Over the last year, Nintendo Switch has collected a number of titles that place you in the reaving shoes of a Viking, but not many have tasked you with keeping that bloodthirsty horde at bay. Well, upcoming real-time battle sim Bad North does just that, so to celebrate its war-torn world, we sat down with Richard Meredith from developer Plausible Concept to talk all things Viking...
Hello, could you introduce yourself to the readers of Nintendo Life!
Richard Meredith: My name's Richard Meredith, one of the founders of Plausible Concept, making Bad North. I do a mixture of code, design, and business things. Bad North is a real-time tactics roguelike about fighting Vikings on tiny, beautiful islands.
You say it's a real-time, but there are certain nods to turn-based tactics in there as well aren't there?
Well, it's a paring down of real-time strategy, it is all real-time, even the slow down that happens when you're giving your troops orders, but we don't have things like the base building or the resource management which are kind of necessary to be classified as a real-time strategy game. Also, everything's very immediate, you're not making long-term planning. You're planning only a little bit ahead and then putting that into practice fairly quickly. The strategy and tactics get interesting when you're reacting to things, so that's where it's a little bit between the two.
There is a vague element of resource management in the sense that you've got a skill tree as well.
Yes, so when you're playing in the islands you're defending the houses, and from the houses you save at the end of a stage, you collect resources, and you can use those to spend on upgrades for your characters, so there is an ongoing progression. You're assigned coins to each hero individually rather than from a collective pool, so you're almost combining EXP and money into a single currency.
The units you control are mostly fighters, but they're also headed up by a hero aren't they?
Yeah, as you progress through the game you're going to be jumping from island to island, and some of those islands will have a hero living there, and you'll be helping them defend their island, and by doing that they'll join your team, bringing with them some soldiers. Each one of the soldiers in a unit is expendable, obviously you want to keep them alive because you need your troops, but ultimately you can lose them and just replenish them. With the hero characters it is ultimately permadeath, and because the only way you can get a new hero is to recruit one from another island, it's quite a big deal losing one and all the upgrades you put into them.
And presumably losing all of your heroes is a game over...
Yes, that's a game over, and much like similar games if you lose a hero you're likely to be behind the difficulty curve, and you'll struggle to get back on top. You'll probably play the game through a little bit and probably hit that game over fairly early on, but then play again and you'll get further than you did last time. We purposefully don't present to you the mechanics or the rules, we have all that hidden away so that people will look at their soldiers and how they're behaving in different situations, and learn how to use them best from that, so part of that learning curve is going to be losing.
In developing the game, we've heard from numerous indies that working with the Nintendo Switch is a very straightforward process, would you agree with that?
I think so yeah, I did the port to Switch when we got a dev kit, and I think it took two days to get it up and running using Unity. A bunch of that was just some things in the project setup that weren't very sensible that we had to work through. We've had a few Switch-specific bugs, but that's the same with any hardware really.
And what about Nintendo themselves, have they been supportive?
They haven't really been that involved, but they have answered queries we've had, and helped us out on the publishing side and events like this, and they've been really great with that.
You mentioned similarities to XCOM...
Yeah, the main similarities are things like the heroes and the permadeath. We want people to get attached to their heroes and squads and get upset when they die. The other thing that we've taken is that it's based on a grid, and the slowdown effect when controlling troops has that slight turn-based feel to it like XCOM. I was always really impressed with how well they made a tactics game with a gamepad, and I actually prefer to play XCOM with a gamepad than a mouse and keyboard, and that's kind of where we took the inspiration from for our control system.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to round things off?
Buy my game please!
We'd like to thank Richard for his time. Bad North is out XX on Nintendo Switch. Let us know what you make of the game in the comments below...