Thursday, February 09, 2006

Loki: The God, Not The Publisher

Before we get started, apologies again for the underwhelming start to this season of AYE. Anyway, the Linux version of the Northland demo hit today, and since I'd never managed to get into the beta, I figured I'd give it a try. The game has obviously aged a bit at this point, but I came away from the demo feeling much more impressed with Northland than I had prepared myself for.

The first thing that struck me is that Northland has a lot of charm working in it's favor. From the little bit of music that plays when two of your Vikings get married, to the grunts and other audio cues given when your minions receive an order, the atmosphere of the game is well fleshed out. Graphically the game, while somewhat simplistic, has a very distinct cartoonish look. It's somewhat strange, since at first glance it may cause the game to seem lacking in depth, which is certainly not the case.

Even the amount of depth in managing your villagers, while not readily apparent, is nearly staggering once you move past the beginning stages. A series of tutorials is available to introduce you to the finer points of the game, and that is certainly appreciated, although the tutorials themselves could use some work. At a few points during the tutorial I happened to find situations where a simple mistake such as marrying a citizen to the wrong person, or turning the wrong farmer into a miller, left me unable to continue.

Combat in Northland is much as it is in similar title and honestly, my least favorite part of the game. This is, obviously, a personal preference - I'm the type of gamer who could tinker away with my town indefinitely. The economic simulation adds another interesting layer of depth to the game, and the combat certainly isn't bad, but I found managing the villagers needs and improving my village as a whole the most enjoyable part of the demo.

The game isn't actually available for Linux yet, but according to RuneSoft, it should be out soon enough. There seems to be a lot to do in the demo, especially if you're like and enjoy the village management, or if you're the type who will play through scenarios with different tactics. Definitely one of the more interesting commercial titles for Linux I've tried recently.

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