I have worked on a fair number of city-builder reviews as part of this column, and let’s be honest, it’s hard to come up with exciting new innovations in this genre. Depending on your perspective, Land of the Vikings does not really try to change the genre. However, the game presents a solid, if not a bit stolid, entry in the genre with lovely visuals and familiar mechanics.
A bit of history for you: in 793, a band of Vikings raided the famous Abbey of Lindisfarne, sparking great uproar among European Christians, and this particular raid, which while not the first, is generally considered the beginning of the Viking Age, a period of nearly 300 years during which the Northmen launched devastating large-scale raids in Europe and even explored down into North America. These raids were so infamous that monks and nuns across the Christian west regularly prayed “A furore normanorum libera nos, Domine,” which translates to “From the fury of the Northmen, deliver us, O Lord.” When your exploits earn you your own prayer, you know it’s pretty serious.
It is against this backdrop that Laps Games sets Land of the Vikings, so going into the game, you would expect to see ship and wharf construction factoring strongly into the gameplay as well as possibly some mention of raiding. What’s mildly interesting is that the narrative actually puts your band of Vikings at a disadvantage. Per the opening cinematic, your group has gotten a bit lazy, so a more powerful enemy has forced them from their homes to establish a new settlement, so that’s why you’re starting from scratch. Beyond that, Land of the Vikings has only a passing relationship with Vikings or Viking history with the exception of some repetitive, culture-specific events.
Really, therefore, you’re playing Land of the Vikings less for the Vikings and more for the city-builder/resource management aspects. You will find no surprises there. You need to keep your villagers from perishing in the brutal winter while also setting your people up for successful raids in the future. As a matter of primacy, you must see to your refugees’ collective safety and survival by constructing crude dwellings using readily available resources, because dead villagers do not make for a successful game.
Winter, when it comes, obviously serves more as a period of consumption than resource generation, so you need to put aside stocks of food and fuel to keep your people fed and warm during the hard months. You can also use this time to construct more time-consuming projects. The title does use Yggdrasil as a motif for the skill tree, which adds some nice flair while also being a touch on the nose. Land of the Vikings indicates which villagers are unhappy or otherwise struggling with red markers, and unsurprisingly, you will need to keep track of the villagers’ overall morale. If you’ve ever played a city-builder, then all of this will be familiar territory to you.
Land of the Vikings also incorporates a Fame mechanic, which is both interesting and frustrating in turns. You need Fame points to spend on upgrades in your skill tree, but you get Fame points mostly by increasing your population either via immigration or more natural means. As you progress through the title, you get to focus less on pure survival and more on raiding and trade, which is the only way you’ll get your hands on gold, which is very rare in Land of the Vikings.
When discussing resource allocation, you should consider your villagers as resources as well; as with most city-builders, you will have to assign a certain number of workers to perform specific jobs. You have to balance the need for that specialization with the necessity of keeping a certain number of general laborers available. Fortunately, Land of the Vikings offers a tremendous amount of granular control over your villagers, and indeed, you’ll need to bear in mind that the title relies very heavily on intricate supply chains, which just adds to the juggling you need to do in order to keep your settlement afloat. Let me tell you, if you love tweaking every single aspect during your city-building/resource management gameplay, Land of the Vikings will do its best to let you scratch that particular itch. It is designed for you to minimize/maximize villager utilization.
All of this plays out in real time, by the way, because Land of the Vikings doesn’t offer you a fast forward option. Even at the game’s highest speed, you will watch it all. If you’re the sort of player who prefers a next day button, you need to be aware you won’t be able to do that. Fortunately, Land of the Vikings offers really pretty visuals and a relaxed soundtrack.
If there’s one major criticism of this title, it’s that the same events happen over and over. Remember I mentioned “repetitive” earlier? This is far, far from an exaggeration. You anger the gods, resulting in a disaster that destroys a building or two. Random Villager X steals, and you must mete out Viking justice or not depending on how beneficent you’re feeling. There’s not really a lot of variation here, but Land of the Vikings is still early in its life cycle even if it’s no longer in early access.
Land of the Vikings is a solid city-builder/resource management title with some Viking flair that suffers from repetitive writing. However, it offers a nice balance between the resource management and stat-based combat, which somewhat makes up for the writing issues. If the city-builder/resource management genre is your jam, I really recommend downloading the demo and checking it out first. Land of the Vikings has enough issues that, given its price point of $24.99 on Steam, you might want to try before you buy.
- Vikings are known for drinking mead, why would Land of the Vikings focus on beer? Well, good question, and it’s one to which I don’t have the answer. People during the Viking Age practiced apiculture, certainly the monks of Lindisfarne did, and mead does have a place in Viking mythology. However, I’m far, far, FAR from a scholar specializing in this era. It’s certainly an interesting choice on behalf of the devs, and maybe they’ll add apiculture as a new branch on the tech tree later.
- I also want to make clear that the attack on Lindisfarne did not occur in a vacuum. Charlemagne had been up to shenanigans, but any links between Charlemagne’s conquest of the area now known as Germany are pretty hotly debated and generally considered tenuous. However, again, I’m no Viking scholar.
- One of the things that bugs me about city-builder/resource management titles is the necessary mechanic of being forced further and further to find resources because you clear cut and built over the space the resources previously occupied. That just depresses me because it’s too much like real life.
- Y’all, they let you decorate! You get bonuses for making your settlement pretty! I love it.