It’s spring and my Viking colonists are gleefully filling their bellies now that the snow has melted and our food stores are filling up. The farmers and hunters are working hard, and with their appetite sated, my warriors are jonesing for a fight. I don’t have time to enjoy it. I’m already preparing for Northgard’s next harsh winter. Even more than dragons or undead, foul weather is the greatest threat to my growing settlement.
Northgard looks like a throwback, a game that would have comfortably fit in with Age of Empires and Settlers, but while the inspiration is clear, it would be a disservice to imply that it’s mainly trading in nostalgia. This Viking saga builds on the history-themed RTS romps of the ’90s, but it’s not beholden to them.
The basics are still familiar. You start with nothing but a ramshackle town hall and some villagers, eventually growing it into a large, defensible settlement that can handle raids from monsters and other Vikings. That’s done by finding resources and exploiting them using specialist workers and buildings.
Building slots limit how much you can construct straight away. The map is made up out of discrete regions containing resources, treasure and enemies, but only space for a few buildings, and they’ve got to be colonised before they can be used. Every region costs exponentially more food to colonise, so you really need to plan out your expansion in advance, considering the impact on your stockpiles.
As each new layer, from weather to warfare, is introduced, the pace of expansion is a relief. It slows things down just enough so that you can take a moment to set priorities, whether that’s making pals with the kobolds who moved in down the road or sending a scout to go delving into ruins. But while the pace might be more considered, winter’s approach means there’s always some tension, and the multitude of enemies ensures there’s no absence of friction.
Winter is a challenge that can be overcome by worker placement and preparation—the two most important things in Northgard. Workers can be switched on the fly, so if you’ve got a warband just sitting around, you can make all of them farmers, fishermen or hunters to help keep everyone fed. With the right buildings and happy, healthy workers, even the most brutal winters can be handled.
If you’re more military-minded, you might not want to disband your army. By generating lore, a stand-in for science, technological advancements can be made, including warmer clothes for warriors. That’s a game-changer, arguably making winter one of the best times to go on the offensive, when enemy Vikings might not be as prepared.
How you approach winter, and indeed most of Northgard’s systems, can also depend on the clan you’re playing as, along with what victory condition you’re gunning for. You can win your ‘Best Viking Award’ by conquest, but you can also win through trade, wisdom and fame, all of which come with different building and resource prerequisites.