I have no shame admitting that medieval fantasy is my bread and butter. I can’t get enough of it. So when I happened upon Trollskog (a medieval-inspired indie game), I was more than eager to jump straight in.
I would place Trollskog in the same bracket as games such as Banished or Age of Empires. That said, it could not be more dissimilar from them. It’s the same basic formula; you are given a space, a few villagers, and some tutorials on how to gather resources. From there, you are free to begin expanding and fortifying your own personal kingdom. This game, however, is what I can only describe as being “Bubble-wrapped,” but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Trollskog’s Early Access Trailer (Andreas Carlson, Abstract Void Interactive, 2019)
There is no sense of true failure in Trollskog. For example, in Banished if you fail to farm enough food before winter, rest assured your population shall dwindle. Similarly, if starvation doesn’t claim them a rampant disease may well reap through your village and just like that, it’s game over.
Neither of these things happens in Trollskog. I have no idea if starvation is even a feature because I have yet to come even remotely close to it. Disease? No chance. This is a game of sheer relaxation, because hey, sometimes all we want to do is build some damn houses and have a good time. With that being the case, if it’s a challenge you want, then you’d be better off looking elsewhere.
Part 1: Getting Started
Pictured: First Impressions
Upon first entering the world of Trollskog, you are greeted by a white raven atop a runestone. The raven serves as your guide throughout the tutorial process. The very first thing that stood out for me was the inability to skip certain lines of dialogue. The dialogue itself loads in rather slowly, and after numerous dialogue balloons, the lack of being able to skip it grows ever noticeable.
From there, your first tasks are fairly elementary. First, you are tasked with building the village hall, then a house for your two original settlers. Easy, right? Well, the hall was easy enough, but there was no highlighted indication on where to find the ‘house’ option. It took a good five-or-so minutes of searching but eventually, I had managed to erect a house.
Pictured: The building of the village hall and a house (Circled in red: The ‘house’ building option)
The farming system is unlike anything I am accustomed to. Each farm occupies a single tile, and they can only be placed adjacent to a house. You must assign a worker to the farming tile, and they will continue to work non-stop around the clock.
As far as crops go it is fairly rudimentary, with your only two options being wheat or hemp. Personally, I prefer this method of farming. It’s fool-proof and makes the whole process of gathering provisions a breeze. Aside from farming, you can also build an animal enclosure. With an enclosure adjacent to a house, you can train a settler to be a shaman who will corral animals for breeding.
… And then, it happened.
Part 2: The Setback
You may have noticed from the above picture, my layout has changed. Well I built my village hall, some houses, farms, roads, and even gained some new settlers too. Then feeling complete, I exited the game and called it a night. Yet when I returned in the morning I had a very rude awakening. No auto-save.
(Although as a silver lining, it did point out that each map is procedurally generated.)
Now we could debate on whether or not I’m just being nit-picky here, but bear in mind that this early-access version of Trollskog costs $11.32. Therefore if I were the average customer, I would expect to see an auto-saving feature. It is all too easy to forget to save your progress, and hours of it can be lost with a single misclick.
Part 3: The Road to Redemption
Pictured: Back on top! (The expansion of my village)
Once I swerved the potholes in the road, mainly the dialogue, sporadic highlighted options, the lack of auto-saving, I found the game immensely more enjoyable. I found myself noticing specifically enjoyable features, such as the black fog which surrounds your settlement.
As your kingdom expands, and your villagers set out into the surroundings, more of the area will be illuminated. This means your settlement takes pride of place, framed beautifully on your screen without unnecessary distractions. Along with the gorgeous soundtrack, which is a kind of Skyrim/Minecraft cross-breed, this was immensely satisfying to behold.
As my kingdom grew, the need for gold became a more pressing issue. Visible in the screenshot above, there is a more immediate blue border which you will need gold to expand across. Not to worry however, you can do this by building an in-game marketplace to sell your wares.
Part 4: In Conclusion
As you can see, I ended up sinking much time into my little settlement, farming and fighting my way to glory. The combat system is again, simplistic, but it works wonderfully! Simply train a settler to be a fighter, arm them with weapons you have created from your armory, and send them into battle. Once you have captured the nearby mine for a quest, you can mine iron to make more powerful weapons.
Now, let’s get down to brass tax…
This game has some issues, that much is true, but it is also an early access title. With some well-needed updates, Trollskog could well live up to the heavy price tag it currently has. I enjoyed my time playing it, and I will likely continue to do so, but that would come with the hopes of seeing those updates come to fruition. I suppose it all comes down to this:
If someone asked me “Hey, should I buy this game?” I would simply say “Not yet.”