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This Viking citybuilder has a touch of Okami about it

Roots Of Yggdrasil nails its inkwash visuals and sound

Steam Next Fest may be over for another few months, but luckily some game demos are still alive and kicking. This is excellent news, as it means you've still got time to give Roots Of Yggdrasil a go, a chill, Viking citybuilder that has such strong Okami vibes with its inky, cell-shaded visuals, strong black outlines, and flute and harp-driven soundtrack that I kept having to remind myself I wasn't just playing a spin-off of Clover's seminal Zelda-like. I swear, if it weren't for the smattering of autumnal trees in the tutorial level, its grassy plains, tall mountains and bright blue river would have been a dead ringer for Okami's Kamiki Village.

Roots Of Yggdrasil is, of course, a very different kind of game to Okami. As well as being a turn-based citybuilder, it's also a roguelike, tasking you with building lots of little settlements on floating hexagonal islands to power up the titular roots of its mythical world tree so you can find a way back home. Building houses increases your population, and kitting out clusters of them with equipment posts raises your village's might level, which you'll need to unlock new tile masses to get closer to that biome's Yggdrasil root.

A grassy mountain scene in Roots Of Yggdrasil
You can place houses anywhere you like, scratching that Dorfromantik itch of creating cute little dioramas while also having set win conditions to help structure your run.

There are other building types you can unlock when you hit certain population milestones - lumber mills and water wells and mining stations, for example - and these are represented by cards at the bottom of your screen. These special building types can often only be built a certain number of times before they disappear, so you'll need to place them carefully in order to maximise their output. Homes and equipment posts, on the other hand, can unlimited use, but their associated building costs increase each time you put one on the map.

To get more income, you'll need to end your turn, and it's here where Roots Of Yggdrasil's chill vibes start to become increasingly less easy-going as the game goes on. You see, you've only got a certain amount of time before the Ginnungagap appears - the primordial void, according to Norse mythology, represented here as an ominous dark purple cloud that starts to eat your map the longer you spend there. Since the Ginnungagap waits for no one, you're told, each turn suddenly has its own countdown clock when it pitches up, putting the pressure on to activate your Yggdrasil portal and get the hell out of there. It adds a welcome sense of tension to the mix, and when it happened to me during one of my non-tutorial demo runs, it really made me get my skates on.

A purple cloud appears on the far right of a floating land mass surrounded by green water in Roots Of Yggdrasil
Uh oh, here comes the Ginnungagap!

Thankfully, you've got all the time in the world to carefully rotate and place your settlements before the Ginnungagap appears, so you can luxuriate in Root Of Yggdrasil's gorgeous visuals and ponder how to best make use of the available space you're given. You're free to place houses down wherever you like, rotating their randomised shapes with your mouse wheel for the perfect fit or just plonking them down wherever for a more haphazard - I say organic - layout if you prefer. Specialised cards do have some building conditions - lumber yards must have at least one house in their catchment area, for example - and ech Yggdrasil roots has its own unlock conditions as well. In my demo where the Ginnungagap turned up, for instance, one required 80 Might while another needed 450 banked income, so managing your resources effectively during its time limit is essential to making it out alive.

And once your portal is activated, it's time to pack up and head back to your home hub called The Holt (which also looks like it's been plucked out of Okami - or at least NoClip's floating tourist renditions of Okami, anyway). Here you can spend the resources you've gathered to unlock new things like blueprints for different building types, as well as other bits and bobs to help with future runs. It's a compelling little loop, and I felt a pang of 'Wait I want more!' when the demo ended.

Alas, Roots Of Yggdrasil is still only "Coming Soon" on Steam at the moment, but do give the demo a go before it also gets eaten by the Ginnungagap void. There's a lot to like here, and I'll be keeping a close eye on it as it gets closer to release.

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About the Author
Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle


Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent four years in the RPS hardware mines. Now she leads the RPS editorial team and plays pretty much anything she can get her hands on. She's very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests, but also loves strategy and turn-based tactics games and will never say no to a good Metroidvania.

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