Matt: I haven’t played an RTS since Starcraft, so Northgard was a great reminder that not every game in the genre has to be about constant micro and maximising your actions-per-second. Northgard is a much more sedate game, where you can’t even attack your opponents until you’ve sent a scout to map out their territory.
You have enough to worry about without antagonising the other factions, anyway. Wolves and Draugr present a constant threat if you don’t commit to wiping them out, but focusing too much on your military can result in your people starving and freezing when winter comes. On top of the harsh food and firewood penalties, every winter also brings a calamity like an earthquake or a rat plague, which will wipe out your food stores and spread sickness amongst your clan. They’re a nightmare to deal with, but boot up the multiplayer and It’s all worth it to hear the panicked screams of your friends.
Brendan: God, I love competence. Northgard is a viking strategy that simply knows what it is doing. It is competent. If that sounds like faint praise, it shouldn’t. This land-grabber is merciful to dabblers and those new to the RTS, while also being faithful to the genre that Company of Heroes so excellently reformed. You nab bits of a randomly-generated island, each plot having its own benefits. Maybe there’s some fertile land there to grow a farm. Maybe it has a stone circle you want to examine. Maybe you just need it for longhouse real estate.
Whatever the case, you expand to expand. But conquering isn’t a simple matter of rolling over everything with troops. Victory can be achieved through military might, but because of the low population cap each warrior lost to the axe feels like a harsh blow. And since you’re often re-assigning villager’s tasks, each fighter is also a potential hunter, merchant, or witch doctor. That makes it tempting to go for other types of victory conditions. A good trading plan or lore-farming strategy can also win you the game. Although there will still be challenges. Harsh winters can leave you without food. Giants can ally with your foes and come stomping into your territory. An armoured bear can eat all your fishermen. Like all good map-based strategy games, Northgard is about staying in control when everything is going wrong.