Developer Shiro Games' Viking-themed real-time strategy Northgard has now properly released on Steam, following a year of early access development.
Northgard has attracted a decent amount of praise from strategy fans over the last 12 months. On a basic level, it's a lot like the classic Settlers series, insofar as you're tasked with establishing a settlement and slowing building it up through careful exploration, resource management, and expansion. In practice though, it has a rhythm and pace all of its own, thanks to some atypical design choices that set it apart from its peers.
Its big distinction is that each map is split into separate zones, which you'll need to individually scout, rid of enemies, and finally colonise in order to grow your settlement.
Vital workers - ranging from woodcutters and farmers to warriors and healers - must be manually hired from your extremely limited pool of citizens, and then assigned to zones by constructing specialist buildings. More citizens can be attracted by constructing houses, but Northgard's strategy thrives on limitations, and there's only so much you can build per zone. Already that's a lot of tough, interesting choices you'll need to make in order to expand.
Northgard's lovely, approachable art style might suggest that it's a breezy affair. However, its impactful weather variations and the constant, looming threat of another harsh winter - which can seriously restrict vital resources, and hamper your ability to work and grow - mean that careful planning and preparation are essential in order to survive. And that's before you have to start worrying about other factions and hostile, Norse-mythology-inspired creatures.
In the standard play mode, you've a selection of possible victory conditions - Conquest, Fame, Lore, and Trading - and can compete against AI opponents or against fellow humans online. However, the full release also introduced a proper story campaign spanning 11 chapters for a more structured experience, as well as seven different environments for competitive play, and achievements.
It sounds like there's more to come as well. In a post on Steam, Shiro Games explained that "Northgard's development will not stop with this official release! We plan on working on the game much much longer, adding many gameplay features, game modes, and general content." First up, in the next few weeks, there'll be a general balance patch, followed by additions to multiplayer. Shiro says this pattern will remain, with balance passes alternating with larger updates, each of the latter introducing more playable clans.
If any of that tickles your strategic fancy, Northgard is currently available on Steam with 25% off its usual price in celebration of its recent out-of-early-access launch.