Quick First Impressions Review: Northgard

Northgard

I’ve promised to write down my impressions of Northgard on Twitter. The game released tonight, exactly two hours ago and since it is an early access game, you will not get my usual first impressions review, but a very quick first impressions review. :p I will – depending on the outcome of this first glance – report about significant changes and added features and write a more in-depth first impressions piece later on!

Now, for the most important part: What exactly is Northgard? – To answer this, let me first ask you: Did you play Settlers? Did you play Cultures (shown below)? If you did play Cultures, come here, sit down, take a cookie, say hello and be my best friend! Cultures is the game that got me into gaming in the “modern age” (after my C64-days). Cultures was – is, rather – a game about Vikings. It has single player campaigns and multiplayer coop and PvP maps. I liked it a lot more than Settlers, because you could name every single of your Vikings and you assigned each of them their job and determined which one got married and so on.

My main problem is: There is Cultures and it got so many things right in my opinion. And here is Northgard. A new game just freshly released into Early Access. Several features like multiplayer are not yet implemented. But even when all features are in the game, I need to remind myself that this isn’t Cultures! Comparing it directly will only disappoint me. But enough about these games. I merely mentioned them, because when I saw Northgard, I immediately had to think about Cultures and after Valhalla Hills being rather disappointing, my hope was that Northgard would be a worthy successor. However, it is probably better to keep that nostalgic feeling at the back of my mind and look at Northgard with fresh eyes. Shiro Games are different developers and apparently they (or one of them, at least) did not even know the Cultures series existed. Shiro Games are the developers of Evoland and Evoland 2, by the way. I never played these games, but I know the name. Northgard still very much reminds me of Settlers and Cultures. It’s a real-time strategy/simulation game where you build and grow a village of Vikings. You need to gather resources and food and defend against various enemies as well as attack others to gain more regions for your tribe!

So, let’s look at Northgard: You start with a tiny little piece of land and a few villagers. There are only men around which I am not a fan of. Yes, I know there is always a huge debate whether there were women fighting for the Vikings, but that’s not what I mean! It’s a village. It should have men and women. In Cultures, women tended to the house, brought home food (= carriers ^^) in Cultures 2, they also took care of bringing home dishes and stuff and they gave birth to the Viking children. It just made it more believable!

The first thing you will probably build is a Scout camp. Scouts explore the surrounding areas. Your territory is very small and you are only allowed up to build 4 buildings in there. So you need to expand and claim more areas for yourself (and you can only build 4 buildings in each of them). Then you do what you usually do in this kind of game: You place a woodcutter lodge, a hunter’s lodge if your area has deer, maybe you can place a fishing hut if you have fish nearby. Of course, you also have things like a training camp for warriors or a defense tower. Houses will allow more villagers to come to your village. The user interface is pretty clean, intuitive and easy to navigate.

Something I did not understand at first: In order to survive winter, you should probably have a fishing hut. Where I got placed, there were no fish, though. I also had no fertile land despite claiming three areas out of which one was very green all over. The game did not tell me what counts as fertile land. I started a second game to see if I had more luck there (spoiler: I did! I found fish, but no fertile land).

Fighting is very straight-forward. Tell your warriors where to go, right-click the enemy. I had my two warriors die to wolves. After recruiting two new warriors, I was a bit surprised to see one of my warriors still alive. Maybe I’d just had tomatoes on my eyes? I told my two new warriors to join their buddy – by right-clicking on him. The next thing I knew was that a message informed me that the leader of the neighbouring clan was not happy about my hostile action. Now I know that a) the warriors aren’t too easy to distinguish (or I do indeed have tomatoes on my eyes – both equally possible and likely! ^^) and b) the other clans don’t immediately go to war just because you accidentally killed one of their warriors. Good neighbours, I would say. The kind of neighbours I like. Such a simple little unimportant mistake shouldn’t lead to resentful actions, right? But without fish or fertile land, I decided to start a new game and see where I would be placed here. Maybe I would be luckier…

The second game indeed went much better: I had fish! But I was at the maximum of 5 Vikings and I needed more to grow (and I had negative food production, that is, more food was consumed than produced). I wanted to hurry up with the wood production as I was lacking wood for another house and added my last free Viking to the woodcutter lodge. Then there was no Viking left to build that house. But no problem, I’ll just unassign… nope. It’s either not possible, not yet possible or I could not find the option*.

