Norsemen of the Apocalypse.

Title: Bad North
Platform: PC via Discord (reviewed), PS4, XB1, Switch
Developer: Plausible Concept
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release date: Out now
Price: PC: £11.40, PS4/XB1: £12/$15, Switch: £13.50/$15
TL;DR: A fun introduction to real-time strategy games.
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Imagine a horde of angry Vikings, vying for your blood and on a mission to pilfer and pillage the land around you. Then imagine it’s up to you and your small army to stop them, island by tiny island.

This is essentially Bad North – a real-time strategy game that sees you training your troops as you move from island to island, collecting resources and protecting the locals as Vikings sail in, wave after wave (no pun intended) fully intent on hacking you – bloodily – to bits.

A very brief tutorial, given unobtrusively as part of the first mission, shows you the simple controls; you can rotate the camera around the island with your mouse, as well as zoom in and out with your scroll wheel. Left-click a squad to select it and right-click on the tile you want them to move to – and while you have a squad selected, time slows down so you have a bit of time to make your choice of where best to position them.

While Bad North does a great job of gently easing you into the game, don’t let the soft pastel shades of the beautifully drawn surroundings distract you from the matter at hand. The Vikings are coming after all.

To help you with dispatching these pesky, would-be invaders you’ll start off with two “squads” at your disposal, each with a Commander assigned to them. You’ll be able to move each squad independently and they’ll pretty much annihilate anything that comes near them. As you progress through the different islands, you gain resources from each building you manage to save from the Viking onslaught, which in turn can be used to level up your units.

You can choose the order in which you want to explore the islands – some will have symbols, indicating an item or an extra squad is available for successful completion. You’ll want to look out for these on the map as this is the only way to gain additional troops or replace the ones you’ve lost. The items are pretty useful too, ranging from bombs that explode when thrown, to an equipable ring that increases that squad’s size by two units.

Once a Commander has gained enough resources, upgrades will become available, and this is where you can choose one of three classes to assign to that squad; Archers for ranged attacks, Infantry for dealing melee damage, and Pikes for defence and holding off attackers from a stationary position. Each class has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and it’s down to trial and error to see what works best for each situation.

You can unlock and upgrade special skills for each class and that’s where the game really shines. Some of the earlier levels are fairly straightforward and may feel like they’re lacking any challenge, but as you progress, you’ll find that the Viking ships will start coming in more frequently, or from two different sides of the island simultaneously. It really doesn’t take much for the game to go from almost-too-easy to sudden panic as one of your squads is nearly dead and the other squads are on the other side of the island! Enemies become more varied too; some will have shields equipped making your Archers ineffectual, while others will have ranged attackers of their own, leaving your Infantry with a faceful of arrows as you wait for them to reach land.

Things can get brutally messy incredibly quickly. If one of your squads gets destroyed, they’re gone for good – you’ll have to make do with what you’ve got left. If you do lose them all, it’s game over.

Squads will return to full health between each island, though you do have the option to replenish them mid-mission if they’re looking a bit worse for wear. However, this involves putting the entire squad out of action for a set amount of time – something that can be a bit of a gamble if things suddenly get hectic. You also have the option of running away by grabbing the Viking ships and making a run for it – but you won’t get any resource for that island, though this is a small price to pay if you can prevent the loss of even one of your squads.

I had a lot of fun with Bad North, despite being fairly inexperienced with the RTS genre. It starts out feeling deceptively easy but gets hectic quite quickly as you progress further into the campaign. There’s also a hard mode for more experienced players if there’s not enough of a challenge on the normal difficulty.

The Good

  • Simple controls.
  • Beautifully drawn graphics.
  • Good for new RTS players.

The Bad

  • Early islands can feel a little repetitive.

Family Focus

Rated: PEGI 12, ESRB T for Teen; Violence and animated blood make this game unsuitable for younger children.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.