Northgard: Ragnarok Review

by

Gods are mean 

Northgard is an RTS game that starts slow and tasks you with making strong choices, choices that ultimately will affect the outcome of your quaint Norse village. If you’re not prepared when winter comes, say goodbye to your food reserves and wallow in your people’s sickness because you’ve just failed as a chieftain. Guiding your Viking clan to health and prosperity isn’t an impossible task, however. Northgard is a relatively easy RTS to get your head around and provides an accessible venture into the genre for the uninitiated.

The title’s latest update attempts to add new facets to the game with a nice chunk of new content to get stuck into. As in Norse mythology, Ragnarok invokes more carnage to your fragile lands and in turn, adds an extra layer of difficulty and slightly changes the way you might approach gameplay.

As normal, you’ll start out by placing down the essentials in your village; a scouting camp to search through the fog of war to new parts of the map, farms to harvest your all-important food and lumberjacks and miners to harvest wood and stone for new buildings and projects – colonising land tiles as you expand. However, if you’ve chosen the new update you’ll notice things looking a little different from the bleak, resource-scarce lands. Ragnarok changes the way you might approach the game by forcing your hand into play styles you might not normally adopt.

Taking a back seat to military building might not be the best play in Ragnarok

For example, the baron lands leave you with a food problem. Hunting becomes vital and in turn quick expansion to secure those tiles. In the same way, the enemy threat is also increased. Ragnarok introduces the Dark Eld faction, Myrkalfar, who’ll randomly attack players on sight and take hard earned supplies through raids. Coupled with ghostly fallen sailors from the sea, who’ll not only attack but also inflict unhappiness debuffs to your clan, it means taking a back seat to military building might not be the best play in Ragnarok.

It might just be a side effect from other RTS games I’ve played, but I’ve always seemed to keep a strong army. My early ventures into Northgard were no different despite it being an expensive habit in this particular game though. It’s not cheap to keep a strong group of Viking soldiers primed and often playing for Trade or Wisdom victories are the better choice. Ragnarok changes that as the outward threat is imposing and frequent, meaning that having a strong defence is paramount to your success.

So, playing for a domination victory holds much more sway in the update. Fortunately, the play style is also bolstered by a new Military Paths system that you’ll get to unlock as you progress and kill enemies, giving you a choice between Tactician, Guadian and Conquerer. These can boost health, soldier numbers or cause fear in enemies, but all of them will prepare you better for harder battles, depending on your taste.

I did find myself yearning for the green, frost-ridden Norse lands of the base game after a short while of staring at the bleak surroundings

The new landscape and outlook in Ragnarok rips away a little of Northgard’s charm in favour of aggression and torment. It does exactly what it sets out to do, and that should be commended, however, I did find myself yearning for the green, frost-ridden Norse lands of the base game after a short while of staring at the bleak surroundings. Whilst the Blood Moons, which add attack power to units outside of territory and volcanoes ripping ash and darkness across the map do add flavour, it does do it at a little expense of what made this easy-going RTS so visually appealing in the first place.

7.5

Once all is said and done, though, Ragnarok is free content that manages to offer something different to what has come before it. The new challenge is a good one and whilst the new hostile landscape isn’t particularly as easy on the eye (as intended), the update certainly manages to be a palatable addition to what is a very good RTS game.

Began gaming on a hand-me-down Commodore Vic-20 back in the mid 80's and hasn't managed to shake the addiction yet. Genres of choice include anything that contains bullets and/or bouncy balls. Has been known to dabble in Destiny content.

@nickjh82

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