Back in 2015, French developer CCCP served up Dead in Bermuda, a tantalising dish that mixed survival elements and people management into one unusual experience. This Lost-style adventure looked casual, but that was just the tip of a challenging tropical iceberg. Three years later and it’s reworked the same formula for a new setting, giving all of the elements that made the first game so intriguing more room to breathe and grow. The result is a tougher game, but one that’s ultimately more rewarding for those willing to brave its North American wilds.

For the TLDR crowd, Dead in Vinland: True Viking Edition is The Sims meets Don’t Starve. When a Scandinavian family is attacked by raiders, they’re forced to flee their burning home aboard a long boat. However, the gods decide Eirik and his brood haven’t suffered enough and it’s not long before their ship is smashed to bits by a storm. By a stroke of luck (or is it?), the Viking troop are washed ashore on a mysterious island. Their people have never plundered this far west, and so Eirik, his wife, his daughter and his sister-in-law must learn to survive and – gods willing – build a new society on the titular isle.

While name-dropping The Sims might seem a little disingenuous, it’s actually more apt than you might think. Much of Dead In Vinland’s systems ride upon the careful micromanagement of your survivors, monitoring and adjusting everything from hunger and thirst to the stability of their mental health. You start out with the family of four – leader Eiric, his wife (Blodeuwedd), his daughter (Kari) and his sister-in-law (Moiri) – but as you explore the island you’ll get the opportunity to recruit more people. More new members of your community equals a greater means of gathering resources, but it also adds more mouths to feed and minds to manage.

The family are your core, and should one of them die, your game comes crashing to an abrupt end. Delve into the menus of each character and you’ll see a huge number of variables to bolster and counteract – including fatigue, hunger, sickness, injury and depression – but while there are a lot of plates to keep spinning, Dead In Vinland does a well-balanced job of teaching how best to balance its interconnected stats. Everything you do is turn-based, and each character can perform two tasks each in one day. The key is learning which tasks to prioritise in order to make it through to the next day.

You’ll need to scavenge for wood, but doing so will increase fatigue and depression. The better a character is at harvesting, the more wood they’ll collect. However, utilise a character without a high enough rating in that skill and they could risk injuring themselves. Injuries are persistent, and something as simple as a fungus getting into an open wound can be a survivor’s undoing. Performing tasks increases skills, and ranks – forming the core of Dead In Vinland’s RPG DNA – but every action comes with a risk. And that’s not to mention the ever-changing weather, and the other inhabitants of the island you’ll encounter. There are countless traits to earn and enhance, but also plenty of ways for your characters to die. Danger and opportunity populate every new turn.

While Dead In Vinland never explicitly states where in the world you really are, the real-life Vinland was the Viking’s name for the northern coast of North America (specifically what is now known as Newfoundland in Canada). It was a location that saw a number of explorers and settlers and that’s reflected in the characters you’ll encounter on the way. You’ll meet shipwrecked survivors from as far as Africa and Japan, each offering skills (and potential threats) to your group. There are also more native peoples to contend with, some of which aren’t that friendly to your new community.

Combat forms a comparatively small part of Dead In Vinland’s overall meta – it’s a byproduct of its concept and the turn-based nature of its gameplay and it very much feels like it. Battles are often 3v3 affairs in a format similar to Darkest Dungeon, with ranged weapons working better when stacked behind a tougher melee-based fighter. You’ll send out characters to explore on a regular basis (an essential tactic for discovering new sources of meat, wood and water), so combat is always possible, just not particularly memorable.

As you’d probably expect, randomness does play a part in Dead In Vinland’s overall experience, although to an extent that’s a little too influential. As your community grows, it becomes increasingly more difficult to ensure everyone is well fed, watered and mental stable. It takes time to build everything from lumber mills to taverns, but something as random as an attack from a local tribe or a freak turn of the weather can potentially ruin your game in one fell swoop. In the permadeath settings of ‘True Viking’ difficulty this aspect stings the hardest, but it’s an issue that’s a little more manageable on lower settings by restoring an old save file.

While the Switch version of Dead In Vinland is mostly identical to the one that appeared on other platforms last year, the ‘True Viking Edition’ simply packs in more content by including the Heodening, Vallhund and Norse Side Stories drops as standard. The former adds in an endless mode that strips out the story and offers more customisation, while the latter adds in a dog to your camp and more dialogue options among your secondary characters. Because good boys and girls make everyone happy, and a little extra happiness among your depressed survivors is always welcome.

Conclusion

Dead in Vinland: True Viking Edition takes the solid survival RPG and people management of the original 2018 game and combines it with the two main DLC packs that have dropped since then. While some of the same old issues are still there on Switch – specifically the forgettable combat and random nature of its systems – there’s still a lot to like about this Viking adventure. Balancing so many spinning plates is stressful, but seeing your community come back from the brink of despair only to flourish is an experience few other games on the platform can match. There’s very little here to attract players who have already braved Dead In Vinland’s wilds, but even without support for touchscreen play, the titular isle still has plenty to offer new settlers.