NORTHGARD
Classic PC strategy that doesn’t sacrifice depth for accessibility.

HANDS ON PREVIEW
By JAY TEE
27/02/17

THE BASICS

PC exclusive strategy game, based on Norse mythology, from developer Shiro Games.

PLATFORMS

PC

PLAYERS

Offline - 1, Online - YES, PLAYER COUNT TBC

CO-OP / MULTIPLAYER

Online multiplayer will be added during the Early Access period leading up to release.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT

TBC

TAKEAWAYS

- The game pushes you to expand your territory, attract new Villagers, and gather resources for trading, but the overarching goal (beyond achieving the end game state, explained below) is to survive each Winter season. There is palpable tension to balancing your desire to spread out and conquer new lands against the need to guarantee crucial resources that will help you survive another year.  

- The level of multitasking required doesn’t overwhelm, but forces you to consider multiple fronts. Convert too many villagers to soldiers and you won’t have enough people gathering food. If you don’t spend resources upgrading your settlement, you won’t attract new inhabitants. The pace of the game forces you to consider long term survival and expansion as your primary goals, and although it’s there, combat is certainly not the focus here.

- Having said that, wild creatures of varying strength roam the land, and will often be centred around precious resources like Iron (used for advanced construction / invaluable trade item) and Lore (which provides stat boosting upgrades via the skill tree). Character designs, and overall visual polish, are really impressive, especially considering its a way off from release.

- Northgard doesn’t devolve into a contest of “who has the bigger army?”. Success is measured by your Fame rating, which is increased by owning more territory, discovering Lore, organising feasts for your villagers, discovering hidden parts of the map, and upgrading buildings. It’s a great idea, one that forces you to look beyond the more linear paths of destruction and combat.

- Some nice touches: buildings inexplicably explode when scuttled, the art style is really charming, load times are superb, and the transitions between seasons as they wash over the map look really cool.  

With the recent release of Halo Wars 2, console publishers have taken yet another stab at shrinking down PC strategy into a manageable form that doesn’t skimp on content or restrict the mechanics. For the most part, they seem to have succeeded. But there is still nothing quite like a good old fashioned slice of keyboard and mouse, top down world management, and in that respect, Northgard is hitting all the right notes.

The Settlers vibes are undeniable, and French developer Shiro Games have delivered a highly polished proof of concept. Although a lot of the main features are still very much in development, there is a lot here to enjoy. The emphasis on exploring the world (and reacting to its harsher elements) versus straight combat is a nice twist on the formula.

DISCLAIMER: Our hands on time with the game was courtesy of the recently released Steam ‘Early Access’ version. Northgard doesn’t currently have a traditional campaign or multiplayer, but this will be added throughout development. A game key was provided for preview purposes.


Sheep offer passive buffs to your territory. That is honestly a sentence I never thought I’d say. But here we are. And I couldn’t be happier.

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CONCLUSION

Nothing beats the feeling of being truly surprised by the debut of a game. Northgard, in its current state, runs with a smooth frame rate on the highest settings available, and is absolutely worth checking out. Don’t be nervous about the ‘Early Access’ branding - you won’t be disappointed. We’ll have more coverage on Northgard as it heads towards full release later in 2017.

For more information, check out: https://northgard.net/
Or follow @shirogames on Twitter.

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