It isn't news that people love Vikings in video games. In just the past couple years we've seen Assassin's Creed: Valhalla become Ubisoft's biggest PC game launch ever and smash hit indie survival game Valheim sell millions of copies in early access. The interest in getting more Vikings on our computer monitors extends to city builders too, like 2021's strategy city builder Frozenheim and the upcoming (and rather bluntly named) Viking City Builder.
Well, pop on your historically inaccurate horned helmet, because there's another Viking city building game and it's launching into early access today on Steam. In Land of the Vikings you're a jarl in charge of a tiny northern camp with high hopes of growing it into a properly fearsome norse settlement.
Land of the Vikings is appropriately gridless, so you can place your buildings without constraints (though nicely, roads will snap to existing buildings) and watch your workers chop down trees and gather stone to build them. In the opening couple of hours I built the usual starter stuff: hunting camp, gatherer's hut, carpenter and stonecutter, a warehouse to store resources, and some crude shelters so my Vikings wouldn't have to sleep outside. But pretty early on I was able to build my first wheat farm, a windmill to turn grain into flour and start producing bread, a little goat farm for pelts and wool, and a firewood station so all my homes could stay warm when winter fell. And then, at last, a shipyard so I could build fishing boats and, someday, start visiting (ie: raiding) other villages.
Progression is managed by a tech tree, in this case called the Tree of Life because it wouldn't be a Viking game without a giant tree in there somewhere. As your settlement grows, your villagers gain collective XP that can unlock new buildings or be used to give them an overall buff, like speedier movement or higher productivity at their jobs. The early branches of the tree are nicely balanced between new unlocks and villager improvements, and XP pours in at a decent enough clip so it doesn't take long to have a few points to spend.
As I began building my village, I made sure to assign workers that fit the job best, which is almost like a little minigame because every Viking trudging around my settlement has their own skills and attributes. Everyone (except babies) has a score for luck (handy for fishing and gathering), strength (any job that requires brawn like woodcutting or building), speed (good for farmers and market workers) and intelligence (useful for blacksmiths, tailors, and shipbuilders). Before assigning anyone a job, I always made sure they had skills that would contribute to their productivity.
These skills are influenced by their attributes and quirks, which run the gamut from charisma to bravery to laziness to cunning. It's a nice system for people who really want to micromanage their Viking community and feel like each little person is an actual, well, person. I became mildly obsessed with finding the best person for every single job, sometimes swapping multiple Vikings in and out of different positions until I was sure I was operating at peak efficiency. It also gave me a little attachment to them. "Aw, Erp Bjornsson died? He was the perfect carpenter. How am I ever going to replace him?"
As for the game itself, there are a few things I'd like to see improve in early access. Scrolling around the map with the WASD keys is very slow and sluggish, and there are some issues with the UI and menus that could use some work. It could also use a more robust notification system for events like the death of villagers (RIP Erp) because I usually didn't notice when someone keeled over at their post. Developer Laps Games says it plans to keep Land of the Vikings in early access for about a year, so hopefully some of that will improve.
It's a nice looking Viking city builder, though, and I'm looking forward to playing more and seeing how trading and raiding works. Land of the Vikings launches on Steam Early Access today.