Whoa: Northern Shadow Is Skyrim Meets A City Builder

By Nathan Grayson on May 30th, 2014 at 12:00 pm.

You're not some omniscient city god, believe it or not. This is first-person view. Your character is looking at a little boardgame-style table on which you can select construction options. Then you go explore. Everything.

I do so love indie game development. One second I’m minding my own business, sipping coffee and wondering if trees dream, and the next I stumble across what may well be the next Skyrim, the next colossal, gorgeous first-person fantasy RPG bonanza. Northern Shadow, however, comes with a twist: it’s also a city builder ala Banished. You have a living world to both explore and build a kingdom in. My kingdom for this game. Trailer below. Watch it, because it’s crazy impressive.

Putting the city building menu in the game world? As a little map/board you look at in first-person? And then letting you see buildings you’ve selected rise from the Earth? Ingenious.

Northern Shadow begins with your kingdom (presumably in the north) falling at the hands of some unknown enemy. I’m assuming XCOM soldiers don’t exist in this universe, so it’s up to you to regroup, rebuild, and bring down the baddies.

This game, by conservative estimates, will be FULL OF THINGS. Here are the things:

Your kingdom, your people
Build and improve your own city. Communicate with other kingdoms, negotiate trade agreements and build alliances. Defend your city and your lands.

Classic RPG systems
In combat, depend on your own skills, rather than statistics on your character sheet. Use spells or weapons, you can play the game your way.

Living World
Living economy allows you to see the ripples of your own actions all around the world. Your steward will take care of your city while you are gone.

Explore
Discover worlds both above, and beneath the earth. Find precious mineral veins and other treasures.

I can dig it. Both on paper and in motion, this is an extremely exciting-looking game. Obviously if the world is overly generic or the ambitious fusion of mechanics ends up super clunky, then this one will crash and burn, but I have high hopes. The idea of an underground world, especially, strikes me as quite interesting. Here’s hoping it’s less Dragon Age II caves and more Arx Fatalis.

Northern Shadow will launch in early access alpha form this summer. Not sure how I feel about exploring this kind of world when it’s not complete, but I’m definitely interested in at least briefly checking it out. How about you?

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128 Comments »

Top comments

  1. Firkragg says:

    What appears to be… Ratmen. As allies. Ratmen allies.
    RATMEN ALLIES!

  2. Mirqy says:

    Trees do dream. It’s hard to tap into them, but once you learn how, you can actually manipulate their dreams to the point where they tear up their roots and go rampaging around the (awake) countryside. I am working on applications to monetise this discovery.

  1. BurningPet says:

    yeah, this looks great!

  2. rustybroomhandle says:

    In a world… inhabited entirely by men… one man… will fight many men…

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      In a time … of men … burly men … and other burly men …

    • Stompopolos says:

      Would you just shut the fuck up?
      I’m black, do you see me moaning about how games usually star white people? About how New Zealand is under represented in the industry? No, because I’m not entitled enough to believe that developers should cater to a minority.

      • The Godzilla Hunter says:

        What? I don’t understand…what?

        • Stompopolos says:

          They are complaining about male developers making a video game (mostly played by men) starring a man (which isn’t even confirmed) fighting other men. In a world based off of medieval europe, where the men did the fighting.

          I am arguing against this by stating that developers have absolutely no good reason to cater to minorities (women, in this case.)

          • trooperwally says:

            You appear to have a chip on your shoulder.

            Also, where do you get the idea that women are a minority? Roughly 50% of all humans ever have been women. And slightly more than 50% of currently living humans are women.

            And this is before we get started on the issue of representation of women in video games…

          • bstard says:

            Black woman from New Zeeland, omg, dont get me started!

          • Barberetti says:

            “cater to minorities (women, in this case.)”

            Ha ha ha ha ha ha

          • Random Integer says:

            It was an idle joke about at the state of the game. The only one talking about the representation of women was you, screaming and ranting about it. You sound humourless and insane.

          • Stompopolos says:

            You people must have the reading comprehension of primary schoolers if it doesn’t occur to you that “IN THIS CASE” very much refers to the fact that women are a minority in the gaming community?

            And where did I say I was a woman?

            Also, I think the people with the chip on their collective shoulder are those who turn apolitical articles about regular games into gender discussions. I would like it if I wasn’t so irked by those people, but I guess I never could avoid a row.

