Review: Saga of the North Wind20 Dec 2016 4
Review: Saga of the North Wind
Released 17 Nov 2016
As of late I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy literature binge with series such as The Powder Mage Trilogy and The Malazan Book of the Fallen catching my eye due to their unique settings and lore. Saga of the North Wind had the same effect on me at first as it shunned the typical tolkien-esque/D&D formula for a world inspired by steppe nomads, Norse mythology and a few other sources.
For those of you not in the know Saga of the North Wind is a text based choose your own adventure in which your nomadic tribe has been chased out their lands by an evil sorcerer.
Think of it kind of like The Banner Saga but not as pretty. You start out having a small skirmish with the tribe of the Black Wolf (the main antagonists) and before long run into the three Gods of the world you inhabit who all bear vaguely Norse-sounding names. They tell you of the Valley of the North Wind, a supposed safe haven where your tribe will be able to avoid being wiped out.
From there your Exodus begins, but you’re not alone. You have several advisers/confidants whose trust can be earned and lost whilst you’re on your journey. Among them you have the de facto military leader aside from you, Kral, your aunt Drazha, the tribe’s shaman Seramet. There’s a fourth person who differs depending on a particular decision early on in the game. It’s actually quite surprising how much variation comes with whom you choose to side with. For instance I decided I didn’t like my aunt early on and let essentially all of her complaints fall on deaf ears. Then she tried to usurp me and take over the tribe… and the same can happen with any of them so tread lightly.
Not long after startup you choose both your name and that of your tribe from either a few presets or you can type in custom names. So if you wish to be Sir Chicken Digby Caesar of the Ginger tribe you can, provided that it fits within the character limit. At any point you can you can change these in the handy “stats” tab that can be found at the top left at all times. This screen also informs you of other useful things such as which God likes you more, which adviser you’ve sided with more, the morale of your tribe and how much money you have.
Now of course the problem with critiquing games such as this is that one man’s Casablanca is another man’s The Happening. Narrative is one of the most subjective things out there aside from humour and marmite but if you want my opinion Saga’s story is good, but not great. When it comes to the technical side of the game’s writing everything is excellent. I spotted no particularly egregious mistakes regarding punctuation, wording or spelling.One tiny complaint I would I’d voice is a chronic lack of humour amongst basically the entire cast. It makes it awfully hard to really empathize with anyone since their only emotion appears to be varying degrees of po-faced seriousness.
Saga of the North Wind isn’t an especially long game which is a good thing since it seems like death and failure are more than willing to sneak up on you at a moment’s notice. It follows a fairly typical formula where the game allows you to take numerous paths but regardless of what you do there are certain fixed points and situations in the narrative that you will have to go through. Luckily there aren’t many of these so it doesn’t ever really feel like you’re being railroaded.
One thing I do quite like about Saga of the North Wind is that it circumvents an old complaint I’ve had with this genre. We’ve all been there where you’re given a list of actions that you can do but you’re not sure on how many of them you’re allowed to partake in before the plot moves on. With the exception of a few situations Saga always informs of you how many tasks you are able to do before moving on. I know it sounds like a small and insignificant thing but it goes a long way in cutting down on confusion between the player and the game.
Whilst I’ve been doing my best to avoid spoiling or delving into the game’s plot I do feel the need to bring up the ending. For starters, from what I can tell nothing you do up until that point has much bearing on how the ending plays out. Secondly, while I’m glad you are given a multitude of choices at the end of the game it seems like a lottery on whether or not you get a good ending. In my opinion I’d led my tribe with distinction through most of the game only to literally slip up at the end and be condemned to a dark abyss below whilst my tribe was wiped from the face of the earth. Upon death there’s no way of reloading a save or anything like that. You have to restart the game once again and fight your way up to the point where you died. Luckily this blow is cushioned by the fact that Saga of the North Wind has a plethora of options and each game/story isn’t too long.
All in all no matter what I say, whether you pick you up Saga of the North Wind or not depends on your own literary tastes. While I may be more than willing to stomach dialogue and characterization that swings between decidedly functional and subpar, If you require the cast of your choose your own adventures to be more likable this might be worth skipping. Saga of the North Wind can be found on both IOS and Android, the first three chapters are free after which you’ll have to pay £3.59 [At time of writing] to get the full experience. I’d say it’s worth the free-trial at the very least to see what you think.