Developers certainly have their work cut out when it comes to bringing complex strategic games to consoles. A PC set-up offers the luxury of a keyboard and mouse with hotkeys, shortcuts, intuitive mouse scrolling, and more. Reconfiguring a multitude of button inputs to a joypad can be a tricky, but not impossible, task. Gord’s developers have done an admirable job at creating a complex construction/RTS hybrid with a joypad layout, implementing radial wheels for building menus while using a HUD with visible button commands. It’s messy and cluttered, but it works.
Gord mixes settlement management with light RPG elements such as quests, decision-making, scouting ahead, and large enemy confrontations. It’s set in a hostile world and successfully manages to establish a dreary tone from the outset. At your control are a dozen-or-so forest folk, guided by an elderly and experienced steward. The King has ordered your faction to traverse dangerous marshlands to seek a cartographer who has allegedly found gold. Such an arduous and lengthy journey is afoot that you’re required to establish settlements along the way, living off the land by harvesting natural resources and fighting off threats.
Not only do you have to contend with gators, snakes, giant spiders, and wild men, but also dark fantasy creatures thanks to the game’s Slavic mythology influence. You’re also joined by the King’s emissary – an impatient, easily frightened, pipsqueak of a man. Thankfully, their appearances are limited to cut scenes… in which they constantly question why the journey is taking so long.
The action is viewed from a top-down perspective, and each member of your community – which can be named and customised – can be selected individually via the trigger buttons, or highlighted and commanded as a group. They must be assigned roles within your circular camps, ranging from fishermen to archers. Leave them idle for too long, or send them into areas without torchlight, and their sanity will start to drain. As tempting as it is to play Gord on its fastest speed setting, you risk leaving unknowingly leaving characters idle, or having a forager or lumberjack stray into dangerous territory. Things can go awry very quickly. Playing on the default speed is undoubtedly safer, although fast-forwarding certain chores can speed up progression, so it’s still a useful feature. I wouldn’t rule out having to reload past saves though – enemy ambushes can catch your workers off-guard.
You may even find yourself becoming attached to certain folk – the campaign is spread over generations, with babies born and gradually entering adulthood, and survivors can be carried over from one mission to the next. Later campaign missions also start with a basic settlement in place, meaning you aren’t always forced to set up a camp anew. Alternatively, there are shorter custom scenarios to jump into – with the main campaign here being very time consuming.
Visually, it mirrors the gloomy premise – settlements are illuminated by torchlight, with darkness shrouding the rest of the world. Activate photo mode, and you’ll find that there is a bit of detail within each structure. The maps themselves are reasonably large, should you want to explore – something optional for the most part. Wild men holding prisoners are often found, and once freed, they can join your band of semi-merry men. Some discoveries will also commence an event, with one early mission giving the choice to sacrifice a child or engage in battle. Occasionally, events will unfold inside of the camp, including a lover’s tiff that you must settle with a decision, and the arrival of a woman lost in the wilderness for years who seeks shelter. Bad decision making can impact sanity, health, and faith – and it’s essential to periodically send troops to the temple, meadery, and bathhouse to recharge gauges.
As the campaign unfolds, with missions each taking an hour or two, new buildings are introduced. Constructing these often takes priority, becoming the main quest. Your men (and women) go from being humble mushroom foragers to skilled hunters, and eventually become skillful enough to work with clay and iron in their constructions. Every building requires resources, and these are mostly readily available around the camp, although some become temporarily unavailable. At one point I became stumped when no more clay was obtainable, wondering how I was meant to finish a quest. Patience was the answer – clay producing termite mounds only appear during certain seasons. Of course!
Gord is quick to grab hold of you – the loop of gathering resources, building and expanding, and eventually bringing the current mission to a close by tackling the final objective is compelling. But like the instance with vanishing clay, I was left scratching my head a few times, mostly when it came to micromanaging the community. If called away for their roles, say to attack giant spiders tearing down your walls, your workers will drop whatever resource they’re carrying. This can result in random piles of valuable resources scattered around, and there’s no control over when these are retrieved.
More detrimental is that if you draw people away to fight or embark on a quest, once they’ve carried out your commands they’ll just remain idle. This means assigning roles again – something a ‘return to work’ (or similar) action would have rectified. On top of this, Gord features dozens of indistinguishable icons, making it hard to track which roles have been previously selected. Indeed, I think I may have enjoyed it more if your characters were able to think for themselves, at least on a basic level, instead of being micromanaged. Even if workers are at death’s door, they’ll carry on working instead of jumping into a healing bath. While pausing the action to deal with such instances does make Gord demanding – this isn’t something you can have running in the background, like Cities: Skylines or Railroad Empire – it can also result in a lot of unnecessary distractions.
Gord is deep and involving, but also a bit finicky due to its focus on micromanagement. It also has a couple of issues when playing on a console, such as small text. PC gamers looking for a long lasting, reasonably challenging, settlement builder should investigate, especially if the prospect of raw survival and slaying evil entities appeals. Console gamers should know what they’re getting themselves into – this is a complex, slow burning, experience that isn’t immediately accessible. Just looking at the screenshots on this page, showcasing the far from minimalist HUD, should be enough to advise whether you’re up for traversing Gord’s wildlands.
Team17’s Gord is out 17th August on PS5, Xbox Series, and PC. Developed by Covenant.dev and Team17.