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            those who turn apolitical articles about regular games into gender discussions

            “those” are you! You’re the only one in this comment thread who opened up with their full-bore gender politics cannon!

          • Sleepy Will says:

            It seems to be the season for massive overrections to throwaway jokes on RPS

          • BTAxis says:

            It seems to be the season for massive overrections to throwaway jokes on RPS

            I choose to read that as “massive overerections”.

          • whorrak says:

            Totally. Developers should have no interest in expanding their customer base with diversity. I mean, really, who likes to make money or likes to not be a douchebag?

          • DiamondDog says:

            I think the percentage of women playing games is at almost half in the USA. So no, women in the gaming community are not a minority. This is kind of the point.

            Apart from losing it over a silly joke, you’re also talking complete nonsense.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            @BTAxis How very dare you. I am hurt and offended and sir, I challenge you to an internet duel.

            We shall begin with a round of refuting each others point, then correct our mistakes using wikipedia.
            Next we will seek contradictions in each others cases before 1 hour of criticising the tone of each others arguments.
            Finally we shall have 3 rounds of ad hominems and if we still can’t find a winner, we must call each other names until one of us falls asleep.

          • BTAxis says:

            I do hope Literally Hitler is involved in some fashion somewhere down the line. It’s just not the same without him.

          • Niko says:

            “I think the percentage of women playing games is at almost half in the USA.”

            Depends on whether you think people who play on their phones are a part of some “gaming community”.

          • Stompopolos says:

            “expanding their customer base through diversity”
            Normal people don’t base their purchasing decisions on how broad the colour pallet of the characters is.

            “You are the only one [making this about gender].”
            I responded to a whiny sounding comment about how there are no women battling demons.

            “A throwaway joke”
            Entitled teens on the internet shaping writers like Anthony Burch and genuinely affecting society despite not being able to vote is no joke, friend.

          • Sleepy Will says:

            @Stompopolos – Something something Hitler something something blah blah balh Nazi memoribilia lolligag lolligag talky talky something something.

            There you go, you won. No need to involve me any more, thanks though.

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            Don’t you feel that your attempt to appear superior is undermined by your failure to use the term “self-entitled” properly?

          • whorrak says:

            “…expanding their customer base with diversity…”

            “Normal people don’t base their purchasing decisions on how broad the colour pallet of the characters is.”

            A gamer, who happens to be female, buys a hypothetical game in which the main character is (or can be) female. The female NPCs in the hypothetical game are portrayed as something other than mindless sex objects. Gamer loves the game, tells her gaming-friends how great the game is. Friends buy the game. #economy #wordofmouth

            Alternately: A gamer, who happens to be female, buys a different hypothetical game in which the main character is locked in as male. There are few female NPCs in the game, all of which are portrayed solely as sex objects. Gamer dislikes the game, doesn’t recommend it to her friends. Friends less likely to buy the game. #nowordofmouth

          • Fox Boogs says:

            Lalwz! I just want to say, at the risk of being entirely opposed in my belief (and Zero. Fucks. Given. about it)-

            I am the one person who will not buy a game if there is no female player. Further more, I will not enjoy the game if I cannot make her black- either through the game naturally or by taking the textures and editing them in GIMP. I am SICK and TIRED of 30 something, brown haired white males as the main character for every game- their stories are beginning to blend together. There is a meme somewhere that shows exactly this- google “Video Game Protagonist- Kids Love 30 Something…” and you’ll see what I mean.

            Also, you have to be an idiot to think women are a minority. They are a completely different sex… and every color has a female half. There is absolutely no single race with ONLY men… it just couldn’t happen.

            My guess? You’re either not black, or you’re a Stacy Dash type of black person (self-deprecating). Which, if it’s the latter- go outside, take a breath of fresh air, and re-evaluate your self-worth. Your worth more than being Stacy Dash!

      • GallonOfAlan says:

        Overreact much? Anyway, it’s the burliness I have an issue with.

        • Jeremy says:

          Tall, thin men like myself are underrepresented in gaming culture. Except in horror games, which I find quite offensive. “Slender man” … how do you think that makes me feel?

        • MrFinnishDude says:

          It’s medieval times. You need to be burly or you die.

          • darkath says:

            There is actually one game, Dungeons of Dredmor, that features “Burliness” on your character sheet (along with caddishness, nimbleness and other things ;) )

      • Syra says:

        Stompopolos doing his trololololol routine again I see.

        • dontnormally says:

          Shh, they’re all taking the bait – it’s a natural process, don’t disturb them.

