It’s not easy conquering the world but it’s even tougher getting into world conquering games for many players. Fortunately, there’s a solution – Logic Artists’ Expeditions series which embodies the strategy needed for conquering but throws in several tactical role-playing game elements. The studio’s latest offering Expeditions: Viking is another step towards establishing a conquest-heavy strategy franchise but what should you expect besides Vikings?
GamingBolt spoke to Logic Arts creative director Jonas Waever about the game, what distinguishes it from other recent Vikings titles, improvements made after Expeditions: Conquistador and much more.
"In Viking you spend much of your time exploring much more detailed areas on foot, talking to people and picking up quests."
Expeditions: Viking comes at an interesting time with games like The Banner Saga and Vikings: Wolves of Midgard having their own Norse leanings. How does Expeditions: Viking handle the age-old setting?
Both Banner Saga and Wolves of Midgard are secondary world fantasy games, meaning they don’t take place in the real world and they use magic and mythology prominently. Expeditions: Viking is, like its predecessor Expeditions: Conquistador, set in the real world during a specific time period. There is no real magic and all supernatural elements have rational explanations.
How much work went into fleshing out the overall lore and ensuring the game is historically accurate?
We did a lot of research to make sure the game looks and feel authentic. The weapons, clothes, ships, buildings, and so on in the game are all based on archaeological evidence and reconstructions. Additionally, the events that occur around the player take place at the right time – the political situation matches the time period we chose and the few historical people you run into are people who lived at this time as well. However, we’ve taken a lot of liberties in what the player can do to affect things – if you decide to roll in with the Great Heathen Army 300 years ahead of time, who are we to stop you?
Who were some of your favourite characters throughout the game? Which ones did your players often get attached to?
A lot of players seem to like Aife a lot – she’s our adventurous young Pictish huntress who decides to join the player’s group out of sheer fearless curiosity. I suspect a large part of the attraction is that her voice actress did such a great job portraying her, but the coolest thing about Aife is that you have a lot of impact on her fate throughout the game, and she can respond quite drastically to certain decisions you make. Personally, my favourite character is Eydis, whom we affectionately refer to as the Raid Mom. She’s a heavy-built widowed farm lady who joins you hoping to win a rich and safe future for her two sons, and she takes no shit from anyone.
What improvements were made over Expeditions: Conquistador?
Pretty much everything has improved – there’s no doubt Viking looks and sounds leagues better than its predecessor, it has a lot more skills and abilities, the weapons at your disposal are more varied, and many of Conquistador’s features have been expanded upon, such as camping, crafting, and trade.
The greatest improvement is a change to the perspective of the game: in Conquistador, you would spend a lot of time riding around on a very abstract world map, and only see your individual people during battle. In Viking you spend much of your time exploring much more detailed areas on foot, talking to people and picking up quests.
"The survival or death of the major characters will impact the ending you get, as will the factions you’ve allied with or against or betrayed. It all gets dreadfully complicated at the end."
The heavy strategy coincides quite well with the game’s adventuring aspect. How did you balance the two aspects out and ensure players had enough to do in a specific area without straying from the main story?
When it comes to that sort of thing, we usually play by ear. We originally made the areas a little larger than they needed to be in the Denmark part of the game, and we struggled a bit to fill them with enough content that they didn’t seem empty. In Britain we learned our lesson, so most of the areas there are smaller, and only the major cities are big enough to have a substantial amount of side quests.
Players’ decisions can influence the direction of the story. Could you give us a few examples of the same and how it ultimately affects the ending?
The big thing is your choice of which faction to help in Britain. You can play both sides for some time, but eventually you have to choose a side – unless you decide to go it alone, of course. There’s a lot riding on which characters you kill and who are left alive; sometimes this decision is made in conversation, but often it’s made in combat; we have a non-lethal attack toggle for that. The survival or death of the major characters will impact the ending you get, as will the factions you’ve allied with or against or betrayed. It all gets dreadfully complicated at the end.
How long would an average playthrough be in Expeditions: Viking?
For a player that completes the main story and a number of side quests, we estimate total time for a play through to be 30-40 hours.
What can you tell us about the difficulty and overall balance of the game, especially with regards to the micro-management? Will there be attempts to stream-line things in the future?
We’re not so interested in streamlining things – Viking is very much a game about micromanagement. However we’re aware that our interface has some usability problems – some crucial information is not communicated particularly well. We’re working on that.
"If the size of the audience warrants more content, there is always the possibility. For now of course, we have to focus on ironing out the last bugs and technical problems."
Technical issues have been cited with regards to clipping, load times and certain quest aspects not appearing. Are these being addressed?
They are absolutely being addressed. We’re working very hard to address the issues people have brought up on our Steam forums. We’ve prioritized stability and major quest bugs for now, and many of the issues mentioned have already been addressed. At the moment we are patching two times per week. Feel free to check in on the steam forums for updates on our progress.
Can we expect post-launch DLC and other updates for Expeditions: Viking (aside from the recent Blood-Ice)?
You never know what one can expect. It all depends on the success of the game and sales numbers. If the size of the audience warrants more content, there is always the possibility. For now of course, we have to focus on ironing out the last bugs and technical problems.
Are there any plans to bring the game on the PS4 and Xbox One?
Another possibility that is dependant on the success of the Expeditions: Viking PC (Windows) release. We’re not against a console port, but currently hold no plans for it.
I know this game is only on the PC at this point but I wanted to ask a few questions related to console/tech development. Hope you are okay with answering them. I am sure you must be following up on the iterative consoles…the PS4 Pro and Xbox One Scorpio, specially the latter which has over 12GB of memory. Do you think the latter will impact PC games in anyway (i.e. will 12GB of Scorpio will also increase memory PC requirements for games in the future)?
I’m sure it’ll have an effect. RAM is so cheap these days there’s really no reason not to raise the general memory requirements for PC games if you’re not being hamstrung by consoles – you can do a lot with more memory.
Do you think Scorpio will be able to run the game at native 4K@30FPS all the time?
I’m not familiar enough with the platform to say anything about that.
"It’s an ambitious game for such a small team as ours, and the launch has been more rocky than we anticipated. Your help in getting these bugs fixed has been absolutely invaluable."
Do you plan to use DirectX 12 or Vulkan in the future to get more performance out of these new low-level APIs?
We’ve certainly been keeping an eye on DX12 and Vulkan, and the focus on performance is much appreciated. Ultimately, since we’re using Unity, we’re moving in whatever direction Unity wants us to move.
Given the similarity, that the Scorpio shares with PC architecture, do you think you will be able to support the system in the future or is it easier said than done?
The big problem with consoles for a game like Viking is the interface more than the hardware. The UI is designed from the bottom up for mouse and keyboard, and it’d be a lot of work to redesign and reprogram the whole interface to work with a gamepad. We’ve certainly talked about it though, and again – we can’t rule anything out.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
Yes, we would like to send out a big thank you to all the players who have been supportive by reporting their issues on the forums and whose input we truly appreciate. It’s an ambitious game for such a small team as ours, and the launch has been more rocky than we anticipated. Your help in getting these bugs fixed has been absolutely invaluable.