Expeditions: Viking Preview

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Expeditions: Viking is the latest project by Logic Artists, following up Expeditions: Conquistador, which was their debut PC game, and well respected with good reviews on Steam praising the game for being unexpectedly brilliant.  We were lucky enough to get our hands on an Alpha build of Expeditions: Viking, which is set to release in the first quarter of 2017.  The game revolves around the son of a Thegn, a  nordic Lord who is set to inherit his father’s rule over a small village rife with political intrigue, treachery and violence.

You get to create your own character in typical RPG fashion, using skillpoints to determine your characters specialties.  These are split between points for attributes such as Strength and Perception, and points for your abilities and passive skills.  The skills are also split into sections.  Firstly you have Weapon Skills, which is how effective you are with a specific group of weapons such as bows, increasing damage-wise with each level put into the skill, and also unlocking skills specific to that weapon group, such as Aimed Shot for bows which increases your accuracy at long range. Secondly, you have what I would call combat abilities which aren’t tied to a specific weapon group and can be used by everyone, for example, Stun, which does what it says on the tin.

Next on the list are camping skills.  To add a bit of context, you move between towns and objectives on a campaign map, and after a while of having your party of warriors trudge through the snow day and night, they will get fatigued and have to camp which is done at preset campsites.  These usually have to be cleared of enemies whether they be wolves or bandits, but once all hostility is put to rest you get to unburden your men of the stresses of combat and travel, and to do so more effectively you have camping skills which you can utilize.  These skills include things like scouting, cooking, guarding and crafting weapons or armour, all of which become necessities as the game progresses.  The final section is passive skills, of which there is a vast collection varying from extra movement in combat, to increased durability in combat.  A lot of these passive skills were still under development and unavailable in the Alpha build, but they still gave a much needed edge in the heat of battle. Skills and abilities are what adds a lot of flesh to the bones of an RPG, and they work really well in this game, always remaining grounded in reality with nothing supernatural or fantastical rearing its head, keeping an authentic and down to earth experience throughout.  They are important in developing your character, both in outfitting him or her for combat or purely for roleplaying purposes.

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A huge part of Expeditions: Viking is the combat system.  For those that have played the recent XCOM games, it is very similar in style to that type of combat.  For those that haven’t, I’ll go in to some detail.  The combat is turn-based, and each hit is based on a percent chance to hit, and as far as I could work out the higher Speed each character has, the higher up they are in the attack queue.  There is a lot of strategic depth in the combat in this game.  For example you can use one of the Axe abilities, Shield Hook on an enemy who has a shield, to stop them blocking for the rest of turn, opening them up for an Aimed Shot from your bowman from across the field of battle, dealing maximum damage with the smallest chance of failure.

Another key part of the combat is movement.  For example, if you try to move past an enemy wielding a melee weapon then he gets a free ‘attack of opportunity’, making it tactically unsound to do so.  This feature means placement of your troops is very important.  I often made chokepoints between my shield bearers with a bowman a few tiles back, but with a hole in the shield wall to try and lure the enemy in with my bowman, who is feeble in melee.  This worked a treat many times as they got caught in my ‘attack of opportunity’ hole, getting butchered by my men on either side whilst trying to rush the weaker man at the back.  Spears are another weapon type that have a feature adding tactical depth to the game, they can attack over a tile as if they were right next to an enemy, because of the extended reach of the weapon.  This makes them perfect for sitting behind my stalwart shieldwall and reaching over the top and piercing into my foes for that additional damage.

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A relatively minor feature is the town building mechanic.  As I mentioned before, you play as the son and heir of a Thegn, and have received his rule over a small village.  As you take command of your father’s property and title, you also shoulder the responsibility of the people and future of your small collection of shacks and a great hall.  This manifests itself in the form of an upgrade page.  This allows you to elicit supplies gathered from the still warm corpses of bandits or quest-givers to fortify your defences, increase the efficacy of your village blacksmith and more.  I only got so far in the Alpha version, and a point was made by some of the villagers I spoke to that the local defences were inadequate, so that was my first item on the list, although I didn’t get far enough in to the game to reap any rewards, but it still added another layer of immersion in the world of Expeditions: Viking.

This, as well as many other things, such as the borders and small nordic-looking details on the campaign map to the well thought out combat, and of course RPG storytelling elements, amount to enthralling segments of an already enticing IP that offers up a rich and engaging final product.  This game does well at making you feel like a stoic, immovable Viking warrior, moving your way through the captivating and mythological Nordic world, building up your reputation from your father’s scattered and unimpressive legacy.  I am itching to play beyond the constraints of the Alpha version and continue to expand my reign as Thegn.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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