When you think of city building/management games, odds are high you’ll have a picture in your head of a far off futuristic utopia or some newly forged colony on some planet millions of miles away. Polish studio Covenant is taking a darker view of the god sim like genre with their latest game Gord, which is an equally compelling and engrossing title. To best sum up Gord is if you have ever played a high fantasy game like the Witcher 3 or Baldur’s Gate 3, see the little towns and settlements you blast through on your epic quests? Those quaint places that on the surface look nice, but are really harbouring a dark secret, like having to feed their first born child to some demonic creature every second Wednesday of the month. Well congratulations you’re now running one of these utter s***t holes complete with all its baggage and horrible horrible secrets. Yes, that’s the core idea behind this mix of RPG, RTS and city (well dank dark hole) building/management, which is a really unique offering in more ways than one.
The world of Gord is dark and dangerous to the point you never really see the sun, which in turn is taking its toll on the people of the world. You play as a middle man to an all-conquering king who has tasked your tribe to help guide his forces in an incoming invasion of the North lands. This sees you taking to the world and setting up a number of gords; which are large outposts over the forests, swamps and highlands. All the time having to deal with the things that go bump in the night. Sometimes you can’t solve this issue with the taste of steel, but you’ll have to negotiate with the big bad – which brings in a morality system of sorts, as you may have to just find some of its long lost stuff or… feed it a child. This system seems really interesting at first and also could impact the world in a wider way, yet it really boils down to do as they ask or not and then the impact of those actions… even feeding Timmy to the swamp tree is next to nothing.
Gameplay-wise you find yourself fighting against limits constantly, as each gord must be built within a walled area (for protection) but this area has a limited footprint in terms of space and also the number of resources you have. This will see you having to pick what building you really want or need and it’s a bit of a pain, as you end up playing the worlds worst game of Tetris – trying to get as many buildings into the space. Though in the later game you can expand the walls, but it comes into play a bit too late. It’s also all a bit light as you have a handful of different buildings and even less resources to find, though if looking for a deep system to get lost in, you will be left disappointed. This is made even more visible as the campaign will see you going through different scenarios, but you’ll be building the same gords time after time at the start of them. This is an issue with the game as a whole, as it’s too easy to read what’s needed and the best way to do it. Then just repeat it over and over with few things really making you have to change your tactics once you have nailed them.
Villagers add a bit of variety to things and make you have to think a bit about where and how long you use them. The world can corrupt their sanity, but that’s really the only stat that you will really have to keep an eye on, it’s an almost Sims like system. They also have personality traits; some pros and some cons. You quickly work out those that have negative ones and impact you the most are best sent out to die fighting a bear or the cold, as they are ultimately a waste of good recourses… oh that’s cold. Visually the game is detailed but overly cluttered at times, though does set the mood well for being set 96% in the dark. It’s all a bit too grim, though the monsters also look the part and feed on a rich folklore. Sound-wise it’s fitting with some passable voice acting on show at times.
Gord is an odd beast, on one hand it sound like a really unique spin on the genre, like Frostpunk was; but in reality its overly simple in ways and is trying to juggle way too many ideas at once, while only landing a few. There are some standout moments but these are few and far between, if you’re hungry for an adventure-strategy game on the darker side, you may find a few hours of fun here in what is ultimately a dark, dull, deadly, s***t hole world.
An Xbox review copy of Gord was provided by Team 17’s PR team, and the game is out now on PC, Xbox and PlayStation for around £30.