Thankfully, I had a warrior standing around that I decided to send into a kamikaze run to nearby enemies, so he’d die and I could have one more Viking which would come to my village with no assigned role! Other than assigning regular villagers to build buildings, they gather food in the area when they have nothing else to do. At least, when it’s not winter. I like this little touch of having the seasons affect the game!

There is also something like a tech tree in the game. I am gathering lore points a— HEY! While I was typing this, the game made a weird sound… it was the clear sound of an alarm! The minimap showed one of my areas flashing in bright red. Something attacked me! But no, not something. Somebody. The one clan I had found already which had been neutral to me. Apparently, as we are right next to each other, as it’s winter, and as I have fish, they thought they could just attack me! I had also just sacrificed my one warrior, so I was defenseless. I am happy to report, though, that you can assign every Viking to your training camp to convert them into a warrior. Two warriors later, my area was successfully defended but I am down to one warrior again. And only one woodcutter, but I had only wanted to have one in the first place. So no big deal. Except that I had no food anymore and still had a negative production, because there were no free villagers left to gather food. But one new villager arrived just in time! Phew. We’re safe!

Back to the lore tree: Once I am at the maximum amount shown (which is 100 lore in the beginning), I can unlock something. I decided my warriors should get fur coats, so their attack power isn’t reduced in foreign areas during winter. The next unlock costs 120 lore.

 

Just so we know that this is not everything to the game… look at that black cloud on the picture. It appeared together with a pop-up tooltip window informing me that portals opened and I would have to make sure my defenses are strong enough…

Northgard

And with this, I am going to end my very first impression piece.

What’s the verdict here? So far, the game runs smoothly on my PC. No technical issues, no bugs that I noticed – and just when I was wondering whether it could become a bit too boring, the neighbouring clan attacked me! So far, so good. Northgard is in Early Access, so the game is still being developed and more features will be added. I do not regret the purchase! Speaking of purchase: ‘What’s the price?’ you may ask. It’s currently on sale for $17.99€ on Steam Early Access until March 1, then the price will go up to $19.99€. Still a good price if this is the kind of game you enjoy playing!

However, as with every Early Access title: Choose wisely whether you want to invest now as the game does lack some features! Inform yourself first and make the judgment based on what is there now, not on what could maybe eventually end up in the game in the not-so-soon future. If you like what you see, then yes, go ahead and buy the game! It isn’t expensive, after all. If you’re uncertain, better wait and check YouTube or Twitch for Let’s Plays before making a decision.

*It’s the latter. I looked at the steam community hub for this game and found a thread about this where they mentioned how it works: You select the worker you want to convert back to villager and send him to the Town Hall (the main building you start with) or to one of the houses you’ve built and that puts them back to being a regular villager. It also helps spreading houses around the map as it means less travel time for this task.

Different game, same problem…

The last thing I wrote about Elder Scrolls Online was the complaint about the importance of race when choosing a class. I have gotten used to it now – I am still not a big fan of that system, though. But now the next problem emerges: I was happily playing my orc stamina sorcerer and it was entertaining. The game is beautiful, the stories in the quests are interesting, the voice over is great and I have also finally found the subtitles setting (first thing in “Audio” while I was looking for subtitles in “Interface”). Not because I don’t understand English well enough, but because I enjoy watching a stream or a film when gaming in the evening after a long day at work.

And then I made the mistake to remind myself that there are more classes than the sorcerer. It ended up being: Do I want to play the sorcerer or rather the dragonknight?

As bookahnerk made his first steps in ESO (we had both gotten the game when it released, but never really got into playing it), I decided to accompany him with the dark elf (dunmer) dragonknight I had created.

Elder Scrolls Online Dragonknight Lava Whip

My sorcerer was nice. Combat was good. But look at this picture! My Dragonknight has some spiky armor coming out of her body and uses a lava whip to attack! How cool is that? It’s always amazing how such little simple things can change the way I look at a game and my enjoyment.