        • Stompopolos says:

          Of course, everyone with different opinions than you is a troll.

          • Ayasano says:

            *pats Stompopolos on the head* There there, you’ll get it eventually.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            No, just people that pretend they don’t recognize a joke, or keep going after the wind has been taken out of their sails.

      • WelshPixie says:

        I think you’re mistaking ‘not entitled enough’ with ‘not caring’.

        “You people must have the reading comprehension of primary schoolers if it doesn’t occur to you that “IN THIS CASE” very much refers to the fact that women are a minority in the gaming community?”

        Yeah, not even.

        http://www.theesa.com/facts/gameplayer.asp

        48% is a kinda slim minority.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Forget it, Stompopolos, you’re out of your element!

        • Demon Beaver says:

          The trolling man is not the issue here!

        • Stompopolos says:

          You’re right. This site is so far left that it’s pointless even trying to say anything Chanty Binx wouldn’t agree with.

      • Urthman says:

        Shorter Stompopolos: “Waah! Stop reminding me women exist!”

        • Stompopolos says:

          Trying to make every game about women isn’t reminding me they exist. It’s annoying.

          • Uboa Noticed You says:

            I think including women in games isn’t the same thing as “making a game all about women”, thanks.
            Also I like how being concerned with gender representation instantly means you’re far left.

      • Premium User Badge

        aleander says:

        I’m black, do you see me moaning about how games usually star white people?

        You personally? Not. People complaining about race issues in the media in general, and games in particular? Sure, I still remember that last (boring, trololo) Bioshock game, y’know. Would I call it moaning? No. Can a woman commit misogynous acts? Sure. Can a black person write a comment hateful towards black people? Sure, you just did!

        Good for you that you’re not bothered by the issues, but that’s not enough to dismiss others.

        Also, there is no such thing as an “apolitical” article. There’re just people unaware of their politics.

        • Stompopolos says:

          I think you and I have different definitions of hateful. I think mine is the one in the dictionary.

          • Ny24 says:

            DO NOT OPEN YOUR DICTIONARY! You could stumble over the word “empathy”. God beware if we created that monster.

  3. Meestercat says:

    Dun Dun, Der Der Dun Dun, Der Der Dun Dun, Der Der Dun Dun…

    Dun Dun DuDuDuuun Dun. Der Der Dun Dun, Der Der Dun Dun…

    Etc.

    • MrThingy says:

      I’d like a Danny Elfman soundtrack.

      #Bubba-Bubba-Bubba-Bubba
      #Bom-bom-bom-bom
      # “Aaah-aah-aaah-aaaah”
      (repeat as required)

    • Zombat says:

      Glad I wasn’t the only one that immediately started humming the GOT opening theme

  4. Firkragg says:

    What appears to be… Ratmen. As allies. Ratmen allies.
    RATMEN ALLIES!

  5. BTAxis says:

    I’ll take this. I will so very take this.

    I don’t like how the buildings pop out of the ground though, I feel they should be constructed by construction workers in a more or less realistic fashion. But I’m probably wishing for the sky. Either way, I’ll take this.

  6. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    That description of “classic RPG systems” confuses me.

    If you listen very hard, I think you might just be able to hear the so-faint whispers of Wizardry, and he is saying, “I told you this would happen”.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I was wondering about that. What are these classic rpgs, and when were you playing them?

      Although I can already hear the answer to that too; the following phrase is mandatory on c-list games and kickstarters. “We aim to have the exploration of Baldur’s Gate, the story of Planescape Torment, and the addictive gameplay of Diablo.”

  7. Kefren says:

    1:57. “It’s behind you!”

  8. Ramshackle Thoughts says:

    The first 20 seconds blew my mind. I was unprepared for the unfolding of reality.

  9. trooperwally says:

    I was already with my money to kickstart but what magic is this?! It’s not seeking crowdfunding!

    Anyway mount and blade 2 seriously needs to up its game. This seems to be M&B but with proper settlement building, lovely graphics and a story in addition to the stuff in M&B.

    Interesting piece of trivia: both this and M&B come from Turkish devs. I hope some venture capitalist is now scouring Turkey looking for other promising studios…

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      It’s getting an “early access alpha”, sounds pretty crowdfundy to me

    • Polifemo says:

      My first thoughts upon reading the premise and features was also “oh so its M&B but with settlement development actually being integrated into the gameplay in a meaningful way instead of being there for fluff”.

