by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
One of the reasons why we love gaming on PC is that it is full of surprises. Games of all sizes can manage to stay under the radar for months or even years, only to come out of nowhere and become an instant hit with our team. One such game, Expeditions: Conquistador, made our shortlist for Game of the Year. It is unsurprising, then, that many on the team did a little happy dance when Logic Artists announced they were working on a sequel called Expeditions: Viking. Meeting PR Manager Alex Mintsioulis at Gamescom, we had a chance to see how the game is shaping up.
For Viking, the core experience of Expeditions: Conquest remains largely untouched. Yet many of the game’s individual parts are updated and expanded. The presentation mainly zoomed in on the camping system but also gave us a quick preview of Viking’s turn-based combat.
To keep your party safe (and sane), it is essential that they camp and get enough rest. Camping is not, however, a simple matter of pitching a couple of tents, making a fire and handing out rations. First you need to find the right spot. The game will show a number of possible nearby campsites and rate them for security, shelter and available food. Any campsite that you stay overnight at remains on the map for future reference.
To survive, the party will need to hunt, repair, preserve food, guard as well as several other tasks. At the start of each camping session, you assign characters to each task that you want done and you do so in four shifts. To rest, a healthy character requires sleep during two of the four shifts so you can’t just set someone to guard for all four without there being some fatigue involved. A lightly wounded or slightly sick character can still be put to work but his task list will be restricted to light duty only.
You can auto-assign characters to shifts if you’re not into micro-management, but you’ll potentially lose out on skill bonuses. Skills play a far more important role in the success rate or quality of the work. A high level tinkerer, for instance, will be far more effective at creating traps than someone with on modest tinker skills. A good scout will reduce the fog of war around the campsite and clean up the campsite before you leave. That may sound trivial but it keeps bandits off your back by reducing their chances to track and spot you.
It’s possible to create custom NPCs in the form of mercenaries. These are great when your party is sorely lacking a particular skill for which you need a stopgap or if an existing party member just doesn’t fit in your playstyle. Unfortunately, the custom NPCs are not so great for the storytelling. More so than before, the pre-made characters have their own storylines and replacing them means their story will go into oblivion for that particular play-through.
The presentation ended with a short battle. During the night, one of the guards heard voices somewhere deeper into the forest and we had the option to hush up and avoid contact, or to go and meet the strangers. Opting to wait and see what would happen, the strangers turned up at our camping site and weren't keen on parlay. We set up for defense and let the bandits move in. As they moved past our defenders, some triggered an ‘attack of opportunity’ which allowed the character to attack first despite it not being his turn. It’s one of many changes aimed at making combat a little more dynamic than in the original.
In Conquistador, the ever present need for survival and gradually increasing danger of losing a character or even the party kept players glued to their screens for hours at a time. With all the changes and refinements coming up for Expeditions: Vikings, I think we’re all in danger of seeing those hours expand even further.