After taking her out for a few quests, I am pretty certain that I want to play her instead of the sorcerer! Well, for now, at least… My track record in Guild Wars 2 doesn’t exactly prove my determination… (mesmer in April 2012, after a brief switch to the warrior, mesmer again in February 2013, warrior in August 2013, mesmer in August 2015 – and currently, I am almost exclusively playing my warrior again).

Humble Freedom Bundle

Not too long ago, I thought about donating money again as I usually do – well, often around Christmas as that’s the time that organizations advertise the most and this reminds me that I want to donate. :p But for some reason, I forgot this year. And then I saw the Humble Freedom Bundle. “Doctors without borders” is the organization that I thought about supporting. Perfect timing! Now I could donate money and get something in return!

There are too many games in this bundle to list them all here. Stardew Valley has been on my wishlist for quite some time already, though. There are also some ebooks of which “R in a nutshell” had caught my attention.

I spent maybe twenty minutes in Stardew Valley yesterday and before I launched the game for the first time, I was certain I’d be lost and playing it for hours. But… I got bored within a few minutes. It feels too much like a Facebook game to me. Now this may not do the game justice, I know that, but that was my first impression. We’ll see if I give the game a second chance. But in the meantime, there are so many other new games… most of which actually interest me even less. Still, it doesn’t feel like wasted money, because it’s money I would have otherwise spent without getting anything.

Several of the games are puzzle games which never “interest” me in the way that I don’t usually go and buy them on purpose (with a few rare exceptions). But if I’m in the right mood, I actually do enjoy puzzle games once in a while. World of Goo, for example, is a game I really liked! I have it on my tablet, though, so it’s not a new game for me.

super hexagon 2 seconds in

I also tried Super Hexagon and got to 9:22 – seconds, I might add. 9 seconds! Then it’s game over. Every single time. IF I last that long. Maybe I should try again when I’m not that tired.

I think I’ll just go read a book now. ;)

Rift Valentine’s Day Giveaway: Win 2 Racing Snail mounts!

Update (Feb 14): This giveaway is closed. Congratulations to the winners Loverboy, Moiran, Jason, LL, Latextussi, Pilzsucher, Norman J Miller, Kaiodan, Hagrid & zyngor! Expect the codes via email within the next day.

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast and we’re giving away 10 x 2 codes for the Racing Snail mount!

Rift Racing Snail Mount with heart

Yes, that’s right: Every winner will receive 2 codes. One for yourself, and one to give away to somebody else – your partner, friend, guild mate etc. Of course, you may also give away both codes to friends if you already have the mount. :p There is just one condition: Do not under any circumstances sell these codes! They are meant to be given away for free!

Entering the giveaway is simple: Read our general giveaway rules before commenting. Then leave the keyword “Valentine’s Day” in your comment to this post here.

To be on time, the giveaway is open for just two days! It will close on February 14, 2017, at 9pm German time. Winners will be drawn as soon as possible after the deadline. Real life may happen, so please allow me some time to get the codes to you. :)

Please note that these codes will expire February 28, 2017. When you win a code, please make sure to redeem it at the Trion website before that deadline!

Paeroka’s Ponderings: Racial skills?

Paeroka's Ponderings featured image for columnI have recently tried hopping into Elder Scrolls Online again and as I want a fresh start, I looked up guides and possible builds for the classes, to get a feeling for which class I may want to play. While I did that, I noticed that several posts about builds (e.g., this one or this one) come with suggestions which race you should pick as they have different advantages and disadvantages when combined with a certain class or in some cases, with a certain playstyle of a certain class.

I like racial skills in general as they give a little bit of flavour for your character, but I also know that in the grand scheme of “balance”, they are very difficult to implement.

Guild Wars 2 has racial skills, but they cannot be used in structured PvP! Every race has several skills they can use. I know that at some point, I used one of the elite skills to call a golem, but I have not used any in quite some time. With the game’s restriction to just a limited amount of skills, you tend to use the best ones available for your build and these are usually not the race-specific ones – there is even a recent discussion about these skills in the forums. Personally, I do not even notice the skills exist most of the time, because I focus on my class’s skills instead. So yeah, being able to call a golem as an asura is fun, but both my warrior and my mesmer have more important skills to use than these and it’s just this little bit of flavour. I could call a golem if I wanted to, you know?

GW2 Asura with golem

Rift has racial abilities, too. The linked list is not up-to-date for dwarves, though. At some point, Trion removed damage from falling, so their racial ability was changed to give them the “Dwarven Breakfast“. This one saves me a bit of gold as I need to buy less food to regenerate health between fights. Of course, if you’re a better player than me and know how to avoid damage from simple mobs in the world outside, you may see this as even less important. The other races’ skills are mostly about increased movement speed, but none of them can be used in combat. The second set of racial abilities is an increased resistance towards one of the elements. E. g., a dwarf gets +20 water resistance. My level 70 dwarf cleric currently has 5631 water resist, so this +20 seems negligible. It may have been more impactful when the game first released. But it is only for defense, so nothing that ever affected your offensive power.

I remember years ago, in World of Warcraft, the Undead had a racial skill that was considered very handy in PvP: Will of the Forsaken. Getting out of Fear (you cannot use any skills for a few seconds except for skills that remove this effect) is just a really cool and important thing in PvP fights and it used to give immunity to such effects for a few seconds on top of breaking the current spell on your character. Blizzard has nerfed this racial skill, but it’s still nice to have! In general, I remember there being lots of heated discussions about the racial skills, mostly for PvP environments, but some were also quite useful in PvE. In PvE, it was mostly relevant if you were looking to min/max your character – still, not a lot of people chose dwarf even if the racial skills were nice to have. :p Since I haven’t been actively playing in any competitive way, I do not know how important racial skills are in World of Warcraft, but I did also find a more recent discussion about them and it looks like most players are not influenced by these skills when creating a new character, but a few actually are. Which lets me to conclude that the way Blizzard is still handling the racial abilities is worse than how Trion and ArenaNet implemented them in their games. If you ask me, racial abilities should never be more than just flavour and it should not be mandatory to choose a certain race if you want to maximize your damage output!

Now let’s take a look The Elder Scrolls Online again: I have found this reddit thread from about a year ago where some say that race is a stronger factor in PvP while others say it’s more important in PvE and somebody says it doesn’t matter because fights are too easy anyway. :p This thread from May 2015, this thread from July 2016 and also this thread from December 2016, have players discuss back and forth whether it makes a big difference or whether choosing what you like should be more important when creating a character, but as I mentioned above: Guides for certain class builds actually list recommended races!

I thought about playing an Argonian sorcerer, but when I read that I will miss out on 10 % max magicka, it sounds like a lot. Or when people say something to the effect of “well, you can play an Argonian, but…”, it just makes me not want to do that. If I turn out to be just a mediocre player and chose a less-than-optimal race, I would feel bad playing with others. So, a possible mediocre skill level should probably at least be paired with an optimal race (for me personally, not saying others should do that as well). Apparently, making an Argonian sorcerer is not a good choice. In fact, if you want a meleeish sorcerer, go with Redguard, if you want a caster sorcerer, go with high elf. If you want a healer sorcerer, go with Breton. So you better make your choice – not just about class and race, but also about how you want to play said class – before creating your character!

Elder Scrolls Online Breton Sorcerer

Needless to say, I am still torn and have created several characters, but I am not sure which one to try now. I love melee characters that have some utility/spells to use and my favourite races in Elder Scrolls Online are Argonian and Orc… But I also don’t want to be laughed at by other players for choosing the worst possible combination. Even if it turns out not to be a big deal at all, I greatly dislike feeling this insecure and if you ask me, racial skills should never even have such an impact on players in the first place!

P.S: Orc as stamina sorceress is what I am going to try. It did come up as suggestions when I researched for orc-class combinations and it is one of my two favourite races, so it seems “safe” to choose.

I regularly have rants and ramblings in my mind, but never really know if I should post them, so “Paeroka’s Ponderings” is where I will try to give these rants a place. Sometimes they will make sense, sometimes they won’t.