Steam Cleaning #24: Bad North – Jotunn Edition

Bad North is one of those titles that takes a game genre and strips it down to its base elements to see what makes it tick. In this game, it’s the real-time strategy that is being minimalized. Gone is the resource mining, unit selection, huge maps, and epic wars. All that remains is the rock-paper-scissors skirmish of Viking armies on small, tactical islands.

And that, by itself, is really fun.

Hopping from island to island in each run of the game constantly provides little twists on the game’s formula. Whether it be a bottleneck or an area with no high ground, a new army joining the fray, bowmen assailing the shores, or new bits of equipment and upgrades, the game keeps players on their toes. All it takes is one decision to move a pikeman at the wrong time and the entire defense may fall apart.

The upgrades for the player armies also provide interesting strategy. As I mentioned, it’s rock-paper-scissors. Pikemen destroy soldiers, archers annihilate pikemen, and soldiers can wipe out archers. Each unit also has special abilities, items, and sometimes quirks that provide small buffs to their crew.

Altogether, Bad North is a great experience in play. It still doesn’t have the depth of a full RTS, but it provides that same experience. The one hiccup I ran into was during my latest playthrough. As I cruised from island to island, one of the islands I had not visited was ‘overrun.’ I lost any opportunity to defend it. I thought little of this, but later, when only one island remained an option for me to travel to, that island was also overrun. With nowhere to go, I faced a game over screen.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I saw no warning indicator that the island was about to be lost. I would have headed for it sooner, were that the case. I do not fault the game entirely for this, as I’m sure there is information somewhere about it, but it did drop a promising run into the garbage for what felt like no fault of my own at the time.

Verdict: If the above sounds interesting, play it. 73 minutes played so far, two campaign runs.

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