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Expeditions: Viking Review

by Purpleblob, 2017-09-25

Upon completing Expeditions: Viking, I sighed with the rush of mixed feelings. It was a fun journey, enough to revisit the game for the second time which is something I rarely do. Yet, it didn't provide me with the sense of delight and satisfaction I usually feel upon completing games I love. Certainly, Viking has many interesting qualities that caught my attention during the early game. However, my initial glee was replaced by disappointment the deeper I got in as the game fails to flesh out its implemented features and leaves one with the feeling it could have really benefited from some extra development time to address its flaws.

The game begins at a feast held in honour of your father, the late Thegn of your clan. His rule left the clan in a vulnerable position, and it's left to you to uphold your family's honour by strengthening the clan, and cementing your position as the new Thegn. You set your eyes upon the land across the sea, hoping to bring back whatever is necessary to improve both your clan's military power, and its prosperity.

Whether you decide to achieve this through bloody invasions or by using a diplomatic approach to establish trade and secure an alliance with the Anglo-Saxons or Celts, there is only one year left until the next Althing. Should you fail in your expedition, you will be made an exile by the King and lose everything you hold dear.

To my Thegn's dismay, trouble is brewing, from both inside and out.

While the fixed timer of one year emphasises the urgency of the situation, I was able to enjoy and complete the majority of content without being too rushed. Certainly, the game allows more than enough time to complete all available quests in Jutland (Denmark) and get a good feel of how everything works in Expeditions: Viking. On the other hand, it may be a little tough to tick off all available quests in Britain or win the game in a way you desire in a given time. Since the invasion of another nation(s) shouldn't be something so easy to achieve, I felt the level of challenge was appropriate.

Many quests have multiple options to complete them, with some being more obvious than others and I had so much fun trying out all different possibilities, especially during one quest which saw my hird raiding a haunted tomb of the "underground ones". The entry to this well-guarded tomb can be obtained by using a brute force, striking a negotiation or tricking others with cruel lies. You may even be able to uncover the dark secret this place holds if your Thegn has enough perception.

There is also plenty of humour in Viking, the most memorable one being dealing with a rather naive, somewhat crazy, seductive young lady in Northumbria. All men have to beware as this vixen can charm anyone she sets her eyes on and even your lover will desperately try to impress her in your presence without a slight hesitation!

Now, who doesn't love a bunch of barbarian heathens with the warship called "YaarrrVikings"?

Quests will usually influence your reputation with the various factions you encounter, but oddly enough, there were a noticeably uneven number of quests between Pictavia and Northumbria, the two major factions within Britain. This left me feeling extremely unsatisfied as there were fewer chances to interact and influence the Picts who I could relate better with. Due to this quest imbalance, by the time I was done pillaging through their villages and churches, I found that I still had a positive/tolerated reputation with Northumbria - which was disappointing, as it means that reputations are more or less meaningless statistics which do not impact the game's outcome in any way.

To add to my dissatisfaction, I couldn't feel a shred of attachment to my hirdmen. Chances to bond with the hird are limited as you can only initiate chats at your homestead or wait for the events to trigger at the camp during the Britain campaign. Worse, the hird really didn't have much to say. Your childhood friends, Nefja and Ketill, do come with personal quests and more dialogues than others, but it merely felt like just another "tick box" as neither of them went through meaningful character development or engaged me emotionally.

In contrast, your actions have a lasting impact on your hird. Most decisions you make will affect the hird's morale differently based on their set personality traits. Those with low morale will perform poorly in the combat and may even leave the party. No decision will ever please everyone, and it is entirely up to you whether to play a flexible Thegn in an effort to keep everyone happy or maintain your own belief hoping the hird will eventually come around.

It was pretty easy to win the hird over, except for the one guy who my Thegn shared her bed with.

Although I found the default companions a bit shallow, Vikings did a brilliant job bringing custom created companions to life. Unlike other games where custom companions are silent bodies that fill out the party, Vikings allows custom companions to participate in the random events which occur between your travels. For example, one of your custom hird may get sick from drinking unclean water which results in Nefja giving them an earful for being silly and careless. When I encountered the same event again, it was Nefja getting sick and your custom hirdman scolding her.

Sadly, this feature was not fleshed out and you'll quickly see repeats of the same events. This lack of effort turns a potentially brilliant idea designed to bring more life into the party actually detract from the game, as the same event occurring over and over actually highlights how generic and interchangeable the NPCs are.

