Northgard Review (Nintendo Switch)

Published on April 23rd, 2020 by Jaime Arredondo

Northgard Review (Nintendo Switch)

As the head of a Viking clan, you will go on adventures in this real-time strategy game that, has the virtue of entertaining both new players and veterans alike. Expand your domains, search for food and other resources … and survive the cold winter!

Story

We are living a streak of titles that are compounded in the Viking experiences that are leaving the poor Nordic pantheon without wanting more popularity. It is true that many remain in somewhat regular titles because they borrow mythology as a cover for their aesthetics, but this leaves the most attractive thing outside: the Eddas.

Northgard story mode
With vengeance, you depart to Northgard.

The Eddas are oral poems where all the myths, chronologies, and biographies of the northern gods are collected. Just as Santa Monica did a good job informing themselves for their God of War, Shiro Games did the same with the Eddas. Thus, we have a game that knows how to use the Nordic mythological and historical context as its god’s command. Each offering, reference, social stratum, motive, or decision of its characters are based on the Eddas, making it breathe a well-worn narrative solidity.

Outside its Nordic packaging, the plot remains a story of revenge and very basic power struggles. It is also very conservative in the way that the goals of the chapters of the single-player mode are developed, being experiences that we have already lived hundreds of times in other RTS like Age of Empires II or Warcraft III.

Gameplay

Something Northgard does right is that it sails between very different waters — and despite this, it floats admirably. Whether you’re a newcomer to the genre or have been enjoying real-time strategy for a lifetime, in this Shiro Games title you will find more than enough excuses to lose yourself in its colorful mythological universe. And it’s worth mentioning because that the limitations that it imposes so that actions do not become too complex are a strategic resource that allows it to that lets you face its challenges with some freedom.

Northgard Win conditions
Each clan has their own way of grasping victory.

With a few Vikings under your command, you will have to expand your dominions conquering the lands that surround you; but you will have to do it carefully. Measure each step you take, because growing too fast can leave you without your food and wood reserves, which means you’ll be totally defenseless in the cold winter. Each land you explore and colonize offers certain resources such as stone, iron, or food that you must exploit to the fullest to evolve your clan, but it is not as simple as building as much as you can. Each of these territories can only host a small number of buildings, so you will have to think carefully about what you do.

Your Strategy

At first, you may go crazy building houses or silos to store food, but with practice, you will discover that sometimes it is more advisable to control your expenses, save construction spaces, and improve the buildings available. This will allow you to recruit more workers and increase their productivity. It is another detail to manage the work because, in Northgard, one must constantly redirect the efforts of the Vikings to adapt to the conditions of the war. If your forte is fighting, you can form an army and always have it active and ready to protect the borders of the territory. However, this implies that these Vikings will not be generating food, money or wood, so it may be better to transform them into explorers, or hunters, or farmers, for a few months to obtain resources.

Northgard weather
Winter is coming and it’s harsh in Northgard.

Do you need to go to war? It is as easy as taking troops from one building and directing them to another. That easy, that fast. Although at first glance it seems that there are not many options, there are enough to enjoy a varied, exciting gaming experience with the ability to surprise even the most seasoned in the genre. It never ends up getting too complex, but at least the Shiro Games game doesn’t leave any of the traditional elements of real-time strategy in the dark. This includes trading, which is great for making money in exchange for the surplus of certain raw materials. There are also different special abilities and passive improvements that you will discover with the resource called wisdom, which you can generate by praying in altars. Your forge can also be upgraded to create new weapons and tools with which you can use to enhance the efficiency of your Vikings.

Clans to fit your style

Each clan has certain tactical advantages that, when used well, can make the difference in the most disputed battles.

Northgard does not forget elements of Norse mythology. You’ll face enemies like the Valkyries, the living dead, and the Jötunn giants. You’ll have to build defenses to protect yourself from enemy incursions, which are essential to conquering their territory and ending the attacks of wild beasts and monsters. The only downside is that the combat is not particularly complex.

Northgard Clans
You can see the information for each clan.

Unfortunately, for now, the Switch version only comes with six clans (Deer, Goat, Wolf, Raven, Bear, and Boar) compared to the newest clans added on the PC version of the game.

Victory In Many Ways

A great part of this game is that while the gameplay is solid and diverse, players have various ways to play and win. Following this, players can choose to play a single-player match against AI-controlled opponents of varying levels of difficulty. Here again, we see a similarity to the Civilization series, as players can win through several conditions:

Domination: Destroy other players’ Town Halls and become the master of Northgard
Fame: Gain enough Territory and raise your Fame to obtain the title of King
Trade: Amass riches to become the greatest merchant in Northgard
Wisdom: Discover ancient knowledge and become the wisest Clan leader in Northgard

Multiplayer Mode

The multiplayer really shines thanks to these diverse conditions for victory. Players can face off against friends, or they can partner together to take on AI opponents. This allows for some creative gameplay as players work towards complementary goals. One of the major cons of Multiplayer Mode is that there are not many active players around, so it’s sometimes difficult to find an active server for online matches. Hopefully, the community on the Switch will grow, because Northgard has a lot to offer.

Northgard multiplayer
Multiplayer is one of the best options to enjoy Northgard.

Controls

Another important change from the PC version is how the game menus are presented. Remember that we are talking about a real-time strategy game with controls designed primarily for the PC. In the past, we were able to enjoy RTS that were great for controls, like Halo Wars, leaving each button for a specific function or unit type.

Northgard controls
The control wheel is a nice addition.

This convenient wheel allows you to streamline processes in the game, and the tasks you can streamline change depending on what Northgard recommends is best for your settlement. For example, if the game thinks you need to increase your settlement’s population, a quick-access menu will pop up, giving you a shortcut so that you don’t have to go through the larger menu.

Although the wheel is practical, it still isn’t as fast or as easy to access as it is on the PC. As a result, responsiveness in Northgard is a bit slower on the Switch.

While it can’t perform as well as it does on the PC, the Nintendo Switch version is still enjoyable and runs impressively for a handheld.

Graphics and Sound

It must be said that Northgard is a beautifully aesthetic game. With its mixture of cold colors in pastel tones and cartoony animation, this game has a unique and pleasant touch. The effects that accompany frost, flames, and a living ecosystem that tricks us into thinking that we are not facing a flat and simple scenario.

Northgard graphics
Colors are used beatifully in this game.

The difference between this game and its PC version lies in the stability and bugs, and the experience can be frustrating.

The PC version does not weigh much and has laudable requirements to move it to its maximum performance. There is no frame-lock on the Switch, therefore in menus and in other areas of the game, you’ll be playing at 60 frames per second. However, it’s not stable at all and when winter comes or there are a lot of interactive elements on the screen, it can fall as low as 20 frames per second.

Sounds and calls work well in the game, and the music is on point with the game’s atmosphere. The only thing that is missing here to be great is the lack of voice acting, it has some voice acting during cut scenes, but it would have been better if used in-game too.

Verdict

As a real-time strategy game, Northgard is brilliant. From the control scheme to the drop in difficulty to compensate for the lack of response, everything about the game makes you not want to give up on playing.

It’s too bad this version is so unpolished. Sudden framerate changes and exits to the console menu can exasperate more than one culprit. Additionally, if you play on the TV, prepare the binoculars because the font is too small to read (not in portable mode, though, as it’s adjusted to the screen). Hopefully over time they correct the rough edges and add in the updates that the PC version already has so that it can be as much of an enjoyable experience.

Final Score: 8/10.

Jaime Arredondo

About Jaime Arredondo

A teacher who loves to spend time with his family. He also loves to read and play video games.