PAX East Preview: Expeditions – Viking

Logic Artists’ historical RPG, Expeditions: Viking, has been on my radar since I met two members of the team at PAX Prime last year. Expeditions: Viking has come a long way since that initial demo over coffee at the Sheraton. If I was excited back then about the possibilities, I am over the moon about what I saw at PAX East.

Alex Mint, who took me through the original demo in 2015, reprised his role as my guide and led me through the new content.Right from the first screen, there was a distinct difference in experience. While the original demo focused on a showcasing the robust camping system, party mechanics, and an introduction to combat, the PAX East build started me at the beginning: character creation.

If you know anything about me, Looters, you’d know that I measure an RPG’s worth by how enjoyable character creation is. Not enough options (seriously, why can’t I have pretty hair?!) and I’ll get irritated. Too many options and I’ll sit there forever. Put me in the middle with more than a few options… and pretty hair, naturally. (Don’t judge me.) Thankfully, Expeditions: Viking didn’t disappoint. I put together a shield-maiden with blonde braids and a warrior’s tunic before realizing that, wait a second, there aren’t any classes to choose from.

Before I could blink back my surprise, Alex explained that Expeditions: Viking takes an unusual approach to character classes, in that they’re generated by the choices you make with your stats. Expeditions: Viking values creativity and will reward players for choices that emphasize storytelling over, well, being a munchkin. I decided that I wanted to play more of a leadership role, so with Alex’s help, we built me a character that could hold her own in combat but was also a capable leader in those moments that would require a bit of charisma.

The demo dropped me into a quest a little way into the game’s story, which meant that we had a full party of housecarls to take through the story with me. The quest, The Passage Grave, is a highlight of Expeditions: Viking’s commitment to creative storytelling through choice and action. There are a number of ways that this particular quest can be completed: conversation, manipulation, sacrifice, outright murder, and misdirection. The game’s narrative, at upwards of 200,000 words, is equipped to deal with the choices that the player makes throughout the course of the story. Each choice carries consequences, some immediate while others are tracked, and these consequences create noticeable differences in how your housecarls (and the rest of the world) interact with your character.

As I wove through the quest, making some rather unsavoury choices along the way and surprising poor Alex as to my personal ruthlessness, I took note of all of the ways I could have gone back on my word and made a different decision. I could have chosen not to sacrifice — we could have manipulated a few different people, instead. But, I chose murder and ceremonial sacrifice to get into the grave-site, cementing my path forward. 

It was one thing to watch the hex-based tile combat system during my meeting with Logic Artists in 2015; it was quite another to sit down and use it. My encounter with the entities in the grave-site played out much like a well-crafted D&D encounter would: attacks of opportunity, meticulous line of sight, and limited usefulness of long-range weapons in close combat. I slipped my archers into position, took aim, and managed to get in a shot or two before (accidentally) ending my turn without moving all of my characters. It was surprisingly effective, my bumbling, as the shadowy grave-site figures came straight for my party’s blades and axes. My housecarls and I were swift in doling out violence and, through a perception check of sorts, we discerned that the scary shadowy grave-site creatures were actually the remains of those who entered the grave without sacrifice.

And all of those sacrifices? Used to feed these revenants and shades. Human snackrifices. (Ew.)

Yeesh, and I thought that I was brutal.

The mythos of the Vikings and their highly superstitious natures has the ability to be explained away through logic and perception. As this is a historical RPG, there is no magic system — superstition acts in its stead. 

Expeditions: Viking piqued my interest last year, though I was vastly uncertain about how they were going to execute the complexities of Viking culture (including their religion) with reverence and care while still creating an enjoyable experience for the player. So far, I love what I see. I can’t wait for the full Viking experience.

(Original Post: The Daily Crate)

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