These events will also have an impact on your resource pool as often you will have to treat the sick hirdman with medicine to keep them alive and fit. While there are many uses for resources, most importantly, they are required to upgrade the Homestead to increase your clan's power and wealth. The easiest and quickest way to obtain resources is by looting kegs. Funny enough, people from both Jutland and Britain didn't seem to mind my Thegn snooping around to loot their properties and there are A LOT of kegs, so you will end up spending hours hitting the highlight key when scavenging for resources.

Each upgrade to the Homestead takes a while to complete, so it is a good idea to start as early as possible.

The camp site is an ideal place to manage and play around with your resources. You can assign the hird to go for a hunt or scout the area to spot useful resources, while the others prepare a meal, patch up the injured or grind herbs into medicine. Broken weapons and armour can be repaired at the camp as well, or you can even decide to craft a new one and tinker around to create items that may be useful for an upcoming battle.

Battles in Viking are turn-based affairs, and skills vary according to the weapon you have equipped. You can hook the enemy's shield away using an axe, attack the enemy from out of their reach using the spear, or nuke the area with a deadly arrow storm. Beside the weapon skills, there are a myriad of fun and tactical offensive, support, and utility skills to play around with.

Some battles feature unique objectives which add extra layers of fun and challenge. For example, in order to save a boy tied to a burning stake, you must defeat all enemies in a given number of turns or he will be lost forever. In another battle, you must prevent enemies reaching a way point or they will successfully flee. Being defeated in the combat or unable to meet the battle objectives does not always result in game over in Viking. However, it would certainly require a lot more effort to get back on the track and achieve what you've came for.

You can also choose to turn on the non-lethality mode at any time during the combat which prevents you landing critical strikes on enemies in order to capture them alive. While it's an interesting gimmick, there are precious few battles where capturing the enemies alive will have any meaningful consequences.

Nefja and my Thegn had a blast skewing two meats between their spears in a single blow!

Combat can be quite challenging in the early game with the limited number of hird members and abilities available. You will have to carefully choose your movement and attack in order to survive some tough and lengthy battles. Sadly as the game progresses, the challenge dissipates quickly due to the lack of difficulty once your hird grows in number and power. The developer, Logic Artists, is aware of the issue and introduced the skill rank cap with the patch 1.0.5 to prevent players maxing out the combat skill too early on.

Even with the skill rank cap, I could breeze through a majority of the battles without much tactics by just focusing on one or two weapon skills per character and keeping my weapons and armour up to date by using the crafting skill. In fact, my hird rarely got incapacitated during the battle, and suffered injuries more commonly on the road during the random events.

Battles get very repetitive too and this is especially due to the lack of enemy variety. It is a shame that each faction didn't come with its own unique abilities or units to flesh out different cultures and make the combat more interesting.

The final act, the much anticipated Althing, was anti-climactic as there were only a few conversations, and some token battles before the ending slides trigger. The whole act seem to revolve around just one plot twist, which while arguably clever, only affected the one ending slide and felt almost unnecessary. I couldn't help but feel that this was another missed opportunity where the developer could have showcased some tough combat without being interrupted by the story or dialogues.

Even after many patch releases, I still encountered plenty of bugs which ruined my enjoyment somewhat. A temporary quest member often disappeared when I reloaded the game or travelled to another area unless I had less than 6 hird members in the party. In some cases, it took several minutes to load the battle screen and at one point, I thought the game had crashed during the transition to battle. The bug encountered during the dream sequence was the most annoying of all; after a lengthy trial, it may not be possible to rest at the camp upon exiting the dream as the game more or less bugs out/freezes at this point.

The good news is the developer is actively engaging with players for feedback and working on improving the game. In its current state, Expeditions: Viking is a fun game with some notable flaws that lacks the challenge and depth. It should provide a good 30+ hours of entertainment for players who want to experience many different aspects that cRPGs can offer. However, if you are seeking a deep and interesting story or challenging battles, I'd recommend you to look elsewhere or wait for a future patch for the possible implementation of higher difficulty settings and iron man mode.

Box Art

Information about

Expeditions: Viking

Developer: Logic Artists

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Historical
Genre: Strategy-RPG
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: Unknown
Voice-acting: Unknown

Regions & platforms
World
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-04-27
· Publisher: EuroVideo Medien

More information


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Summary

Pros

  • Well written quests
  • Fun combat skills and mechanics
  • Many interesting ideas and gimmicks

Cons

  • Combat balance issues
  • Implemented features aren't fleshed out enough
  • Riddled with annoying bugs

Rating: Fair

A game limited by several technical or design issues that limit the appeal, but is still worth playing.

Review version

1.0.5