      Im kinda hyped for this but Illl file it under “do not generate expectations until version 1.0 is out”.

  10. Mirqy says:

    Trees do dream. It’s hard to tap into them, but once you learn how, you can actually manipulate their dreams to the point where they tear up their roots and go rampaging around the (awake) countryside. I am working on applications to monetise this discovery.

  11. Josh says:

    A big yes on this one.

  12. khomotso says:

    The city-building and defending stuff sounds and looks fun.

    Didn’t see a single thing in the video that made me feel there was much first-person action there that I’d care to engage in. I fear it will be a distraction and an unfortunate sink of development resource.

    • SillyWizard says:

      Yeah…this. I could very easily see myself wanting to play the building/management portions of the game, but it’s hard to imagine that I’d ever be willing to leave my desk, directing the progress of my people…to go stumping through some grotty caves to flail weakly at some dirt-folk.

      :/

  13. Geebs says:

    Crikey

  14. Eight Rooks says:

    I dunno about “crazy impressive” exactly, but – no, wait, okay, that last minute or so did in fact suddenly start turning everything up to eleven. Damn. I could see it crashing and burning somewhat, but I could see it being pretty awesome, too – the visuals are a little clunky even in the final scenes but I really like the sense of scale and scope. Build all the swords! Fire all the arrows!

    Also the various shots of A City Of Some Kind they’re showing are different enough I’m wondering how much choice they offer you in where to start your fledgling settlement. If it’s really that freeform then people could be talking of this one fondly in five, ten years time or more.

  15. Spacewalk says:

    It looks like it’s trying to do too many things at once. I just hope that it’s not going to fall flat on its face.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Better a heroic failure than an unoriginal safe bet.

      Well, for me, I mean. It’s probably worse for the developer, financially at least.

    • Chalky says:

      Yeah, I’d agree. It remains to be seen how it will work in reality, but I’m struggling to understand quite how it will all fit together while at the same time being as complex and interesting as they’re implying.

      An interesting RPG with some basic but essentially meaningless city builder elements I can see. A complex city builder where you can run around your world and perform basic “quests” seems reasonable too. I’m not sure how you can have both without eventually abandoning one in order to focus on the other.

      Still, if it was obvious someone would have done it before. So I guess we should wait and see.

      • Spacewalk says:

        It’ll be staggering if they do manage to pull it off but I just can’t shake the feeling that it will be a better game if they stuck with the town and city building and then did all the first person exploration stuff in a separate game afterwards.

        • Premium User Badge

          Harlander says:

          There’s already a jillion town and city building games, and a similar made-up number of first-person exploration games.

          Might as well take a punt on mixing them up a little bit.

          • Spacewalk says:

            There’s always the possibility that by devoting all of their energies to doing just one type of game that they could come up with something that could stand out from all of the other games and if they do trip up and it becomes just another city builder or just another exploration game or another whatever else is in there they won’t fall as hard as they would tackling all of that at once. Which would be a huge shame because this looks quite exciting.

        • SillyWizard says:

          So long as they keep the “adventure mode” distinct/unnecessary — think Dwarf Fortress — I think it’d be a neat feature (or at least gimmick).

          If they force the player to both city-build and prance around face-to-face with goblinkind, I expect it’ll disenchant a large proportion of players.

  16. Neutrino says:

    Shut up and take my money.

  17. tomimt says:

    That does look like the northern war that was so poorly fleshed out in Skyrim.

    • Niko says:

      Oh come on, fifty soldiers attacking a village of a dozen houses is now a poorly fleshed out war?

      • tomimt says:

        Skyrim never felt like a world that had a war going on on there. Sure, it was mentioned a lot, but it didn’t seem to effect on anything crucial. If you remove the war subplot the game is pretty much the same.

      • frightlever says:

        A bit like one of those Sharpe TV movies where the entire Peninsula war was won by two dozen men.

        • Premium User Badge

          Chaz says:

          ITV drama, that’s all they had the budget for.

        • Valkyr says:

          Well, if video games are anything to go by, I’m pretty sure I could win entire wars just by myself.

  18. frightlever says:

    So, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that I need suspended animation technology to be developed stat.

  19. ChrisMidget says:

    A prettier/more fleshed Skyrim with a bit of town builder thrown in. Count me in on this.

  20. Freud says:

    I want to build a village with dick-shaped houses being inhabited but unexpectingly pleasant people.

