The Vikings are coming! Look busy!
Stats, resources, micro-management, long-term planning: just a few of the staples that this inventive indie realtime strategy genre-busting game simply has no time for.
Bad North is RTS on a tiny scale. With a maximum of four units to control and an island playing area that can be traversed in a few seconds, the aim is to repel Vikings that sail slowly towards the shore. There are only three classes to consider. Archers are best placed where they can launch a hail of arrows from distance, pikemen form a strong but static defence, and infantry are basic all-rounders. That’s all there is to it.
Each round lasts a couple of minutes, and when the last of the invaders has been killed, every unpillaged house contributes coins that are then used for upgrading your warriors between battles. Then it’s on to the next pocket-size island in a randomly generated archipelago.
It’s wonderfully simple to play. Time slows down when selecting a unit, allowing you to place it exactly where required, before returning to full speed as your troops execute their orders. There’s not much you can do other than move them into position or activate a special ability, but tactics and prioritisation are required as the Vikings edge ever closer and you prepare the best type of welcoming party to counter the different foes on each incoming ship. Fights are over
“Takes a genre known for its complexity and strips it down”
in seconds, and there’s very little you can do to turn the tide if one of your units is overwhelmed.
Some of the islands you visit conceal bonus items that award permanent buffs to your troops, while others have untrained units who will be added to your roster. You can rotate them into the main squad as you see fit, and we’d advise training them up as soon as possible if you intend to use them in battle, as coins are scarce and upgrades expensive.
The difficulty curve could do with some major tweaking. It’s a pushover to begin with, but by the time you’ve amassed enough units to allow you to dispatch additional squads to other islands, the enemies have become too tough for low-level units to handle. Coins can only be shared among those who actually took part in a fight, and babysitting rookie units in a latestage battle is worse than not having them there at all. There’s no way to revisit easier islands for training, so we always wound up with a few very strong war heroes – the only ones who stood any chance of winning – and a bunch of hopeless extras who would get smashed within seconds.
Death is permanent in BadNorth, and because losing one or two of your first-choice units late in the game carries such a heavy penalty – it’s basically game over – the temptation to pull the plug when things go wrong is overwhelming. You can accept the loss, watch your reserves get steamrollered in the next round, and restart the entire game from scratch, or just quit and reload. You’ll be back on the map screen and better prepared to have another go, assuming you don’t get crushed beneath your own sense of shame. ‘Save scumming’ aside, Bad
North is immensely likeable. It takes a genre known for its complexity and, in stripping it down to the bare bones, makes it accessible and intuitive. Long-term appeal may be questionable, given that each island is much the same as the others, but it’s an immediate hit of fun while it lasts.
right Assaulted on three fronts. Luckily these ones are weak. Just wait until the big guys show up…