Gord Review

Gord takes place in a grim fantasy world. You know this because the game goes out of its way to tell you all the time, whist being as dark and unpleasant as possible from the very beginning. Barely ten minutes into the game and the player must sacrifice a child to some big evil grotesque demon thing. The attempt to force the player to make a difficult decision is immediately undermined by the fact that the child in question joined your retinue a matter of minutes ago, robbing the scenario of any emotional impact. Instead, the player is just left with an unpleasant taste in their mouth as the child is gorily gobbled up by said demon. It’s absolutely unnecessary. In fact, the attempts to shock the player fall flat throughout the game and only serve to undermine what is otherwise a solid real-time strategy survival title.

Unlike many real-time strategy games, Gord does not tell its story from the point of view of several warring factions, whilst casting the player as general of a variety of armies. Here the player focuses their time on just one group, The Tribe of the Dawn. The tribe is on a quest to forge into the dark and grim unknown, and it’s up to you to ensure their survival. You’ll do this in the standard way; gathering resources to build up your village or, to use Tribe of the Dawn lingo, Gord. There is wood to chop, reeds to gather, mushrooms to pick – you get the idea. Rather than having to build individual ‘Mushroom Pickers’ and ‘Reed Gathers’ and what have you, you instead assign different jobs to your small rag-tag gang of tribespeople. It’s a neat touch to attempt to create a bond with your tribe – each avatar can even be named – but in reality, this relationship is never forged; you end up with so many tribespeople that you lose track of who is who pretty quickly.

What does work are the rock-solid RTS fundamentals. There’s a real risk and reward with having to explore and illuminate the darkness whilst the scant resources keep pouring in, knowing full well that at any moment you could run out of food, finally forcing you to send a precious scout to visit that ominous cave you’ve been putting off entering. What hideous creature could be awaiting you inside? This is a slow-paced game but developers Covenant do a cracking job of upping the tension, ensuring that even the dullest moment of resource gathering is done so whilst on a knife’s edge. Your tribe and village really could be wiped out at any moment.

Visually Gord is fantastic too, there’s a phenomenal amount of detail and atmosphere to enjoy. Skeleton-like trees creek in the breeze, rain bounces off the ground, and fireflies flicker in the gloom. Meanwhile, the teeny avatars are wonderfully animated; chopping wood, fighting wolves, and drinking beer with aplomb. Other than some jarring frame-rate stutters, this game is gorgeous, and gory, to behold.

Gord is best played with creating and customising your own procedurally generated scenarios and just having at it. You’ll fail, a lot, but this is by far the best way to experience the game. The campaign mode is rather less successful, the excessive hand-holding taking all the mystery and danger out of proceedings. There are some well-directed cut-scenes to watch but, because none of the depicted characters turn up during actual gameplay, they end up feeling unnecessary and are all too easily skipped.

Unfortunately, on console at least, Gord suffers from all the usual problems associated with the RTS genre on the format. Controls are unwieldy, overly complicated, and as irritatingly fiddly as you would expect. Thankfully the action can be paused at any time, meaning your brain and fingers have time to figure things out during a tense raid, but it’s hardly ideal. There’s also some dodgy pathfinding to be endured and the need to have amazing eyesight to even have the slightest chance of being able to see what is going on from the sofa. If you are up for all the dark grimness, it’s probably best opting for the PC version to offset at least some of these issues.

Summary
Personally, I found the ‘grim’ nature of Gord just too nasty, the developers often shocking for the sake of it, rather than doing so to support the story or gameplay. Still, there’s a lot to admire about Covenant’s creation, with the game offering a compelling and tense survival RTS experience. Only really worth picking up on PC, mind.
Good
  • Solid RTS mechanics
  • Customisable levels offer plenty of replayability
  • Sumptuous visuals
Bad
  • Fiddly and frustrating controls
  • Poor pathfinding
  • Some frame-rate issues
7