The early impressions lent by any roleplaying game can be a far cry from how it actually turns out. When crafting these questions for Logic Artists, my goal was twofold. First, I wanted to see whether my impression matched what the team was going for and how those systems played out in the long game. With only 90 minutes in, the vast majority of the game was left unseen. Creative Director Jonas Wæver was kind enough to sit down and share his thoughts.
MMORPG: How does the game handle defeat in battle as you progress? The first battle you can win or lose without a game over screen; the game just reacts. Is this a theme throughout?
Jonas Wæver: Yes it is a theme throughout. In most circumstances when losing combat the story goes on and the player survives, having to deal with the adversity of the new circumstance. There are a few pivotal moments in the story when losing a particular combat will not progress the story, and the player will have to recuperate back at camp and try again to proceed in the main story line.
MMORPG: How much impact do conversation choices have on your path through the game?
Jonas Wæver: Certain choices can mean life or death for certain characters. It could mean the difference between recruiting a new hirdman or not. Your choices can unlock new opportunities or result in unique quests or solutions. They can ally you with a faction or pit you against them. Or in the simplest case, they can modify the morale of followers who agree or disagree with what you’re saying.
MMORPG: How different can two player's narrative paths be? I would imagine that you'll follow a through-line as you go, but will the party/NPCs react to the decisions you've made or conversation choices you’ve made in a meaningful way? Put another way, more than just response dialogue before returning to the main conversation thread?
Jonas Wæver: We try to create a good balance between small-scale choices and large-scale choices. On the small scale, a particular confrontation can result in a peaceful resolution or a fight depending on your skills and what you choose to say. Characters that were spared in one quest may pop up to talk to you again later, perhaps to have another go at you or perhaps to thank you for your mercy. On the greater scale, once you get to Britain the storyline splits into several questlines for different factions. You can choose to do them in any order you like, and for some time you can play both sides, but eventually you’ll have to choose a side and the storyline quests become mutually exclusive.
MMORPG: Many RPGs put an emphasis on seeing the story through rather than put heavy weight on party member choices. That does not seem to be the case here. How important is party composition?
Jonas Wæver: Viking has a heavy emphasis on tactics in combat, so of course the weapons and abilities of your party members are very important. The system offers a fair bit of freedom in how to use your people though, so you should be able to find a way to win a fight no matter who makes up your party. If you want to keep a character with you purely because you like their personality, we’d encourage you to do so.
MMORPG: About how many party members will you have access to? Will they have traits similar to Conquistador? [Note: Conquistador featured party traits that would impact how they reacted to each other, making follower selection an important consideration.]
Jonas Wæver: Viking has more emphasis on pre-written characters with fleshed out personalities and backgrounds. Instead of 31 characters to choose from in the beginning, who are little more than a portrait and a name, Viking has 8 characters to recruit throughout the story, but each one has a much greater role to play, and much stronger characterization. In addition to these characters, the player can create a group of mercenary characters to fill out the ranks. When added to your party, the mercenary characters are given randomised personality traits to ensure that they can still butt into dialogue to offer their opinions occasionally.
MMORPG: Is it possible for a player to gimp themselves and create a character that will be unable to complete the campaign?
Jonas Wæver: Something like that is always possible, depending on how rebellious a player is being. For example, if the player were to create a support character, it could be particularly helpful to their party, but if the player then specs each of their party members to also focus on support and camping roles, they’re going to have a really tough time in combat.
MMORPG: How important is upgrading your village?
Jonas Wæver: Village upgrades affect the game in two ways. Firstly, they contribute to the two endgame “progress trackers”, Power and Prosperity. Upgrading the village is not the only way to increase these numbers, the player’s performance and choices throughout the game also contribute, but village upgrades offer great boosts. The second way that the upgrades affect the village is that many of the buildings provide additional bonuses such as extra weekly rations and medical herbs or access to better tiers of weapons or armor.
MMORPG: How important is survivalism as you progress through the game? There are skills related to hunting and rations, but is it possible/realistic for a player to complete the game without investing in these skills?
Jonas Wæver: The survival and camping skills are quite important to the player’s successful progress in the game. Focusing skill points exclusively on combat abilities will make it difficult to recover from injuries, acquire resources, and craft equipment (weapons, armor, and traps). If your party have limited guarding skills there are higher chances of the camp being attacked or robbed in the night. Low healing skills mean less chance of healing injuries from combat. Low hunting skill means you’ll be spending all your hard earned treasure on purchasing rations and supplies.
As a player you could forego camping, but the fatigue penalties will apply after a day or so of travel (depending on each character’s stats) and your people will become very weak if they don’t get enough rest.
We want to thank Jonas and Logic Artists for taking the time to answer our questions. Expeditions: Viking will be available in Q1 2017.