Expeditions: Viking from developer Logic Artists is the sequel to their 2013 strategy RPG hybrid Expeditions: Conquistador. However, instead of conquering Central and South America, this game casts you in the role of the thegn (or leader) of a struggling Danish clan. The game functions as a hybrid between strategy and RPG; during gameplay, the player is forced to make decisions involving individuals and resources, while combat is fought in a similar fashion to many other tactical RPGs such as XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
Expeditions: Viking is available on our eShop for $22.24.
The game begins with you in the role of the leader of a small Danish clan on the eastern coast. After you create your character, you begin the game at a feast in honor of the former thegn and your recently deceased father (whose name you pick during character creation). After that, you meet the realm's major players as well as your loyal hirdmen (or companions) such as Ketill, a smart-mouthed hunter, and Nerja, your spear wielding compatriot.
However, the fun and games don't last. It's quickly revealed to you that several individuals in your clan are vying for your throne and that your father had greatly neglected the clan's well-being while he was pursuing wealth over seas. Worse, the rival Skule clan is eyeing your lands. The only solution is to travel across the sea and search for a solution.
The game is divided into two main campaigns. The first takes place in Denmark, where you assemble a crew and the resources to undertake your great expedition. The second takes place during your expedition to the British Isles in search of allies, trade routes, or wealth (depending on your choices).
Expeditions: Viking does a good job of creating an atmospheric experience. The game takes place during the early Viking age and borrows a lot of its setting from history. However, the game also peppers in a decent amount of mythology and lore to keep the player interested. These mystical events are presented ambiguously, allowing the game to still succeed in a historical sense.
The hirdmen are well developed and all have their own personalities and goals. For example, the possible follower Asleif is aggressive and prefers honorable combat to sly deception, whereas Ketill is greedy but prefers peaceful solutions. This helps to flesh out the game and gives the player an incentive to replay the game and make different decisions. Characters all have their individual opinions and are more than capable of expressing them. The writers use an earthy writing style that avoids the tired cliches of every character talking like a Shakespearian actor just because the game is in a historical setting. Instead, the characters talk in an understandable way, carefully peppering in a period appropriate expression to help maintain the atmosphere.
Mechanically the game can be split into three main parts; key areas, the overworld, and combat. When entering a town, village or location, the player is presented with an isometric view where the player moves the main character by clicking with the party in tow (similar to other CRPGs like Baldur's Gate ). The areas are moderately well designed and encourage the player to explore to find all the side-quests. However, I sometimes found it difficult to figure out which containers had items and which were just for decoration.This frequently forced me to click on every container, wagon, barrel, and any random cluster of pixels to make sure I picked up all possible items (in the grand tradition of CRPGs).
Combat is where the game really starts to shine. Though diplomacy is almost always an option, most players will find themselves frequently testing their sword arms against bandits, Vikings, and wild animals. Combat is turned based. It takes place on a series of hexagons and allows players to move each character individually. Much like other tactics games, there is cover indicated by shields near large objects. As well, most characters have access to moves that allow them to hold back their attack until the enemies move.
Each character has a class, but there is no rigid class system. Instead, characters invest in any skills they want. This creates a situation where players can specialize some characters in specific weapons or skills, but can also make a character a jack-of-all-trades. Skills are divided into different sections including weapons, support skills, and camp skills which are used while in the camp menu. I feel this works wonderfully and allows players to come up with teams and characters that match their preferred playstyle.
In addition, characters also have different personalities and will react to your decisions. Greedy characters will react poorly to acts of charity and honorable companions will get angry if the player uses underhanded tactics. What this translates to in the game is bonuses or penalties during combat based on how much your companions like you.
In between locations, you travel on an overworld map. While traveling, your companions could become hungry and tired, forcing you to make camp at one of the many campsites. Some campsites require the player to defeat the current occupants, whereas others are clear. In the camp menu, players have to manage resources and assign duties to each character such as hunting, scouting for resources, crafting, repairing, healing injuries, guarding or resting. The camp menu is a nice addition that gives a purpose to overworld travel and forces the player to think carefully before moving around the map. The overworld system sometimes feels like a game in itself and brings back memories of games like King of Dragon Pass and The Lost Tribe, especially when it comes to the random events you encounter while traveling.
The game also includes a system for building and upgrading your homestead with the resources you gather. You can spend wood and thralls (slaves) to construct buildings such as a pier, a palisade, or a marketplace. In addition, the player is forced to choose how to upgrade certain buildings, with one upgrade improving power and the other improving prestige. However, these stats are ill-defined and the building sometimes feels like an after-thought. Despite being told I would require thralls to finish all the upgrades before the end of the game, I wasn't entirely sure what those upgrades were doing initially.
My favorite part of the game is how well decisions are handled. Decisions feel like they have real weight and real outcomes. They never feel as if I'm simply choosing to be good or evil. For example, early on I was forced to decide how to deal with some rebels who attacked my feast. I could let them go but that would risk them attacking me again. I could also execute them, but that could be considered cruel by some of my companions. I chose to execute them to avoid more uprisings, but this ended up making dealing with their family even more difficult. Every decision has some sort of valid reason and most end up having effects on later quests and interactions. This is something that really helps the game stand out in my opinion.
However, as many players have noted, the game has suffered a few bugs and glitches during its launch. Personally, I suffered a few bugs and once the game even crashed during a loading screen.
The presentation of the game is wonderful. The game looks beautiful. Whether you are creating a character, exploring the woods, or just watching the pretty illustrated loading screens, the game looks great. The only difficulty I found was that clickable resources are not always clear, but this is largely a convention of the genre and not a fault of the developers.
Worth noting as well is the wonderful character portraits which bring back fond memories of games like Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment. Though some are better than others they all are well done.
The game's sound is fitting and atmospheric. The score is laden with the sounds of war drums and other 'barbarian' instruments that will put you right in the mood to swing your ax. Many of the main characters are voiced and the voice acting is very appropriate. Surprisingly, even my generated characters would often chime in on conversations, giving them their own personalities and feel.
Characters frequently also have conversations while walking. Though this is a minor detail, it helped to flesh out the story and give the characters are realistic feel, especially when characters would discuss their personal histories or their interests or even their favorite soup recipes.
|+ Good writing and setting.||– Some glitches and crashes.|
|+ Beautiful art style and graphics.||– Homestead resources were unclear.|
|+ Highly customizable character classes.||– Containers were sometimes difficult to ascertain.|