Gord Preview: Sacrificing Children is the Tip of the Iceberg
A few weeks ago, I was invited by Covenant.Dev to try out their new dark fantasy strategy game. Having alumni from both The Witcher 3 and Frostpunk, my expectations were high that they would be able to deliver a genuinely dark, gritty, and thought-provoking experience.
The art style alone speaks to the Slavic ties to the Witcher series, which fits the overall tone of Gord incredibly well. Not only with our settlers but with the monsters inhabiting the world. There is a real sense of danger prevalent throughout, and you never feel safe. I was wondering how that would lend itself to the experience, as my past with the strategic settlement building games always had moments of brevity where things would be calm and let you recollect your thoughts. That isn’t possible here in Gord, as you are not only fighting off the physical threats but the mental effects of dredging your way through a dark swamp.
Resource management is no joke in Gord. In my preview, I played three of its campaign missions. One was a tutorial setting up the story, learning the player with its mechanics and systems. The second was another tutorial, but this one had a nice mixture of letting you experiment and get into the groove of things as you built your settlement up and made a VERY tough world-changing choice. The third was a more open-ended mission that let the players loose and trust that they had the skills not only to survive but progress in a way that would be beneficial for your tribe.
The tutorial was incredibly thorough without being overbearing or too long. It lets you dive almost immediately into the action while at the same time giving you the skills you need to survive. This is good because there is a lot at play in Gord, you will be managing a few resources, but also as your tribe deals with the outside world, they can come under mental harm. An easy way to avoid this is to build a bar and let them throw a few back and eliminate some of their fatigue.
As you build your tribe, you will set them up for success. You can slot members of your tribe into a multitude of jobs. A wood gatherer, hunter, scout, etc. You are given breakdowns for each member and what jobs they prefer. Taking advantage of this is critical because things are tough in Gord. You will be constantly fighting off the darkness. Usually, this kind of constant beatdown is demoralizing, but there is something about the gameplay loop of building up your tribe and surviving the wilderness that just feels good.
Something that will set Gord apart from the other strategic town builders is it’s dark as hell story. When the developers told me about how dark the story is, I had my speculations and tried to temper my expectations. But within about an hour I was deciding if I would attack this hulking swamp demon monstrosity or to make life easier for my tribe, I could sacrifice a small child and be on my way. It was a lot darker than I was expecting it to go, and if Gord can keep these dark choices up it is setting itself up to be an incredibly dark story that has weight to it.
When you make these decisions it helps them hit home when you have to physically deliver this child to the swamp demon. I ran into some other demons in further levels but my inexperience in strategic games was my downfall before I could reach them and see what kind of horrific sacrifice they required.
Overall while these strategic town management style games like Frostpunk usually don’t click with me, but there is something about the general horrific vibe of Gord that really sunk its teeth into me. The dark fantasy story is clearly well thought out and there is a lot of love apparent in the world’s lore that it makes you want to seek it out and dive in. The gameplay is smooth, while on the tougher side, it never felt like the game was being unfair and it was always user error. While there is no solid release date for Gord I can tell you that after my brief two hours with it, I can’t wait to get my hands on it again to see where the story goes and just how dark these choices can get.