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When you’re thinking about strategy games, more often than not you’d be talking about games that have made their own mark in the genre. It’s generally Cities Skylines that gets people into the genre, and then they branch out and start trying out more variations of more hardcore strategy games like Age of Empires or more chill simulation games like Stellaris. Of course, it’s the indie games that have really started shining – we have got some very good titles in the past few years that try to add to the genre in their own unique way. In more recent times, I came across the small Viking-building game called Land of the Vikings. It was an interesting little title that tried to add an Arctic twist to the city-building genre.

Land of the Vikings is an ancient city-building game that allows one to design cities, gather resources, micro-manage the inhabitants and develop a flourishing empire on the frozen tundra feared by the rest of the world. It was released on the PC in Early Access on Steam on November 8, 2022.

Developing the Tundra

Land of the Vikings gives the player control of a small patch of land, which they have to develop and build into a flourishing village. You are offered a bunch of different maps with various customizable parameters (like resource amount and distance) which allows you to set up a scenario based on what you want. There isn’t a way to generate a “custom” scenario with a bunch of parameters selected by you, so you would have to settle for the predesigned scenarios for now. If you’re a newbie, the suggestion would be to go with the “Small Land” preset (and disable disasters – these are events that cause widespread devastation during the game that can completely reset your progress if you are not careful). 

Land of the Vikings is a simple city-builder about building a Viking village.

The idea for the game is pretty simple – you need to build a village from scratch with the scarce amount of resources available in the tundra. This is more challenging than it sounds because even on maps where resources are supposed to be abundant, poor management of resources will cause a lot of issues later on (and eventually the destruction of the village). The game does not shy away from portraying the tundra as unforgiving as it really is – one of the many ways realism is implemented in the game. You also have to manage your citizen’s needs, so production lines for resources need to be running smoothly. Small issues in production pipelines may cause major shortages later on – further proliferated by the harsh winter conditions. While the game is nowhere as challenging as Frostpunk was (which admittedly was difficult because of its post-apocalyptic setting), it surely does a very good job of making it harsher than other mainstream titles in the city-building genre out there (if you were expecting a Dark Souls reference here, please stay away).

The Winter Bites (Harshly)

Building a village from nothing is a daunting task – especially when the environment pushes you back at every twist and turn. You need to produce a number of resources to continue expanding your settlement. Some of these resources (like stone and wood) are used for construction, while others (like food) help ensure the needs of the villagers are satisfied. Other resources like honor and happiness are temporary and generated based on villager satisfaction and random events respectively. There are other resources that have production chains built around them – building and ensuring a production chain keeps flowing is key to ensuring the village keeps functioning as required.

Production flows for resources like wheat are difficult because every step needs to be properly supplied with resources.

The game has a large assortment of buildings to construct (and maintain). You have normal houses for allowing your citizens to stay in, while there are production buildings that produce resources like metal, herbs, firewood, and so on. For some weird reason, the developers chose to add multiple variations of the house while all other buildings have only one model. This felt like a very weird design choice at best – even though strictly not game-breaking. 

Food production may as well be one of the most difficult production lines to set up at the beginning of the game. Initially, you’ll only be dependent on gatherers for food. Later on, you’ll be moving on to hunting wild animals for meat and finally to growing wheat and grinding them to produce bread. Advancing to later stages of civilization requires advancing on the Tree of Life (more on that later). Hunters work in winter and summer while gatherers and farmers work only in summer. Alternating between food production based on the seasons gives a steady surplus to the number of meals available to the citizens to consume.

Crop fields are a very unstable feature in the current build of Land of the Vikings

Growing crops helps set up production lines later on not only for food but also for improving the morale of the citizens by brewing ale. Setting up crop fields might as well be some of the more annoying parts of the game. It feels slightly difficult to figure out the right choice for the field – plop points always tell me that the field placement is not correct. Crop fields do not produce on their own – they need to be micro-managed by manually planting crops, watering them, and then harvesting them when the time is right. While some may disagree, it might be a good idea to introduce more micro-management (for other buildings) in a similar fashion to the crop fields to improve the interactivity of the game.

If you’re finding it difficult to construct buildings, you’ll need to harvest wood and stone – they are the primary resources for construction. Later on, you’ll be needing timber and dressed stone for more advanced construction (especially for the construction of ships and tools). Collecting more resources isn’t a big issue later on in the game for construction – it’s actually getting your builders to construct the building. Your builders might as well be some of the laziest citizens to live in your village – they take a literal eternity to complete the construction of buildings. Seeing your building remaining unconstructed for almost a year requires quite some patience to prevent yourself from driving your fist into your monitor. Some improvement here would definitely be helpful.

Resource collection starts simple, and then becomes more complex with progression.

Later on, you’ll be constructing shipyards and building ships to conquer the seas. For land conquest, you’ll be able to construct training camps and train your citizens to become soldiers. With the help of a war dock, you can send your soldiers to raid and pillage resources and gold or explore unknown lands. You can also build defensive towers to help protect your lands from invaders. This is perhaps the most fun aspect of the game since Vikings were historically a bunch of warmongering people.

Occasionally, there might be events happening in the village which help the village gain or lose reputation (and/or happiness). Wanderers may pop up at your village, asking for food and shelter and permission to join the village. A handicapped kid may be attacked by village bullies, prompting action from the village elders (that is, you). These seem like a nice concept and add a layer of strategy to the game (even though it inherently isn’t something that is unique to this game). The only issue with this mechanic is that the pool of random events is pretty limited – the same events keep repeating again and again and start feeling repetitive after a while.

An Eternity of White

Land of the Vikings isn’t the prettiest game on the block, but it certainly isn’t the worst. The overall environment looks pretty dull and dark. It can be understood that this was made to keep it as thematically accurate as possible, but this does cast a big damper on anyone who wants to have a fun time with it. The game does boast a  huge view distance. If you want to see your citizens up close – going about their daily lives – you’re in for a ride. The models for buildings are decent, especially if you have the patience to scroll up close.

Land of the Vikings is a decent-looking city-building game.

The game is pretty stable for an early access release and did not have any major framerate drops whatsoever. There also hasn’t been any major bugs (if you don’t count the pathing for builders or farmers to get to their workplace and complete the work assigned to them) in the release. Moreover, frequent updates are definitely a thing – something that was very nice to see.

The Lost Viking(s)

Land of the Vikings is a nice little city-building game that rediscovers the genre with an added taste of strategy and micro-management. It might not be the best game of its genre, but it is guaranteed to give you hours of fun if you decide to press the “Buy” button.


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