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Expeditions: Viking (PC) artwork

Expeditions: Viking (PC) review

"(Vi)King of the Hybrids"

Expeditions: Viking blindsided me in several ways, all at once. Itís a remarkably complex little game thatís not one for easing you in with tutorials, so you have to figure the majority out as you go along. I guess itís kind of fitting in a way; you play a custom-built viking who wakes up one day to the news your father has died on an overseas raid, and youíre suddenly the new chieftain of a small village. Only, itís not a very good village, considering your father wasnít a very good ruler. All the resources and the majority of the fighting-age men have been squandered on pillaging English monasteries, which makes yours a poorly defended and unprosperous chunk of land any neighbour with a decent militia could swan in and claim for his own. So thereís that to worry about, but perhaps more pressing is the way your cousin is openly making plays for your barely-warmed throne. That will have to be dealt with, just as soon as you put down a mini rebellion of angry farmers.

Thereís always something with which you have to contend. Those farmers who wanted your head can be fought off, but what do you do with their upstart family? They run the biggest farm in your territory, and losing that resource would put a drastic dent in your already floundering village. But can you really allow your first decision as a chieftain to be an act of forgiveness toward the very people who tried to shank you just the evening before? They publicly defied you as a leader, and letting that slide could be seen as weak... even if a harsh response means a few more people starve to death during the harsh winters to come.

Tied up wonderfully though it is with Nordic lore, themes of betrayal and a desperate adventure, the driving point behind Expeditions: Viking is to produce a village powerful or affluent enough to survive. Soon, the early headaches such as dealing with an undercurrent of rebellion--or even a power grab from within your own ranks--seem downright pedestrian. It becomes apparent far too quickly that trying to rebuild your dilapidated town is going to require a lot more effort and travel than perhaps you signed up for. Soon youíll have to traverse your corner of Denmark to raise funds, troops and equipment so you can travel to the nearby British Isles, either as a conqueror looking to increase his power through plunder and slavery, or as a negotiator hoping to forge new trade routes or gather overseas allies.

To that end, Expeditions: Viking is a town building game aided by a diplomacy system, which is backed by turned-based battles for times when peaceful overtures donít work or arenít wanted. To supplement all of that, there is a strong trading and crafting system that builds off how you choose to progress your traveling battle band during its continued exploration of both foreign and domestic lands. Members gain experience not so much by completing battles, but through the completion of set tasks that may or may not involve bloodshed (often depending on how you handle the situation ahead of time). Upon visiting a neighbouring town, you are approached by a trader new to the area who has seen his new lodgings swarmed by what seems to be a ragged band of young hooligans. He offers you decent coin to clear them out and you can, of course, wade right in and split skulls for profit. Or, you can dig around a bit and try to find another solution. Talk to the right people and youíll learn that rather than the hardened gang of juvenile neíer-do-wells they appear to be, theyíre just a gathering of war orphans with nowhere to go and no one to rely on but each other. Maybe that will change nothing for you, and youíll still put them to sword. Or maybe itíll make you try to discover a less fatal solution.

Then again, the above options may not even be available. Perhaps youíve not bothered keeping up with your diplomacy or leadership skills and people donít respect you enough to give you any of the answers you seek. Perhaps youíve decided there are more pressing skills in which to invest, a decision that is easily forgiven. Increasing your skill in various weapons not only offers you augmented competency with, say, an axe or a bow, but it can also provide special skills to employ in battle. Is there a pesky enemy hiding behind his shield, stopping you from stabbing him in the face? A decent axe wielder has a skill where he can hook that shield away, giving others free stab reign. Is someone outside of melee range annoying you so much that a simple arrow to the face isnít spiteful enough? An accomplished archer can shoot a blazing bolt and set the bugger on fire.

But thereís so much more to the game than just that. Some passive skills give you a bonus when you attack the opposite sex, or allow you to rage harder against someone whoís injured one of your party. There are perks that make you tougher or extend your mobility, as well as more abstract ones that diminish accuracy penalties at night or make you a less likely target. Then you have skills that kick in every time you camp out for the night, allowing you to stand guard better or become a better hunter to swell your food supplies. But meat spoils quickly, so youíll probably want to invest in a skill that lets you turn your supplies into salted, unspoilable rations. Youíll also need some scouts who might sniff out nearby danger, or find locations of interest nearby. Maybe youíd like to train up a cook who can make the entire camp a decent meal without wasting too many resources. How about your own blacksmith or tinker? Sure, you can often hire people in the larger towns to repair your armour, make a new sword or build you poison-coated spike traps, but having your own means you only spend the raw resources they require. Besides, workers belonging to towns that donít like you are prone to charging you an extortionate fee. And, hereís the bad news; not a lot of people like you.

Thatís probably because youíre the leader of a blood-stained war band, consisting primarily of a people well known for pillage and rape. And perhaps thatís the role youíll take: torching villages, ransacking monasteries and killing everything that looks at you cross-eyed. You donít have to, though. You can try to win the trust of the strange foreign people, helping restore deposed kings to the throne or driving pagan worshipers out of nearby ruins. Maybe youíll do everything you can to win a little bit of valuable trust, have a few docks opened to your trade ships or a few foreign soldiers deployed in defence of your village. Or maybe youíll just wait until they trust you a bit more, then build an army on a little island just off the coast of Scotland and claim everything as your own.

No one ever said running a village would be easy.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (August 08, 2017)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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wolfqueen001 posted August 20, 2017:

Nice review. This game sounds kind of like a cross between Civilization and Fantasy Wars, which could indeed become very complex. You did a good job laying out that complexity, though, and yet still made it sound like there's so much more to the game that you left unsaid. It's good to see a game come out like this that gives you a great deal of liberal choice in how you go about accomplishing your goals. It must've done a good job, too, to earn such a high rating.
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EmP posted August 21, 2017:

Thanks. I'm pretty pleased with this one, and I surprised the game a hell of a lot more than I expected. It's really rough going at the start as it's desperate not to hold you hand and force you to figure everything out. People should keep an eye out for it.

Thanks for reading!

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