When I play RPG’s, I’m the type who will do everything I can to be the most upstanding character I can be. I don’t start fights, I talk my way out of disagreements, and I let bad guys escape if given the opportunity. Expeditions: Viking discourages such clean cut behavior. Five minutes into the game, I found myself challenged to a duel over my seat as thegn. My companions told me there was no way I’d beat my challenger in a fair fight, so off I went, tracking down a witch in the woods who could poison him before the duel. And right after that? I found the best hunter in town and asked her to set a trap to immobilize my challenger. All of this was very much against my strict adherence to virtue. Needless to say, I won that fight, but it wasn’t a fair one. When given the opportunity to recruit my challenger and the witch who poisoned him, I fell back into old habits. I let them both join my party. Everyone deserves a chance at honor. My challenger didn’t approve of the decision, and even though he teamed up with me, he suffered from poor morale. He wasn’t a big fan of the witch, or anyone, really.
Expeditions: Viking is the sequel to Expeditions: Conquistadors, by the Denmark-based developer, Logic Artists. Similar to Conquistadors, it’s a historical-themed combat RPG, but this time it takes place in the time of the Vikings, 700 years earlier. As you start the game, you find that your father has recently passed away in a rather controversial manner, and you must fight to retain control as thegn. Most of his people did not agree with the way he ruled the land, and you must prove to them that you are worthy of respect.
After suppressing the first attempt to overthrow my rule, I was given a handful of quests to pursue. One of them involved tracking down a family of farmers who had insulted my honor. Upon arrival at the farm, I once again tried to play peacekeeper, but my companions were having none of it. As I promised safety and forgiveness, morale within my party fell. My most trusted advisor told me that if I let them go unpunished, I would likely lose my seat as thegn. I tried my hardest to banish them, but eventually, I was pushed to attack. My party killed all of the men in the family while the women and children stood around the combat map and watched. The only thing bringing light to that darkness was the fact that my enemies often took cover behind their livestock. I had a heck of a time attacking the two who kept ducking behind their cows. However, gameplay and camera controls are smooth, and I found myself able to fully rotate the camera to peek behind obstacles.
In my opinion, two game mechanics make Expeditions: Viking stand out from other RPG’s and turn-based combat games. Instead of characters taking turns individually during combat, one entire party uses all available actions before the next party proceeds. I found myself sending my archers in to weaken the enemy then moving them behind objects to take cover. When a fighter takes cover, ranged attacks can only affect them if they are within close proximity of the enemy . Next, I’d send my tanks to take out the weakened enemies and to set up a strong line of defense. Finally, I’d move all of my fighters who could reach past the tanks to deliver kill shots with spears or pitchforks. These fighters may also throw area of effect weapons, like poison spikes or torches. When I was done using all of my attack and movement actions, my turn would be over, and I’d cross my fingers for luck as the enemies took their turns advancing.
If one of my fighters fell during combat, they’d sustain a combat injury. Injuries could be healed while camping if at least one of my party members was trained in the healing arts. Camping in Expeditions: Viking is the second mechanic that makes this game stand out from the rest. Upon arrival at a campsite, you must designate party members to do specific actions over the course of four camping shifts. The actions include things like guarding the camp against attackers, hunting for meat, preserving the meat into rations, healing the injured with medicine, resting, and making medicine from herbs. You use the same skill points to level these camping abilities as you do to level your fighting and defense skills. I found myself spending most of my available skill points in these areas because camping is almost the only time these actions could be taken. Once the camping mechanic is mastered, it’s quite impressive, but it takes some time to grasp how to camp efficiently.
I found plenty of quests and side quests to keep me busy on my adventure as thegn, but I was most disappointed in the similarity between new areas I’d visit. Towns appeared to look the same, only changing in size and layout. Home interiors varied little from place to place. Travelling between quest objectives was quick, due to a fast travel map, so I’d expect more time to be put into making those destinations exciting. I feel this was a missed opportunity to make Expeditions: Viking a more memorable experience.
Overall, Expeditions: Viking does a great job of creating a story-driven combat RPG, and it adds a few new interesting mechanics of its own. This isn’t a game changer, but fans of the genre will appreciate the challenge of decision-making that affects the morale of their people. As a Viking leader, you are pushed to be fierce and relentless, and doing any less could cost you your people.
A PC review copy of Expeditions: Viking was provided by Logic Artists for the purpose of this review