Norsfell’s upcoming survival RPG Tribes of Midgard has turned a lot of heads in the last few weeks, and one look at the game is enough to see why. Eschewing the elements of survival games that many don’t enjoy, emphasizing the parts that many do, and throwing it all in together in what’s looking like a rich universe based on Norse mythology with several interesting ideas of its own, Tribes of Midgard looks set to deliver a unique blend unlike anything else. We recently reached out to its developers to learn more about the game and what makes it tick, and learned quite a bit in the process. Below, you can read our conversation with Julian Maroda, CEO of Norsfell and creative director of Tribes of Midgard.
"This is a game where survival is dependent on the entire community. In Tribes of Midgard, your team will either thrive as a cohesive unit, or fall together."
You’ve said in the past that Tribes of Midgard is attempting to create a completely new genre. Can you elaborate on that a little bit, and how the game attempts to do that?
Tribes of Midgard blends together all of our favorite things across the survival, co-op, and action RPG genres – we affectionately call this new genre “surthrival.” This is a game where survival is dependent on the entire community. In Tribes of Midgard, your team will either thrive as a cohesive unit, or fall together.
This has a number of cascading effects. First, your survival plays out differently than you might expect. Because you’re playing as an Einherjar, a glorious Viking hero brought back from Valhalla, you’re a bit of a big deal. This means that “normal” concerns are beneath you: you won’t starve to death, die of thirst, etc, and you are strong enough to chop down trees in a single swing of your axe. Second, you can die in combat and be revived endlessly. Your gear will even stay with you after death. Instead of focusing on the survival of the individual, you’ll live and die as a team – and if the Seed of Yggdrasil at the center of your village dies, it’s game over.
This makes survival a “team-sport,” which should be more appealing and accessible both to players new to survival or long-time fans of the genre. Of course, you can also play and “surthrive” solo…there may be “no I in team,” but there is in both “survival” and “win!”
Tribes of Midgard has a particularly striking art style. Can you talk about the process of how you settled on this aesthetic for the game? Was it something that came from its setting, or did you decide early on what you wanted it to look like?
Tribes of Midgard’s brightness and vibrant colors are intentional. This is your player’s shot at joining the heroes of legend. The Einherjar have been sent down to Midgard from Valhalla to save the world, and they’re excited about it!
You are living and playing through the Norse myth in Tribes of Midgard, and this mythology is full of magic, adventure, monsters, and wonder. It’s deep, colorful, and fun – and the game needed to reflect that. The mix of bright colors, cell shading, and a cross-hatching effect gives the game an almost comic book-ish feel, as if you were playing through an Edda (Norse Saga) as told around the campfire by the village mystic.
We’ve seen a lot of games take a dark and gritty approach to Vikings and Norse mythology, and while that works really well for so many other games, it’s not the tone we want. Our characters are excited to stave off Ragnarök. They are Vikings. They love to fight. Tribes of Midgard’s art style reflects that battle-joy, and the Einherjar’s desire to join the ranks of Legendary Heroes.
"Tribes of Midgard’s brightness and vibrant colors are intentional. This is your player’s shot at joining the heroes of legend. The Einherjar have been sent down to Midgard from Valhalla to save the world, and they’re excited about it!"
What can you tell us about the building mechanics, and how robust players can expect them to be?
We wanted the building mechanic to expand gameplay and be a strategic tool in the Einherjar’s toolset. In Tribes of Midgard, building adds a new way to explore, defend and thrive. You’ll create ramps to access new ground, equip your village with fortified gates and archer towers, or restore ruins of buildings that boost resource generation. Each has its own time and place in the ebb and flow of the game, and each costs resources. Players will want to consider their resources before undertaking a building project – could that stack of wood be used to create new items, or is it needed to fortify the gates before a nightly Helthing incursion?
All that said, we’re just scratching the surface of what building will do in our game. We have plans to support Tribes of Midgard for months and years beyond launch, and are already working to expand on this system in alignment with our community. We’ll be keeping a close eye on player feedback and make sure that we’re giving this community the ultimate Viking sandbox experience.
For those who prefer to play games solo, does Tribes of Midgard offer a single player experience that’s on par with co-op, or is it designed primarily around co-op gameplay?
While Tribes of Midgard is best with friends, you can absolutely play solo. To make sure the game is always fun for any group size, Saga Mode has two options that are adjusted for different playstyles: Solo and Matchmaking. In Solo, you get to save Midgard on your own in a smaller map suited to individual play. In Matchmaking, you can start in a Group with your friends or matchmake with the community to start a new tribe with others! Either way, difficulty automatically scales based on party size, with the game raising or lowering the difficulty as players join and depart the session.
For example, if you start with only two others, the game will adjust enemy difficulty, resources and other features to make sure your party of three has an awesome experience. If some friends join, the game will change – updating numerous parameters to make an ideal experience for any size group. One that won’t change is map size: you’ll all get to play on a larger map, but entire regions won’t raise and lower out of the sea because someone joined or left your game.
In Survival Mode, you set the difficulty by choosing parameters at the start of your game. The more challenging you make your game, the more meta XP you can earn! Your friends can join based on how many players are already in your party, but if you want to keep your Midgardian adventure to just your close circle of Viking warriors, you can password protect your play session.
"While Tribes of Midgard is best with friends, you can absolutely play solo."
Unlike most survival games out there, Tribes of Midgard is pulling back on managing meters, which is a mechanic that is, of course, crucial to the survival genre, but is also something that can get a little tedious at times. How does the game strike the balance between keeping it streamlined but ensuring that it isn’t too simplified?
Survival games have specific, prominent features that mark the genre. While Tribes of Midgard includes a lot of survival aspects, we removed meters like hunger and thirst to streamline the game. As human beings, we all understand the necessities of things like food and drink for survival. But you’re not playing as a normal human, you’re a hero from Valhalla! Hunger and thirst are beneath you. Your concern is to quite literally stave off the end of the World; that means you can’t stop and grab a bite to eat!
That doesn’t mean the game is simple – quite the opposite, actually. The diversity of threats looming over your tribe add a number of different “meters” you need to track. Is it almost night? Better get back to the village, because Helthings are coming. Has a Jötunn appeared? It’s time to scout it out, prepare your arsenal and coordinate a few raids to chip down its enormous health pool. Uh-oh, that Jötunn is weak to lightning, better go find some resources to make a Lightning Axe!
The world around you also adds another layer that we think players will enjoy. We added frigid glaciers and scorching deserts to Midgard to create a different kind of threat, because even if your Einherjar can’t starve to death, that doesn’t mean they can’t freeze or broil. You can monitor your temperature and equip the right gear to stay cool and collected. As you explore the map, you may encounter threats beyond your skill level. To know if you are strong enough and have the right equipment to face these beasts, keep track of the power rankings and how they change from place to place.
TLDR: Tribes of Midgard is the kind of game that’s easy to get into, but easier to stick around in – there is just so much you can do!
What are your plans for the game in terms of post-launch support?
We will keep the game fresh with seasonal updates that we call Sagas, and we’ve got an early look at our content roadmap to share with you. Best of all, all these Sagas will be free to anyone who’s bought the game and they only build upon each other. For example, when a new Saga comes out, you can still play through the past Saga and even potentially knock out both Saga Quests in the same session.