bonuses you can unlock as you gain more fame in a mission, which includes things such as additional supplies, as well as boosting the production of upgraded buildings. You can also select the difficulty for the mission you’re about to take on between normal, hard, and extreme, to increase or decrease the challenge you’re about to face.
As you play a mission, you will also be able to complete additional bonus objectives, but the list of what these extra objectives are for a level will not be revealed until after you complete a mission for the first time, increasing the overall replay value. This does not mean that you can’t complete bonus objectives before you know what they are, but it does make it a bit harder to guess what it could be. Take, for example, the first mission in the game. Its main objective is for you to build a ship to sail to Northgard, and one of the bonus objectives is to do this before the third year is upon you. Once you complete the mission, you will also learn that the other two bonus objectives are for collecting a minimum of 500 food in your resources and to explore all of the abandoned houses on the map.
The first handful of missions in the game will serve as an extended tutorial, as you learn about gathering valuable resources for your cause. There are many mouths to feed, so finding food is of the utmost importance. You’ll also need to build different structures, so you should be collecting as much wood as you can. Your starting villagers will need to be converted to different professions to make ends meet, so step one will be to build a scout camp and a woodcutter’s lodge.
The scout camp will allow you to turn your villagers into scouts, which will make it possible to have them (automatically) move to parts of the map that are yet to be discovered so that you can expand your reach. The villagers sent to the woodcutter’s lodge will, as you can probably imagine, turn into woodcutters, which is why they’ll instantly rush forward to cut down some trees to bring back the wood you need to build more structures. Once your scouts have found a new area, you will need to colonize it by spending some of your food. Doing this might reveal some buildings for you to reclaim or some foes that need to be dealt with.
Because of all this, you should have a balanced group under your command, so that you can always gather wood, produce more food, increase your fame, explore new areas, reclaim structures you find, build houses to increase your population, and fight any foes that might show up in one of the areas you’re exploring. Since enemies can sometimes decide to attack one of the areas under your control, you might want to consider adding some defense towers near the border of an area so that it can be used to attack an opponent while some of your military units are on their way to battle.
By pressing and holding down the ZL button, you’ll gain access to the abilities menu from which you can use any of the available skills you’ve already unlocked. By pressing and holding down the ZR button you will open up the armies menu, and you can then send your attack units to a particular spot so that they can be ready to defend a border from the threat of a potential attack, or to be ready to jump into action on a nearby area once you’ve produced some extra soldiers – or perhaps a healer – to join them.
If you select a single player quick game, you can pick between the gameplay modes – Northgard or Ragnarok – the world hostility level – low, medium, high -, and the color of the clan you’re going to be controlling – red, blue, yellow, green, purple, brown, orange and… gray? You will also get to select the map type between meadow, wild langs, taiga, foothills, stepee, autumn, tundra, and permafrost, how many players in total there will be battling out for supremacy as you take on AI bots. For the multiplayer part of the game, you can either create a game to be the host for the session, or you can decide to join a game room created by someone else.
One complaint I do have about the game – the one complaint really – is that the in-game text is very tiny. The text box where it’s displayed is very small, which is an odd choice considering there’s plenty of room on the screen for the box – and text – to have been bigger. This is an issue both when playing the game on the TV in Docked mode, as well as when taking the console on the go on Portable or Tabletop mode. Hopefully, this is something that is addressed by Shiro Games by way of a patch.
If you’re a fan of RTS with a bit of a more laidback experience, then you’re going to get a kick out of Norhtgard. Sure, it’s a premium release at $34.99, but it has more than enough content to back up that price. A short story campaign this is not, and when you add the single-player quickplay option, as well as the multiplayer mode in which you can take the fight online, you’re not going to be done with Northgard for a while.
This Northgard review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Shiro Games.