Understandably, a lot of the talk about upcoming ‘adventure-strategy’ game Gord has focused on debut developer Covenant’s connection to The Witcher. Made up of a variety of Polish AAA developers, some of which moved on from CD Projekt Red to set up the studio, Covenant isn’t running far from its roots – like much of The Witcher, Gord takes place in a grim, pastoral fantasy world inspired by Slavic folklore. But when I saw it at Gamescom, Covenant CEO Stan Just made a different comparison that reveals Gord’s promise – Rimworld.
Like Rimworld, Gord begins by giving you a smattering of generated villagers, each with individual personality traits that can affect their working and personal lives. Like Rimworld, you task those villagers with building a colony from scratch, erecting a temple to their gods, building a palisade wall to keep out the various threats lurking in the dark, and collecting the resources needed to do so. And, like Rimworld, Gord wants to help turn tiny moments into unexpected, personal stories that emerge naturally.
It’s a great set-up, building in elements of real-time strategy (on first glance, this presents itself like a classic top-down unit control game) and survival games to see you grow attached to your townsfolk over time as they build your village. Success is measured by the townsfolk’s sanity (happiness isn’t really measurable in a world as miserable as this) as well as how much progress you make in creating a functioning settlement.
Your villagers can be naturally gifted at certain things (building, using specific weaponry, and more), and they may bring with them unique items that will help them survive. They may also have personalities that mean they simply won’t do certain tasks, forcing you to be creative with how you assign the village’s many roles. In the demo I watch, a baby is unexpectedly born as we play, giving a hint at how this isn’t just about helping a single set of villagers, but perhaps a whole lineage of them. And of course, all of this is being done to make it really devastating when they die.
Because Gord isn’t just a strategy game, or even simply a game about defending the settlement. It’s also a small-scale strategy game, allowing you to arm your strongest villagers and take them out into the wider world, whether to kill off threats, prevent raids, loot treasures, or more. Sometimes, your village itself will offer quests that take you out, but there’s also a full story campaign mode that will see major objectives offered throughout your time in the wilderness.
The pre-beta version I see isn’t exactly pretty, with some fairly basic animations making combat feel a little less than dynamic, but there’s a lot going on under the hood. Villagers can be armed in different ways, and assigned to different groups, even allowing you to add some light automation (you can assign stronger axe-wielding warriors to move and protect weaker bow users, for example). Location is important, too, as both you and your enemies can get buffs or debuffs for the terrain around them.
A Horror could visit your village and ask for a gift. That could be your gold, your crops… or your children.
On top of that, you can use Faith – a currency of sorts generated by having your villagers worship at a temple – to call on the gods to offer protective or offensive spells. The damaging spells are a highlight – these gods don’t seem to be all that merciful, with one spell sending worms to infest a target, and another getting them to hover in the air as their bones are twisted into unnatural positions.
Enemies themselves come in many forms, from natural beasts, twisted humanoids and, most excitingly, the Horrors. Horrors are underworld demons of various shapes and sizes that have been placed across Gord’s world, and represent the most threatening figures you can find. Brilliantly, these aren’t just totally hostile bosses – a Horror could visit your village and ask for a gift. That could be your gold, your crops… or your children. In the early stages, you might just have to take that deal – reject them, and they may curse your village, infesting it with insects, summoning a tornado, or worse.
But crucially, these more traditional adventure sections tie back into that Rimworld-like set up. A death while out on patrol could devastate your villagers – especially if you can’t recover and bury the corpse. Sustain an injury or lose sanity, and a warrior might suddenly have a physical ailment or mental affliction that affects them back home. Avoid those things, and your villagers will gain experience in their assigned professions over time – perhaps, after enough training, you’ll be able to send out a force and exact revenge on the Horror that took your kids.
Gord feels built to tell endless stories, and Covenant is accounting for that by including a full custom scenarios mode alongside the campaign. Here, you can micromanage what kind of a world you’re placed into, including the kinds of objectives you want to complete (or simply have no objective, and see how long you can survive) – and those seeds can be shared among players to allow for people to take up the exact same challenge.
Covenant isn’t aiming low. The games the team is aiming to invoke are beloved by their fanbases, but with Gord it’s looking to create something that may earn its own following, on its own terms. I’m more than intrigued to see if it can manage that feat.
Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to [email protected].