Northland - PC - Preview 2
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to get to preview the new GMX Media and Funatics Software RTS style title called Northland. Northland is actually a continuation of the game Cultures 2, which revolves around the adventures of Bjarni (son of Leif Erickson) as he and some friends that he met on his journeys went to stop a huge serpent and the end of the world. In Northland, one of his friends named Hatchie from the Orient calls on Bjarni and his soon to be wife, Cyra to help him stop serpentine creatures that are spreading chaos and destruction throughout Arabia. In the original preview, there wasn’t a whole lot that had seemed to change from Cultures 2. Well, there are now some new additions since the game has grown since then, so I’ll detail them for you here. The original preview can be found at this link: http://www.gamezone.com/gzreviews/p21824.htm
In Cultures 2, the large majority of the focus seemed to be on building up your Viking civilization and completing relatively simple missions to find your friends and build diplomacy with other cultures. In the most recent Northland demo, the biggest change that seemed to pop up with both demo maps was a higher focus on fighting and action. The simplistic “Go and check out the smoke cloud” mission style was replaced with “The neighboring kingdom is almost empty, and the king tells you of demon guardians that need to be destroyed” kind of thing. This made it a little more exciting, and I really got intense in trying to find the lairs.
This new focus on combat also presented a neat little change of direction for my Viking villages as well, since it suddenly became more important to focus a lot faster and heavier on building things like defensive towers, training camps, and even schools to research and learn better technology quicker … especially when it was revealed that a civilization of outlaws that I had very bad relations with was discovered soon into the start of the game, therefore scrapping my initial thoughts of “Well, I’ll just build my village for however long I want”, which I did a lot of in Cultures 2. Of course, I also needed this kind of plan to take out demons too, as mentioned in the earlier paragraph.
Another thing that I saw in Northland was that the stories and mission based characters or items seemed to revolve a little more on fantasy creatures and magic. Magic chests have been added into areas of the map that can be found and opened by a hero which contain restore potions and whatnot, and creatures like demons and large serpents have been added into the storyline and missions so humans won’t be the only enemy to fight here. There were more than humans in Cultures 2 of course, especially considering the plot, but there again just seems to be more focus being placed on it to make it more of a fantasy style of gameplay. Cultures 2 had a lot of actual Norse mythology embedded in it, which remains here in Northland as well too though, so for those of you who loved the original … it’s still in there.
Lastly, it seemed as though the leveling up of the characters and the buildings that I was able to build and upgrade seemed to churn out a lot faster, speeding up the overall pace of the game, and food even seemed to go a little quicker as well putting a higher emphasis on making sure that promotions (taking a character from farmer to miller to baker, etc.) were more of a focus.
Graphics and soundwise, Northland is still shaping up to carry on the cartoony and fun little style of the Cultures 2 series, even with the higher combat focus. The interface remained very user friendly and quick to maneuver with, and there will even be the addition of a “build your own map” feature so you can hop online with friends and challenge them in areas that you design yourself.
Cultures 2 was one of those rare, overlooked titles that tends to pass the world by at times, and Northland is shaping up to not only carry the torch of it’s predecessor … but also become better than what it was originally based on. The new addition of a higher combat focus and more mythology and magic being added in turned out to be a welcome and faster paced change, so I’m really looking forward to the finished product.