What’s Gus Playing? Northgard!

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A wise man once wrote that ‘sometimes love just ain’t enough.’ Tragic, but true.

I looked forward to playing Northgard for a long time since I got the complete game at a deep discount a few months ago (there have been several DLCs dropped since it’s release). A city builder set at the beginning of the Viking Age (around 800 AD), Northgard gives the player a dozen different clans to choose from in sandbox mode, along with options for a story mode (sort of a long tutorial) and multiplayer.

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By: Lloyd Sabin

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Tons of Viking flavor await for the stalwart, wannabe clan chieftain.

Once playing, there are building options up the wazoo, a colorful variety of unit types, all kinds of Scandinavian-flavored dangers to avoid and obstacles to overcome. The graphics are excellent, if a bit too cutesy for my taste – I like my Scandinavian scourges to be a bit more frightening – but I really can’t complain about the visuals.

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Different structures train different units, after the player sends a villager to them to get trained. Little subtleties like that make the game interesting – some mechanics were easier to remember for me than others.

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Proof that I wasn’t totally incompetent playing Northgard…I was able to advance from the first story mode chapter to the second.

So – what’s my frickin’ problem with Northgard?

Well, like another great man once said – it’s not the game, it’s me.  Northgard does nothing wrong at all from a gaming or technical point of view. My issue is my brain – I just don’t think it’s wired for slightly more complex, economically-involved city builder type games. The relationships between resources and results for my tribe or city or nation never really become clear to me, and I wind up losing, a lot…even after turning down the difficulty sometimes.

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Simple yet attractive graphics for the clan tech tree.

Similar to my experience with Anno 1800, which is another great game that I just happen to be not so good at, Northgard is clearly a winner. I’m just a loser when it comes to this type of game. I can slam my head against my monitor repeatedly and I just don’t get it, fundamentally. I want to, especially considering the Viking setting, the units, the history – they are all in my wheelhouse. But my wiring is just getting in the way.

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Brand is your in game advisor and also a hero unit, guiding you through building options as well as expansion of your territory on a wider scale.

Northgard is one of those games I will return to at some point in the future. It is well made, runs like a champ and offers tons of replayability. I just have to train my brain to be more economically sound so I can succeed in playing it.

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Sailing the seas in story mode, advancing your clan’s holdings from island to island.

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Small territories can get crowded quickly, at which point the player must annex more territory – which must be cleared of predators, supernatural Nordic freaks or other clans first. Northgard can grow to become pretty complex – difficulty that is easy to underestimate under is adorable graphics. Be careful!

It’s not you Northgard, it’s me. But I will revisit you again at some point. Maybe tomorrow! In just the action of doing this brief writeup, I have begun to think about the game again…certainly a good sign and clear evidence that Northgard is worthy of any strategy gamer’s time. Just don’t underestimate it!

The base game is available on Steam for

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