Humble Bundle’s monthly subscription for April is up and the early reveals made it an automatic purchase for me because of two games: Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, and Northgard. Absolver doesn’t interest me so I likely won’t play it, but the other two (plus whatever other games get revealed in April) for $12 is an absolute steal. You can see the monthly bundle here. You can purchase the April bundle before the end of March.
Northgard reminds me a LOT of Warcraft 3 and the heyday of fun, challenging, plot heavy real-time strategy games. It combines that main course with a side of city building reminiscent of Banished, a game I loved. Its viking themes and cutscenes add a flavorful dash of The Banner Saga resulting in a perfect video game meal. I wrote that right before eating lunch and I apologize for my corny metaphor.
The way Northgard weaves together resource management and city expansion with RTS maps, enemy bases, and NPCs creates a pretty unique and incredibly enjoyable experience. Whether you’re stabilizing your population to turn them into an army, or scrambling to get enough lumber to build a marketplace and purchase ore because you’ve mined it all, each level of the campaign offers different styles of play and different goals to reach. Having several clans to choose from, with their own clan-centric bonuses, adds another layer of variety.
The plot is relatively simple - your father is murdered, you hunt down the killers and find out their secret plans, etc. The end of the campaign is somewhat philosophical as opposed to a definitive end, which I liked a lot, and the art of the menus and cut scenes really helps propel the plot forward into something more serious and enjoyable.
The game begins very challenging and, assuming you’re playing on the default “hard” difficulty, you will likely restart levels multiple times. That’s okay! Give yourself time to learn the ebb and flow of Northgard’s mix of RTS and resource management and the levels will end up less brutal than they seem at start. Hint: gameplay moves at a faster pace than it first appears.
There are 11 chapters in the campaign and the later levels offer a variety of challenges that keep it fresh and interesting. Overall Northgard is a beautiful, fresh, and smooth entry into the RTS genre that offers enough new ideas to appeal to any RTS fan. With a random map generator for single game play and a decent online PvP community there’s a lot of content here to sink your teeth into (not to mention some cool clan DLC).
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
I was surprised to see Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden in the Humble Bundle considering it only came out a few months ago and seemed to sell fairly well. I was definitely planning on picking it up eventually and, lucky me, I got it much sooner than I planned!
Mutant Year Zero is a tactical grid-based isometric RPG. Isometric RPGs like Fallout and Baldur’s Gate and Diablo were a huge force for years in PC gaming. Recent additions like Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin 2 are bringing it back and I can confidently add Mutant Year Zero to that revival list. While not nearly on the same level of Pillars and Divinity in terms of design or quality, the world, characters, and story are still a total blast to play through. It’s the distant future! The Ancients really fucked up the planet and now people are mutants! Some trouble is brewing out in the Zone and you have to figure out what it is before what’s left of humanity is destroyed! Nothing new here, but it’s well told, the world is full of classic dystopian humor and environments, and exploring its not open world feels streamlined and engaging instead of small and confined.
However - Mutant Year Zero comes with one major caveat: this game is NOT balanced properly. Overpowered enemies and perplexing environment objects become manageable annoyances on the lowest difficulty. Play on anything harder and you’ll be stuck in a loop of constantly reloading (speaking of which, save frequently!). On the lowest setting you can forge through the flaws and enjoy the overall experience much more, albeit fairly casually. You can also easily toggle difficulties at any time, which helps a lot if you want a challenge but don’t want to get frustrated. The combat heavily relies on stealth killing as many enemies as possible and disabling others in group fights, which generally works great. And just as a general reminder...kill the goddamn medbots.
Resource management is a component of the game and a much larger one than you would think. Your home base, The Ark, lets you really feel the survival aspect of the dystopia - you will constantly be looking for your next pile of scrap or weapon parts to replace used items or upgrade weapons. The limited supply will make for some difficult planning, especially early on.
The mixture of everything works really well in spite of some fairly large flaws. As an RPG it’s not very long, but that works in its favor. Too many RPGs try and do too much and end up being long, annoying, convoluted messes. Mutant Year Zero knows what it wants to do, sets out to do only that, and mostly succeeds.
Should you get the April Humble Bundle?
Yes! You should! Remember you can cancel your monthly subscription right after activating it! I beat the Northgard campaign in ~15 hours and the Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden campaign in ~18 hours (I explored nearly all the side areas). The replay value in Northgard is very high and I could easily see myself getting sucked into unlocking achievements and even testing out the PVP, Mutant Year Zero has no replay value unless you really love it. The two games offer a lot of fun for $12, not counting whatever other games come out after the purchasing period is over.
Both games bring alive some of the best parts of classic 90s/00s PC gaming and leave you wanting more, a feeling I have come to greatly appreciate in the modern AAA trend of endless games.
(don’t forget: if you sign up for the bundle you can download and permanently own DRM-free copies of dozens of games in the Humble Trove and get 10% off the Humble store)
edit: the early reveal is Minnit - an absolutely phenomenal game I played on my Switch. While only a couple hours long it’s a 2D Zelda-like where you die every 60 seconds. It’s incredibly well done and has pretty solid replayability. This bundle is a must buy!