Northgard is an authentic throwback to the RTS games of yore, but it's not just about nostalgia. The game builds on that golden era with new wrinkles and fresh ideas for players who want something more than what they've seen before.
The basics are still familiar. You start with nothing but a ramshackle town hall and some villagers, eventually growing it into an impressive complex that can handle raids from monsters or other Vikings alike - all while exploiting resources to grow your settlement's strength.
When you start a new colony, the map is made up out of discrete regions containing resources and enemies. There's only space for one or two buildings that need to be colonized before they can actually function in your game; this means planning ahead when deciding on how much food should go into each region since it'll cost exponentially more than what was used at first glance.
There are many different things to do in this game, and each new feature adds more layers to gameplay. You can make friends with the kobolds living a few regions over or send out a scout for exploration of ruins nearby; however even though there is time taken between tasks it does not feel tedious because winter approaches soon after playing begins which will inevitably cause tension among enemies as well adding friction against them throughout gameplay.
The most important thing you can do to get through winter is be prepared. You'll want workers who are well-fed and happy so that they're not tempted into giving up during cold weather. There's little food available for hunting or fishing in harsh conditions like deep snowstorms/blizzards so make sure you watch for these notifications and plan accordingly.
The best time to go on the offensive is winter, when enemy Vikings might not be as prepared. By generating lore and making technological advancements like warmer clothes for warriors you can change how battles are fought in this season.
The approach you take to winter and indeed most of Northgard's systems will depend on the clan that is playing as well what victory condition your gunning for. Besides the usual conquest victory you can also win through trade, wisdom or fame all which come with different building prerequisites.
Fame is Northgard's most unusual resource. Unlike other resources, it represents the deeds of your clan - like killing a wyvern or defeating another player and unlocks massive bonuses for doing so. It drives exploration as you seek out greater foes but also weaves its way throughout game tying everything together by driving battles between enemies while rewarding those who do interesting things with their time.
Some clans are more rugged than others. The Wolf Clan, for instance, is full of fighters who can gather food by killing hostile beasts and generating happiness in order to keep their settlement productive without needing as many farmers or fishermen because they generate this themselves with only warriors working on it while other settlements need every single person doing his job if you want them running smoothly.
The campaign is a solid introduction to each of these clans and eventually leads you on some creative, novel missions. They can be brief if played optimally but there's very little repetition in 11 chapters which makes it worth playing through once at least! New mechanics are introduced with every chapter and help teach the player new concepts and gameplay techniques.
The campaign's story, while competent, could be improved. It features the usual revenge tales with predictable twists and turns. It is fun to play through once, but you probably won't find yourself playing it again. Luckily skirmish mode is so much fun you can forgive the average campaign.
Northgard is a breath of fresh air in the RTS genre. It has so many modes of play that you'll never get bored. The campaign is enjoyable to play through but it is the sandbox/skirmish mode where you will be spending all your time. But be careful not to lose track of time otherwise you might start looking (and smelling) like a Viking!