It's been the cause of two shuttle disasters, countless appalling dance remixes and fashion statements from your worst nightmare: retro sucks, and it always will. Not that there's anything wrong with a little nostalgia. Faded photos of an old-flame who's name you've long forgotten, a MAME version of Pac-Man, even dusting off an old copy of Civilization is fun now and again, but there's a place for these things and it's the back of your cupboard.
Northland is retro gone wrong. While certain classic games keep their appeal with dodgy graphics and old-skool gameplay, the bulk need new engines, new graphics and a serious makeover to keep their appeal. Northland lacks in all these essential areas.
The game closely resembles Cultures 2 in both gameplay and graphics for a very simple reason: it's practically the same game. The developers, wisely, chose not to call it Cultures 3, as that would imply a new engine. Instead we're left with the same old plot of helping your Vikings take over a land by taking control of every aspect of their community, from collecting resources to matching up couples to expand your population. It also has the same old ' fixed isometric view as the previous two games. Basically, think of it as Cultures 2.5 and you're pretty much there.
But mediocre graphics aside, what's it like as a game? The short answer is 'complex'. Some games you can load up and play without too much messing about. After all, if the game's good, the gameplay should be intuitive. Not so with Northland. The tutorials are essential so you can learn all the little intricacies, including how to build up your army and how to create a virtual dating agency for lonely Scandinavians. It isn't as fun as it sounds.
The game is more about time f management of your characters than the business of exploration and violence. What's more, your characters are so damn fluffy, with minimal plundering involved, while the violence is comical. Imagine a Disney version of Gladiator.
But it's not all doom and gloom. The game, once you've mastered it, can be fun, and hours turn into days as you work out the best way to build your village and tame the area. Of course, it can become a bit formulaic, but the maps are varied enough to ensure things don't always go the way you planned.
There are plenty of annoying aspects too. Your troops will suddenly walk off in the middle of the battle to get a bite to eat, while the Al pathing sometimes goes totally demented.
Northland may appeal to lovers of hardcore strategy gaming, who haven't played the Cultures games before, and don't mind hugely dated graphics. But for the bulk of us, this average game is probably best avoided. Had the publishers priced this in the $10 category it would definitely be worth a flutter - but at $29.99 this is plundering on a far more real level.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP