Gord is a single-player dark fantasy strategy game by Covenant.dev and Team17, and will launch on August 17, 2023, on Steam, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. I went hands-on with a playable demo and with an engaging story, amazingly detailed environments, base building and troop management, you will need to make some harsh decisions in order to keep your people alive. This is a great strategy game and was easy to learn, but the final decision of the second scenario was a real tough one and means the full game is going to be wild.
In Gord, we must lead the people of the Tribe of the Dawn as they venture deep into forbidden lands. We complete quests that shape their personalities, impact their wellbeing, and decide the fate of their community. We must ensure the survival of your populace in a grim fantasy world inspired by Slavic folklore. With ex-CD Projekt Red developers behind the game, their influence is clear in the grim dark world and some of the creature designs could be compared to Witcher 3, but Gord has its own art style and some unique and terrifying beasts to contend with.
To survive these wild lands, you must build up your gord (village), but to prevail, you must conquer the darkness beyond the gates. You must complete quests while managing a populace whose personal stories and well-being decide the fate of your tribe. Not only do we need to keep our people fed and healed, but we also need to worry about their sanity. As they work beyond the safety and light of the gord, they will slowly lose sanity. This can be healed by building a meadery or finding yellow bushes in the wild.
The first scenario does a great job at teaching you the movement and camera mechanics and moving as a squad. It uses standard RTS controls such as click-drag to select, assigning troops to groups and so on. We use click to move, but I also liked being able to hold the right mouse button down to move and orient the troops. Troops have a starting profession such as scout, hunter or iron collector, but as we create new buildings, we can assign anyone to them, and it changes their profession.
We collect lumber, reeds, and food initially, and there is an associated building that needs to be erected. I like how when you go to place a building, its orientation changes depending on the outer circle placement of the gord. As you move the silhouette around the gord, the orientation of the building looks to the centre of the circular gord. You can then press Q and E to rotate it for more refined placement.
Gord’s interface is an easy one to learn as well, with a great information panel on the left that shows the troops stats, items, sanity and more. On the right is a list of your active group and the troops within that group. You can see their health and sanity at a glance, and the background of their portrait changes if they are low on sanity, health or have an affliction. Combat is real time, and I loved that axe wielders do AOE damage as they swing wildly at wolves, bears, and other creatures. Later we came across a mage character who unlocked incantations for us to use. Rather than controlling her as a playable character, we have a menu at the bottom to cast the incantations. This was a little strange at first, but I got used to it as this seems to be more about controlling and looking after a small number of villagers rather than having large armies.
If a troop gets injured, they can heal by eating red bushes, using a life spring which gives some initial regeneration and then takes time to rebuild itself in the wild, or run back to town to the balia (healing hut). If a troop loses all life, they will be knocked down and you have 60 seconds to get someone to revive them. If you don’t make it, they will die, and this will have a negative sanity effect on anyone around the corpse. If the corpse is in or close to the gord, the game suggests moving the body to a burial ground, but I didn’t see this in the demo.
Having to balance village building and exploration with managing sanity and hunger means it’s not just your run of the mill RTS game. You need to think more strategically about who you send on scouting missions and who you send to combat scenarios, and mistakes can be punishing. You are also scanning the environment for bushes and points of interest to return to if you need health or sanity, or to rest in the light of a torch. The level of detail of the environments is fantastic, as is the sound design. The crack of thunder and rain sounded just like the real thing and the monster design was great, especially the big bad at the end of scenario two.
This demo review utilised a key provided by Team17. Gord will launch on August 17, 2023, on Steam, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S and this same demo will be available for everyone to play as part of Steam Next Fest starting on June 19. I can’t wait to play the full game.