by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Expeditions: Viking looked pretty good last year. Unpolished and sluggish, but with a couple of great gameplay ideas, the first sequel in the series showed all the markings of a unique and refreshing turn-based strategy experience. This year it didnít just look good. It looked great. I met up with Alex Mintsioulis, LogicArtistsí Marketing and PR manager, who instantly handed me the keys to the kingdom. Okay, it was the mouse and keyboard but in gaming thatís even better, right? Alex talked as I played, his enthusiasm catchy as always but I hardly needed that to get excited - the game spoke for itself.
Alex had set up a scenario in which I was tasked to defend my village. The village had been unsuccessfully raided by Norwegian Vikings twice in recent weeks. This time the enemy was coming to finish us off. As the new Thane of the village I had different plans. Running around town, I gathered up some support before heading towards one of the places where raiders had been spotted. Two men were defending a bridge against a group of raiders and the game switched from real time to turn-based as I approached.
I now had a team of 4 and was defending against 6 raiders. Four of which were taking pot shots at us from afar using bow and arrows. I decided to rush in with my two melee characters while moving my two bowmen close enough to have a healthy chance of hitting their targets. I figured the bowmen would make soft targets against swords and had my first surprise as two of the bowmen switched weapons and rushed in to intercept my melee guys. So much for that idea. Fortunately my bowmen were now close enough to do some real damage and the first fighter to fall was one of theirs, not mine.
As combat started in earnest, Alex instructed me on its intricacies. There are dual wielders, leaders, ranged fighters, berserkers, tanks and everything in between. During turns, you get to choose to either attack, walk twice, or walk once and attack. Instead of attacking you can also use a skill and there are some really cool ones to pick from. There is a skill to set traps and there is one that lets you navigate through them without triggering them yourself. The game features an Ďattack of opportunity systemí and there is a skill that negates that ability, so you can run circles around your enemy as long as you donít walk out of his immediate range. Archers have a cool quick shot skill that enables them to fire twice in the same turn. Another useful one is the ďspotĒ skill that reveals all enemies in an area, making them visible to everyone in your party and increases your chance to hit.
Combat and campaigning on same map
To give you an idea of the scope of the game, this particular scenario has multiple outcomes depending on how well you do in each of the three attacks that are launched at the village. Losing all, for example, would not mean the end of the game, it would Ďjustí change the storyline. And whether you are in combat or campaigning, everything takes place on the same map. Unlike Conquistador, combat arenas are generated from the map. No, let me rephrase that, they are - on - the map. No two battles will ever look the same.
Conquistadorís strength was its immense depth that the player could choose to go into or stay away from at will. Going in, you would find tremendously satisfying gameplay. Staying out allowed you to keep a higher pace. Expeditions: Viking seems to build on that very same strength by making the more complex elements more accessible without sacrificing any depth.
Itís marvelous to see how Viking has progressed over the last year. The game ran super smooth, promised all the depth of its predecessor (and more) and is shaping up like a worthy successor to Expeditions: Conquistador.