In 2012, a new studio launched a Kickstarter to create their first full PC game, called Expeditions: Conquistador. It was a year when Kickstarter came into focus as a means of crowdfunding and they sought $70,000 to bring to life their idea of a strategy/RPG hybrid where you play the role of Spanish Explorers in the new world.
The game would succeed for them, getting funded and releasing in 2013 to a positive reception. The game focused a lot on strategy with a supplementary focus on your own choices as the expedition leader, with the individual characters who made up your squad not getting much characterization beyond a handful of traits that might come up in story sequences. The storytelling and writing were strong but limited by that, as well as by the fact that the budget meant that the maps you saw were either battle or the overworld maps. Expeditions: Conquistador tended towards the strategy side of the Strategy RPG genre, with many of its consequences influencing how battles are set up or arranged or the resource management.
When one looks back at the ideas that were proposed and discussed for Expeditions: Conquistador that were never implemented due to costs, one can see there was the ambition to flesh out some of those areas that were put on the backburner. Things like the character traits and the little quirks some of the characters had in Conquistador showed a want to do that which was restrained by the project’s budget and timeline.
While Logic Artists took some time away from the Expeditions series to work on another title (the stealth-action game Clandestine), they always maintained there were plans to do a sequel to Expeditions: Conquistador, and it is from that which we get Expeditions: Viking. Those previously existing ideas were clearly at the forefront of Logic Artists’ mind as they worked on taking the game away from the Spanish Conquistador’s over to the realm of the Nordic Vikings.
One of the big differences with Expeditions: Viking that hits you right off the bat is the different role of the main character. While the main character was only seen on the world map and in dialogue in Conquistador, here your leader is part of your combat party, and the class-based skill set of the first game is replaced with an open-ended skill point system. The characters, including the one you make, are at the center of Expeditions: Viking, whether it is your squad in combat, what is going on, or how events turn out and from the opening section available in the preview it appears they are generally up to the task of carrying things.
A major theme early on in Expeditions: Viking is choosing what sort of leader you will be. The game begins as your character is at the funeral of your father and attempting to take up the reigns of power over the Clan after the father’s apparently disastrous trip across the sea in search of a legend. You see others who may oppose or support you, and why they feel that way in the tension-filled scene that eventually escalates to a fight outside due to the fact that some enemies of your father have come to disrupt the event. You lead a small party to defeat them – either by talking, killing them, or knocking them out based on your decisions and skills. It then escalates further as one of your allies during the fight says that because of your father’s choices he opposes your rise to leadership and challenges you for the right to rule in combat the next day.
This opening act introduces many of the characters who are in your tribe and lets you see the type of approach you can take in an almost vertical slice. The lead up to the duel offers more chances to meet characters and learn what drives them. Now, with the knowledge that your father’s actions drove what appeared to be a decent person against you, it makes you wonder about the type legacy he left and there is plenty of information on that around as people share their differing perspectives on your father. You also get to choose how would you like to deal with the duel on the next day, as one can go into it straightforward, or one can end up talking your allies into assisting with traps, poison, or naming a champion to fight for you.
This also introduces another key aspect that is important for Expeditions: Viking: fighting doesn’t always end in death, and your loss isn’t necessarily a game over. Losing can lead to injuries, a loss of resources, and a change in the story’s path as things occur. In that bout for example, if you lose it, you end up losing someone who may otherwise join your party and anger some members of your Clan. Other fights may cost you supplies, or have long term injuries but the idea is that generally a single lost fight is not the end of the game.
After the opening section Expeditions: Viking shows that it retains much of the exploration sense of the original, although the section that we’re in for the preview build is most comparable to the first area of Expeditions: Conquistador – a limited more self-contained area with the promise of more exploration later. There is also an introduction of regional maps beyond just your little town, and one of the big differences is perhaps this isometric view that is used and gives a Baldur’s Gate-esq feel to exploring and looking in regions where there might be enemies, events or allies to discover.
Just like the exploration for the game has been opened up, so has the game’s skill system. While Conquistador used a handful of classes to define skills, Expeditions: Viking goes with an open skill point system, letting you choose what weapon skills, offensive, camp skills and other skills are available. There appears to be a good variety for it with different skills and styles available for the various characters letting them fill different niches as the player desires to design them.
Many people talk about wanting to see sequels evolve what a predecessor did. Many people discuss wanting to see Kickstarter-funded games sequels be funded by the sales of the first. Oftentimes, they find themselves disappointed as games either rehash or change entirely and many developers (for various reasons good and ill) go back to crowdfunding repeatedly. Expeditions: Viking, however, shows a game that is willing to maintain its core concepts of strategy RPG exploration semi-historical setting while evolving it into a new place that was hinted where they wanted to go from the beginning. It’s been funded by Logic Artists and it looks like it would be a shame if a lack of crowdfunding led it to not getting the attention it deserves.
Expeditions: Viking was previewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developers. The game is releasing on April 27.