This Viking city builder throws in RTS combat and raids

Frozenhiem Viking city builder with RTS combat
(Image credit: Paranoid Interactive)

The number of people playing Valheim has dropped pretty significantly in the past month or so. It's nothing to be concerned about, really—lots of people have moved on from the Viking survival game for now, but I'm pretty sure when Valheim's first big update Hearth and Home arrives, they'll swarm back for more. That's my personal plan, at least.

In the meantime, another Viking game is on the brink of an Early Access release. It's called Frozenheim, and while it's a city builder with RTS combat rather than a survival game, it may give you another Viking setting to immerse yourself in.

It's described as a "serene Norse city builder" and it absolutely feels serene when I'm focused on creating my settlement. I begin with just a Jarl's longhouse and a handful of citizens standing around, and I build a lumber camp, fishing and hunting huts, a gathering station (for stone), and then a training camp so I can begin to create some soldiers. I plop down some houses to grow my population, and there are windmills for wheat fields and farmhouses, too, though they won't generate resources in the harsh winters that cover the world in snow and ice. 

I like watching my villagers go about their business, felling trees and rowing fishing boats and pulling wagons of lumber around. The buildings are all lovely to look at, too, and as the seasons change and snow covers the ground, my little Viking workers push through chest-high snow to carry out their chores. It reminds me a bit of Frostpunk as they create paths around the settlement through the deep snow.

(Image credit: Paranoid Interactive)

But the serenity of Viking toil doesn't last long. With some scouts and warriors armed with spears and axes, I can start exploring the map around my settlement and lift the fog of war. And there's plenty of war waiting underneath it. As I explore I come across little quests, like a nearby village that needs protection from bandits. I have to scour the forest to find them and then go to battle. Or more likely, create a few more warrior units back at my base before I outnumber them. My scouts have the ability to send an eagle out to uncover spots on the map without having to set foot on them, and my axe-wielding units have a berserker ability that I can use to make them faster and deadlier, though their defense becomes weaker.

While I'm off hunting bandits, my settlement gets raided by Viking enemies who arrive along the coast in boats and start lobbing torches at my lovely buildings. I run my army back and defeat them, but no sooner do I head back out to handle the bandit situation, another raiding party arrives. And then another. Soon I find myself running out of warriors, and I don't have the manpower available to train more. I unlock the ability to form a sort of volunteer anti-raid brigade made up of workers, and they're brave as heck, running it with their hammers to fight off the invaders, but they can't stop my longhouse from eventually burning to the ground.

I start over from scratch, this time building a nice pointy wooden wall around my settlement, which will hopefully keep out the invaders until I can build a big enough army to protect the village and have a party that can search the forest for bandits. It doesn't work, probably because I completely forgot to assign some of my villagers to work the gate.

A giant wall, a massive gate, and the raiders just stroll right in. A few more battles and raids later, my longhouse is once again burned to cinders.

(Image credit: Paranoid Interactive)

Well, at least there aren't trolls trying to knock my settlement down like in some other Viking games I could name. And despite my repeated failures in Frozenheim, I'm still enjoying it. I just need to find a way to protect my village properly but still have enough Viking warriors to scour the world for bandits and more resources. I haven't even lived long enough to build some ships and do some raiding of my own. But I plan to.

In addition to the freeplay mode I've been using, there's a campaign mode in Frozenheim, too, with a storyline, quests, and objectives. It'll have online multiplayer—both PvP and co-op—which sounds like it could be interesting, too. Frozenheim enters Early Access next week on May 20.

And hey, if Vikings aren't your thing, I recently wrote about a few other interesting upcoming city building games. Take your pick.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.