Expeditions: Viking Review – Fight, Pillage and Plunder
Expeditions: Viking27th April, 2017
Logic Artists' made a grand appearance three years ago with the well-received title Expeditions: Conquistador. Expeditions and the developers have now proven to be consistent and adaptable. We've moved away from South America and taken a trip back in time. Now is the time of the Norse, this is Expeditions: Viking.
Vikings are infamous. Pillaging, plundering and looting anything they wanted. There's something that has always appealed about the people and their culture and that's why they're so popular. In a story that begins with the death of your father, you'd expect it to follow that archetype. Much like Expeditions: Conquistador, this is a game of choice.
As soon as you start you'll be fully aware of the consequences of your choices. From character creation, which offers a mixture of regular RPG style attributes and weapon aptitude, to a litany of other skills that can be used in and out of combat. My created Viking, Halbarad Loireson is a master of the sword and shield, a great cook (like me!) and doesn't need a great deal of sleep at all. You'll never be impressed with the character models on show, though the portraits are nice enough. Still, this is my thegn and is more than ready to lead his tribe to glory.
This is the overarching story of Expeditions: Viking. Following the death of your father, you immediately ascend to his rank. Of course, there are challengers to this. Internally, you'll have to deal with those who would claim the throne for themselves. External forces are more than happy to take advantage of your weakened position. Fight off the initial assault and you'll give yourself a little leeway to rebuild your clan, avenge the attack on your people and place yourself in a strong position for the next meeting of the Viking lords.
Throughout your adventure, you're given a great deal of choice. Will you be a bloodthirsty tyrant, unforgiving to those who challenge you? Perhaps you'll be a benevolent ruler, protecting your people, forgiving mistakes and attempting to bring them around to your side. How you act to your people, and to others, has a huge impact throughout the game. Each of your companions, as well as the multiple factions you encounter, have their opinions on your choices.
Even your followers have their conflicting personalities. Should you opt into stealing from a lowly traveler, your greedy and violent followers will have an improved opinion of your while others may start to dislike you. This greatly impacts on character morale which has a great effect on combat and their abilities there. Not only that, your decisions have game-changing ramifications. The death of a follower. War with another nation. There is so much to consider in a game with an excellent balance of choice and consequence.
Regardless of whether you go to war or not, you'll find yourself in multiple battles. Once you find yourself in a fight, the game places you on a grid of hexagonal tiles. As is common for turn based tactical games, a character's turn offers two phases, of sorts. There is the chance to move, where the range is shown in green and yellow. Moving to a green hexagon only uses the first part of your turn, allowing for an attack to then move back. However, if you move into a yellow hexagon then you forfeit any action.
This, alongside the multiple skills and their effects, ensures that combat remains tactical. Using a defender, equipped with heavy armor and a shield, to hold off enemies is an excellent tactic. Particularly when considering one equipped with a spear can attack from two spaces away, staying out of range, while your archer then peppers any foe they want with arrows. Then you could use a skill like shield bash, knocking away an enemy one space and then to the ground. Maybe you want to stun them, leaving them open for further attacks? The options are hugely varied, particularly when you then include items.
Caltrops to slow the enemy down, net traps to snare them and potions to increase your strength for a number of turns. The options are wide in use and function. It's particularly interesting to use a torch to set fire to an area of land, which then damages anybody forced to move over it. Using the environment and these items gives an extra tactical option for use within the myriad of battles you'll encounter throughout Expeditions: Viking.
It's the creation of these items and the number of other features found on the overworld, for lack of a better term, that expands on the title. As you move around the world, time will pass. Characters will become hungry and you'll be forced to camp. When you camp, you'll assign jobs to your followers. Ensure the camp is guarded at all times. Send people out to hunt for meat, others to turn meat into rations. Do you have any injuries in your party? Spend a little time healing them while others craft weapons, armor and items to use in battle.
While you're passing time you'll also, somehow, send orders for your clan to improve the villages’ structures. Everything you build and the actions you decide throughout the game's major quests improve either the prosperity or power of your clan. This has a huge impact later in the game and proves to be a deciding factor.
Aesthetically, Expeditions: Viking is average. There's no arguing the fact that the models could certainly be improved. There are other aspects that more than make up for this, including the absolutely fantastic looking drawn world map. What really works for the game is the outstanding audio, from the ambient sounds to some outstanding musical choices, including a fantastic song that plays when you enter Eoforwic, York, for the first time. Possibly the most irritating part is simply looking around, having to rotate the camera to loot just one of the thousands of lootable containers found within the game.
There are some perplexing aspects to Expeditions: Viking. The morale system, while extensive, is broken. The balance is wrong, possibilities to lower morale seem to appear at least five times more than to improve it. My own character has an incredibly low morale, leaving him wide open to enemy mental abilities. Planning for battle should also be key by setting a formation. It's understandable when you're ambushed, but when you agree to a planned battle, you shouldn't be forced to have your characters randomly start wherever.
Despite any misgivings, I can't help but really like Expeditions: Viking. It's an incredibly strong tactical game with a great combat depth. More than that, the story is incredibly strong with well-developed characters, goals and objectives. The well-realised world is packed full of content, a great amount to see, hear and loot.
Copy provided by the publisher.
Expeditions: Viking, while not perfect, offers outstanding tactical combat, with excellent character and world development. You'll encounter a host of interesting characters, fulfilling quests and important decisions as you travel from Denmark to Britannia, in a quest to save your clan.
- Strong mechanics in team and clan leadership
- Well detailed and branching story with interesting characters and factions
- Excellent tactical combat
- However, combat can become repetitive
- Certain visual elements could be improved
- Irritating camera controls