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Review: Expeditions: Viking

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Now 50% less game-breaking!

“We need wealth and power,” my huskarls would say. “Those with power are meant to be feared. Take what is yours.”

“No, I will not spread this negative, derogatory stereotype of Vikings that will inevitably reflect upon us in popular media!” I replied. “We will be kind Vikings. We will build alliances. We will trade.”

Suddenly, the day was upon us. A new world, a strange new people. “We come in peace, to build alliances and trade with your leaders,” I declared.

Long story short, about half an hour later I had sacked their convent and punched all their nuns. See? I punched them, not stabbed them.

Behold Hildiridr Mæginbjarnardottir, the kindest goddamn Viking.

Expeditions: Viking (PC)
Developer: Logic Artists
Publisher: Logic Artists
Released: April 27
, 2017
MSRP: $29.99 

Back when Expeditions: Viking released, I painted it as a fun, but deeply flawed title – flawed in that it was so buggy I couldn't actually finish it. While a number of bugs remain, enough have been fixed that I can finally render judgment upon the game in its entirety – just as the characters are ever-so constantly judging you.

Your father is very deceased, having perished across the sea while exploring Britannia, and the position of Thegn (Thane) falls to you. While most respect you personally, the shadow of your incompetent father looms large, and everyone from drunken cousins (now deceased and/or exiled) to the Big Bad next door (innocuously named Skule Skullcleaver) views you and your land as easy pickings. This forms the impetus for the campaign – whether you're off to trade with Britannia (like I arguably set out to do) or plunder it (like I arguably set out to do), the clock to save your territory is always looming overhead.

There's a lot to take in with Viking. I can't really tell you how long it runs, because I'm not sure how much time I spent playing the core game, and how much time I spent clicking around the map on barrels and boxes, totally ignoring the truly lovely visuals and attempts to engage me in favor of finding one more hit of honey – that mead isn't going to craft itself.


Some of the most engaging quests are those concerning religions and superstitions. Expeditions: Viking is a historical title, but the lines between fairy tale and reality can blur as beliefs guide (or blind) the eyes of the populace. Are people disappearing due to giants, or more mundane reasons? What's the deal with the cult of heathens in the woods? Are there really spirits inside that burial mound demanding sacrifices? It sure beats quests like “kill the wolves,” “kill the bandit,” or “find out if that guy really stole that pig.”

Yes, that's a quest. Yes, yes he did. There isn't even an option to steal the pig for yourself.

When you finish up preparations in Denmark, you set off for Britannia in your mighty longship – my own being aptly and accidentally named the MINE – for adventure, plunder, and main storyline progression. There I found that, despite some intense religious and oddly-brief language differences (it's like Star Trek!), people weren't all that different from my own. Namely, they still expected me to solve their problems for them, and this often ends in bloodshed; it's not even always my fault (It's often my fault)!

While there are no curveballs thrown during the course of the game – no matter who you side with, it all follows roughly the same progression – the way in which the story and characters react to your decisions make up for the lack of surprises. There may not always be rewards or consequences for something you've done, but the actions you've taken are constantly referenced. While the immediate plotlines are only rarely affected by past decisions (You're railroaded pretty hard), my choices to spare individuals and brutally stab others came up quite frequently. I think this may have been a sore spot with the Northumbrians, who found themselves more frequently on the latter end of things.


When you're not exploring new places, breaking barrels, and punching clergy for their gold, you'll be traveling the overworld map. Between the major landmarks are camping spots, with different levels of food, security, and shelter. This functions as a minigame where you assign tasks like guarding and hunting to increase security and food (but depletes the wildlife), as well as practical tasks like turning herbs into medicine, using that medicine to heal wounds and illness (this happens constantly), and repairing or crafting items.

Initially, camping is a worthwhile side-activity; many camps are occupied, meaning you'll have to kill or beat up the current occupants so you can rest and eat (your rations, not the former occupants). It also serves to break up the monotony of travel. However, it will quickly turn tedious. Good camping spots are rare (and usually waste time to reach), the computer usually picks inefficient routes to your destination, and for the life of me, I can't understand why I can't sleep, eat, or heal in towns. Wouldn't I heal faster in a warm bed than camped in the middle of a swamp? For that matter, your bodily functions seem to pause when you're on your longship, so the moment you step onto solid land, your party is hit with days or weeks of fatigue and hunger.


Despite all the talk of choices and role-playing, I can't emphasize enough that Expeditions: Viking is a tactical strategy game at heart. There are plenty of situations where you can talk your way out of combat, but this is not a forgiving time period we're talking about. You'll be ambushed in the streets, people will frequently fight you simply for the sake of doing so (you do have some really nice stuff, I don't blame them), and there are simply a great deal of quests that can't be resolved with a silver tongue - or silver, for that matter.

Once you're in combat, up comes the familiar hex-combat, but you're stuck standing pretty much wherever you were, so I hope you got a good spot. When the enemy goes first, this usually means your protagonist or healer will go down in the first round, because you weren't able to hide them behind your shield-bearers. The system is based around the ridiculous power of archery, countering them with shields, and breaking through those with axes, but you've got lots of tools at your disposal. My personal favorite was Leadership, which allowed teammates to move faster and strike again, and really any skill or item that let me set things on fire, regardless of its effectiveness.

Early on, you can get by pretty well just smashing everyone's faces in and going through shields like they're tissue paper, but at some point, quite abruptly, equipment and AI tactics catch up to you. At that point, it becomes a matter of using that giant pile of skills efficiently, and it's really quite satisfying to set up a team combo. A particular favorite was to use Taunt to lure archers in from afar, where my melee units would get free whacks (often decapitating them). You are able to fail a number of missions and the game will keep going, but where combat is involved, your failure usually means reloading, you being dead and all.

So how about those bugs from before? Since my original review, a number of patches have resolved game-breaking bugs, fixing problems from the very beginning of the game to the very end. A number of missing UI errors have been cleaned up, and, most noticeably, I can actually finish the game! However, I cannot guarantee that there aren't more to be found, since I didn't replay it from the beginning – I've done more than enough QA testing for Viking, thank you.

Of the enduring bugs I experienced, the worst is one that effectively disables camping. Camping still works, but all of the status messages disappear, forcing you to guess at what you're doing. Logic Artists seems to have reduced its frequency of occurrence down from 100% to something much rarer, but when it does crop up, it's time to quit/reload/perform arbitrary tasks to try and fix it (I still haven't figured out what does the trick).


Do you know who this character is? Neither do I! This person, and many others like her, just seem to pop into my game unannounced during random encounters, then disappear forever. Maybe I brought along some baggage carriers I was unaware of, but I don't recall packing any archetypes in my longship.

Expeditions: Viking has been as much of a trial as it has been an adventure. It desperately needed even another month in development to work out the kinks in its system, and even now (a monthish later), it has its share of problems. Despite that, it's damnably endearing. The story's morally gray, fantasy-free atmosphere is refreshing, with a great sense of humor. Add to this a visceral, varied, if somewhat unbalanced combat system, and the result is something I look forward to playing through again in the future... assuming it works.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Expeditions: Viking reviewed by Robo Panda Z

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Robo Panda Z
Robo Panda ZIlluminati Eyeball Contributor   gamer profile

Some sort of "Destructoid Community Manager/Contributor", whatever those are. Can you eat them? A superelectromagnetic panda powered by Photon Energy and allergy medication. Robo Panda Z was bui... more + disclosures


 


 


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