  21. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    But can I relieve my steward of his burden and just send out other adventurers? That would be immense to me. HUGE.

    • SillyWizard says:

      +1

      + even more if they throw in an adventurer management aspect to the game, where you can enlist suitable folks, assign them to parties where their strengths will count and weaknesses will be covered, and task them to accomplish various goals.

      Okay so that’s pretty much an entire game idea right there but I wants it desperately and it seems like it might fit in here just fine.

  22. Superpat says:

    Sooo kind of like a medieval battlezone with skyrim elements? I’m down for that!

  23. Flakfizer says:

    People who live in wooden houses shouldn’t throw fireballs.

    But seriously this looks like my kind of thing. I was happily cynical until i saw the mine and that tomb. I’ll keep an eye on this one.

    • Niko says:

      People who can’t throw fireballs can’t tell people who can how to throw fireballs.

  24. Premium User Badge

    DantronLesotho says:

    An RPG where the towns get created like the Game of Thrones intro? Sign me up!

    I’m really excited about this one. I can’t wait to see how the NPC dynamics work. If it’s just town building without any interaction, that could be a problem. But this looks mighty fine!

  25. Lemming says:

    The fact that I thought that screenshot was a photo of tabletop terrain before I click the video makes it one to watch in my book.

  26. Auldman says:

    Be still my heart…where do I spend monies?

  27. Dachannien says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I love indie developers, and I love it when they do a great job. But for an early alpha game that hasn’t even gone into early alpha yet, made by an indie dev (which appears to be just two guys) that nobody outside of Turkey has ever heard of before now, doesn’t this trailer seem a bit….. TOO well done?

    Seriously – I can’t help but wonder how many of those texture and mesh assets were sourced, um, elsewhere. (Elsweyr?)

    But hey, if it IS legit, I’m totally on board.

    • Polifemo says:

      I know we have a very “question everything” culture sparkled with “make snarky coments” and “be a cynic”.
      But sometimes its ok to just go “Man, that looks damn cool. I wanna play that” and leave it at that. NO BUTS.

      But seriously, they probably just outsourced stuff or had some friends/aquaintances help them out with this and that and they may have used stock models. Lots of studios do that. Its fiiiiiine.

  28. solymer89 says:

    Well thanks for that. Off I go to change my pants…

  29. steviebops says:

    Two man team? Still, might be done before Star Citizen.

    • Uboa Noticed You says:

      They’re already aiming for summer of 2014 for their early access stage, so they’re ahead.

  30. aliksy says:

    “Classic RPG systems
    In combat, depend on your own skills, rather than statistics on your character sheet. ”

    These two lines seem to contradict each other.

    • khomotso says:

      Yeah, I was a bit mystified by that one, too. I want to think it’s a language issue, that the Turkish team just hasn’t tried to finesse the marketing claim in English, which in a different phrasing might emphasize tactics and strategy (and not, say, twitch) as well as character building.

  31. Blackcompany says:

    Exactly how much money do they need to be done with this, say…tomorrow?

    Seriously, i am pretty certain there is more than a trifling market for a game like this. Very eager to see where this goes from here, as i badly wanto to play it.

  32. RanDomino says:

    So should I just mail them my credit cards and bank account information now…?

  33. Phantom_Renegade says:

    This is looking good. I’ll pick it up when it’s finished if it includes a third person mode.

  34. jimiray says:

    Looks impressive. My only concern is whether or not the city building and the combat will both be done well. If it has good city building mechanics but the combat is awful it’s going to make for a frustrating game and vice versa. Definitely worth checking out though.

  35. Balanuir says:

    This is SO impressive, wow. I’ll stay tuned to check if they can pull it off, because once you go beyond 10 or 20 players, things become really, really interesting with this kind of games.

    I wonder where they get their artwork from. The trailer is close to what I envision my own overly-ambitions indie project (http://mightandfealty.com/) to look like once I’ve got enough money to move it into a 3D engine, except for the scale (I am quite sure they won’t be simulating my million+ peasants at their scale).

    The artwork is really quite impressive and it’s one of the things that most indie games have trouble with.

  36. Talidan says:

    Ah… well, looks like my team and I need to change up what we’re doing to set us more apart. We have city building in an open-world fantasy RPG setting, though with random map generation… along with some other features… is that enough to be different? I guess we’ll see.

  37. Dinjoralo says:

    If the combat isn’t as ‘pweh’ as Skyrim’s, I am all for this.