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Viking - Choice and Consequence in the Frozen Wilds

Christopher Coke Posted:
Columns The RPG Files 0

This week, I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Logic Artist’s latest RPG, Expeditions: Viking. I had missed the studio’s previous entry in the series, Expeditions: Conquistador, but it was clear that the studio was onto something. Conquistador had achieved a kind of cult following. Players who liked it, really liked it. Viking was the evolution; a low fantasy tactical RPG steeped in Nordic lore and one that didn’t shy away from the intricacies and spiraling decisions of core roleplaying games. Just as importantly, Viking aimed to tell a deeper story through a smaller, but much deeper party.

And really? Who doesn’t want to be a viking king?

[Be sure to click through to page 2 for our interview with the game’s Creative Director, Jonas Wæver!]

You begin by creating a character. Choices are fairly limited; you get your usual gender, hair, and body type choices, as well as your starting outfit (cosmetic only). Really though, since this is an isometric RPG, you’ll be paying more attention to your armor than your face, so it’s a good fit. After settling on your appearance, it’s time for stats and skills. So many stats and skills.

As a roleplayer, I rather love the amount of choice Vikings provides. You’re given four points to invest across five stats and 50 attribute points to buy new skills and perks. Thankfully, these are broken down into sub-areas like offense, defense, and utility to keep it manageable. The messaging is clear right off the bat: this is an RPG game for people who really like the nitty gritty of character building.

Choice and Consequence are the name of the game. From the outset, after a stylish animated art cutscene,you’re negotiating dialogues with rivals for the throne at your father’s funeral.  How you navigate conversations in Viking can change how people perceive and react to you, making enemies of friends and vice versa. The choices you made when building your character, and later your party, come back around to save or haunt you. All of this lends makes investing in the roleplaying so much easier. Will you be a ruthless leader or a man of the people? Do you build alliances or seek lands of greater fortune? Viking is one of the most immediately empowering RPGs I’ve played and easily stands toe to toe with CRPG greats like Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin in its earliest moments. 

It’s not long before you’re challenged for your place as Thegn of the clan. Combat is turn-based and uses a hexagon grid, with each character spending two action points per turn. This is usually enough to move and attack or to use one skill. Combat still feels rough around the edges, but this may just be because it doesn’t yet explain itself well. My first battle, I didn’t realize that I physically had to click on every character to choose their action, so I ended my turns prematurely. In my second battle, I discovered environmental hazards completely by accident.

The losses I suffered taught me something truly neat about expeditions: there is no game over for losing (at least in most cases, see the interview on the next page). Viking takes its cues from Conquistador and reacts to loss, forcing you to live with the consequences of defeat just as much as victory. This might mean injuries or losing standing, but you won’t be sent to a reload screen for failing in a fight.

Sadly, my time was cut very short. After just one evening with the game, the preview build was taken offline. This came as an incredibly disappointing surprise. There is something so fresh about the setting and storytelling of Viking (the writing is great!), I was eager to get lost for another night to see how the game opened up and verify these great first impressions. There were also so many things I hadn’t seen: upgrading your village, how party members develop, survival in the wilderness, how the main quest opens up!

I still had a ton of questions, so we got in touch with the game’s Creative Director, Jonas Wæver, to see just how the game would change and open up after those early moments. Click past the cut to read our interview!

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Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight