Gord Hands-on Impressions

Gord Hands-on Impressions

By  Martin Heath - 15th Aug 2023

What awaits in the dark?

Gord Hands-on Impressions

When I first heard the premise of Gord, I was instantly intrigued: you need to lead your tribe through a dark fantasy land filled with beasts and beings inspired by Slavic myth. When adding in the fact that it is a city builder with both survival and RPG elements, I could hardly contain my excitement! Thankfully, I was lucky enough to get a copy to try out and experience the horrors, mysteries and adventures of the Tribe of Dawn.

Fortified home sweet home

The first building you construct in any scenario in the game is the titular gord, an area fortified by a palisade wherein you build all the necessary structures to keep your subjects happy and your newly established home flourishing. Whereas many city builders utilise a grid-based layout to make orderly building easier, Gord lets you place your constructions as you please! As long as it fits, it shall be built. While fun in its own right, the rather compact nature of the gord necessitates smart planning and some tough choices when all of the fancy buildings you want simply won't fit… Thankfully, you are able to build expansions and outposts to increase the livable area. I found this system to be entertaining as the use of space is a constant puzzle that kept my mind working and made choosing the correct structures to build very important.

All of the buildings you can construct have a function: by assigning a subject to it, they can take on the relevant job. A Lumberjack from a lumber mill, a Miner from the Clayworks, and so on. Additionally, some structures can be used to train warriors, defend your gord, or help your citizens recover from both physical and mental issues. The job system is intuitive and it was fun balancing between defending the gord, gathering resources, and exploring!

A fine fellowship, a strong gord

A fine fellowship, a strong gord

The core of your gord is its citizens, as they perform their tasks and risk their lives on your command. While the number of loyal subjects you command are low, usually below 20, they make up for it in character! Each person under your control has their own skills, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and even an inventory! The skills and preferences of your loyal workers represent their proficiency in the multitude of jobs you can assign them, ranging from cutting to trading. 

The higher the level of a specific skill, the more efficient the worker is, either bringing in more resources at once or doing extra damage in the case of warriors; by doing a task, workers get progressively better at it. This progression is, however, hampered and increased by the characters’ preference. If a worker is naturally good at a task, they will gain a boost to experience gained doing it, but if they are not good or dislike it, they will gain less. For example, Bobbert is exceptional at cutting things due to a childhood spent in arts and crafts, so they get a 30% bonus. However, Bobbert’s mother once called their beans-on-toast runny, so they vowed to never cook again, giving them a -10% to anything related to food production. While any character can do any job, these differences made them feel unique and alive, with very skilled workers being natural favourites!

In addition to the skills and preferences, subjects have strengths and weaknesses. These vary from character to character, but usually, they offer some minor benefits and drawbacks, like being unafraid of the dark but extra scared of spiders. While not major, they still add a nice personal touch to make each character feel unique! Finally, each character has an inventory consisting of three slots; these can be filled with items that give passive buffs or even extra skills. Items can be traded between subjects and can be found by completing quests or braving the dark and foreboding wilds. The items were a good incentive and finding or earning the rare, unique weapons or gear was always a great feeling.

A darkness deeper than the abyss

Every developing town needs resources like lumber and food to survive, and your gord is no different. In order to collect them, your subjects must venture out of their safe homes and enter the dark forests and murky swamps around, with dark being the keyword. Your home camp is well-lit, but anything much further afield is hidden in an impenetrable darkness, which must be explored to find new resources, points of interest, and possible treasure! The land is not without its dangers, however, as each tree and swampy bend can hide a plethora of beasts, both natural and monstrous! Careful exploration is the name of the game here, as running in torch blazing is a good way to get your legs chomped off by an overgrown worm. I had many “yeah, nah” moments when happening upon a group of Wolves, or a giant Gargoyle that turned into the chase of a lifetime!

Not all in the swamp are mean, however, as you may find wandering merchants and vagabonds looking for a deal, or you may even be able to rescue captured people from the clutches of the wild folk! By searching through rubble, chests, and the odd cadaver, you may also find small bundles of resources and even unique items! But beware, for within the land, a true Horror awaits.

Horrors, you gotta love ‘em

Horrors, you gotta love ‘em

To me, the best thing about Gord are the Horrors. Usually, one of these mythical beings inhabit the map, waiting patiently. Though harmless — at least at first — as soon as one of these horribly powerful creatures takes note, the clock is ticking. Once found, or once one gets bored, they will issue a request, which may be offering resources as tribute, finding body parts, or making a sacrifice. Do as they ask, and they’ll leave you alone, maybe even help you, but disobey them, and they will unleash a pestilence on your gord, making survival even more difficult. Manoeuvring around these unreadable beasts is nerve-wracking and exhilarating, as it is hard to guess what they will ask for and when. And the best part? They are not immortal!

Yes, you read that right. If you’re skilled, lucky, and maybe a bit insane, you can take on these proverbial deities and possibly even win! While you could argue that this takes away from the fear factor, I argue that it adds another layer of strategy to the game. Let’s say Banela the Rusalka would fancy five children to eat since she hasn't had a snack in ages, but you’d rather keep your children around to till the farms and build the walls (as you do). In this case, you’ll need to weigh the safe but costly route against the mad, but glorious route. If that isn’t fascinating gameplay, I don’t know what is!

Campaign vs custom

Campaign vs custom

Gord has two main game modes at the time of writing: the Campaign and Custom Scenarios. The Campaign contains the main story of the game, following the Tribe of the Dawn on their mission to find a gold deposit deep in forbidden lands. The Campaign is separated into multiple scenarios, each with its own goals, hazards, and Horrors. In addition to telling a story, it also acts as a tutorial, slowly introducing new mechanics and buildings as you progress. I enjoyed the story and the characters it introduces, in addition to the multiple different challenges presented in the different scenarios!

If you feel like the story is not your thing, or you want to fine-tune your experience, the Custom Scenarios have you covered! Using the many options available, you can alter the map size, resource amounts, enemy aggression, and the starting goal, to name a few! With the Custom Scenarios, you can set up a relaxed city-building experience or challenge yourself with the hardest possible encounters! I think this system is a wonderful addition, as it offers great replayability and a way to play the game outside of the story-heavy campaign.

The Chronicle

As a final point, I’d like to note The Chronicle, an in-game encyclopaedia of lore. When you begin the game, it’s just about empty. But by completing challenges, defeating foes, meeting creatures, and finding scattered pages, you can slowly fill it out! Each entry is voiced and contains information about the history of the world, its gods, factions, and other interesting tidbits. Additionally, it is accessible from the main menu of the game, acting as a measure of progression in addition to being an easy way to touch up on subjects you’re unsure of. I loved the Chronicle, as it added some incentive to exploring and added more depth into the world without forcing long lore dumps in-game. The art is pretty nifty too!


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