- Genre: Real-time strategy
- Format: CD
- Developer: Funatics Software
- Publisher: Funatics Software
- Mac Port: e.p.i.c. interactive entertainment
- Mac Distributor: Freeverse Software
- Minimum System Requirements: 350MHz G3, Mac OS 9.x or Mac OS X v10.2.x, and 192MB RAM
- Review Computer: 400 MHz G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) with 768MB RAM, ATI Rage 128 Pro (16MB), and Mac OS X v10.3.3
- Network Feature: No
- 3D Support: No
- Price: $29.95
- ESRB Rating: N/A
- Availability: Now
- Version Reviewed: 1.0
Northland is the third game in the Cultures series, continuing the story of Bjarni and Cyra as they free their friend Hatschi's homeland from mysterious serpent creatures and find themselves in the middle of another adventure. You'll watch over your Vikings as you start with nothing and build a thriving city which can interact with other villages with whom you can trade or against whom you can fight. Whether you succeed or fail at these tasks is reliant on how well you can keep track of the many details of Viking life.
The description of Northland on Freeverse's website says "Northland combines traditional real-time strategy game play with RPG and simulation elements into a unique gaming experience." When I read this, I thought of a game like Warcraft, which is mainly leading your forces into battle, but has some hero development and story elements as well. In actuality, Northland has most of its emphasis on simulation, with very little RPG and real-time strategy elements. Northland simulates Viking life down to the smallest detail, which I think is its biggest downfall. Sure, at some point your village can run on its own so you can actually explore the map, but the level of tediousness to get to that point is overwhelming. Let's take the simple objective of making bread for your village, which turns out to be not as simple as you may think.
To make bread, you first need wheat, that you can get by having a farm, and to have a farm you need some builders, which you can get by changing the profession of any Viking. However, they can't build a farm until they get some clay and wood, for which you need extractors. To get extractors, you need to change the profession of a Viking to extract the kind of item you want. It's a good idea to always extract wood, clay, and stone, since you'll need them to construct buildings and other items. Once you have enough clay and wood, your builders will make the farm when they aren't talking, eating, or sleeping. Once you have a farm, you can assign a Viking to plant wheat by changing his occupation to a farmer. Each farm can have up to 4 farmers assigned to it, so, as long as you have available grassland, you can grow a lot of wheat. Once a farmer has gained experience farming, he can become a miller, who will turn wheat into flour. Then you can build a mill (as long as you have wood, quarrystone, and wheat) hopefully close to the farm so your Vikings don't have to walk a long way to deliver the wheat. Then you can change the profession of the farmer to a miller and assign him to the mill. You can have up to two millers at one mill to be more efficient, and be sure to add another farmer to your farm if you don't want to have less wheat. At this point, you have wheat and flour and can build a bakery. To construct a bakery, you need wood, wheat, quarrystone, and a block of stone. To get blocks of stone you need to first construct a stonemason's workshop, and, just as you did with clay, you need an extractor to get quarrystone who you can turn into a mason to make the stone you need. Then you can build a bakery, but, to get bread, you need water in addition to flour so you need to build a well. Once you have a bakery, you need to wait until your miller becomes proficient enough to change occupations, and then you can start making bread for your village. Just be sure to promote a farmer to a miller and a viking to a farmer so you have all of the materials you need to make bread.
This is just one job out of many you need to complete to have a fully functioning Viking village, and by far not the most difficult one. I haven't even touched on needing carriers to ensure that the raw goods get delivered to the manufacturing buildings, or using warehouses so your goods get delivered as quickly as possible, and homes so the Vikings have somewhere to sleep, and women to marry and have children so you have enough Vikings to do all the jobs you need done. Even though it's easy to keep track of what occupations your vikings have and what experience they've gained, there's just so much to do that it can easily become tedious and overwhelming.
It's also possible to upgrade your buildings as long as you have the materials and builders. For example, you can upgrade dwellings from housing one family to up to five families. The first pottery building can produce bricks with clay and wood and one potter can work there. The second pottery building can produce tiles and two potters can work there. The third and final pottery building can produce crockery to hold more food in houses and three potters can work there. Fortunately, the in-game help has all of the requirements for upgraded buildings ,so you have easy access to all the required information.
In addition, the Vikings easily get losteven inside the villageso, unless you have scouts put up signs every so often, you will have workers unable to find their workplace and wives unable to find their home. Even scouts will get lost if you don't put up signs, so, as they are out exploring, you need to put signs just so they can make their way back to the village.
The graphics are very colorful and bright, and you can see your Vikings as they work and get the materials they need. You can see the children play and the adults talk, which makes the village look more alive. Well, except for the fact there is no night and the only way Vikings can die is if they're attacked by an outside force. Unfortunately, all that color makes it difficult to find your villagers, especially when they are by trees or in deep brush. Since they do a lot of walking, it isn't so easy to find them. There isn't any music in Northland, but a lot of background noise such as Vikings talking to each other, yawning, eating and sometimes building. Otherwise, it's a pretty quiet game.
Northland isn't a bad game, it's just overwhelming with the detail and control you are given and the time you have to spend managing your village before you can start exploring the map and interacting with other villages. If the simulation aspect was toned down a bit and the RPG and real-time strategy aspects were given more attention and importance, I would have a better opinion of Northland. As Northland is now, it's best suited for people who really like simulation games with a lot of detail.
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