Team 17’s brand new Gord game – released on August 17 – puts you in charge of defending an ancient village from the harsh, monster-infested wilderness of Eastern European folklore. Horrors lurk beyond the fire, but poor management of the villagers’ food, building materials, and sanity also pose a real threat. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the mantle of village protector – so Team 17 decided to dump me in an actual ancient village and put me to the test.
My first day as a Gord villager began in a cluster of historically accurate huts. The videogame gives you a range of worker types to manage, and many of them were present to welcome me to their society. They can’t have been actors, because they were baffled by the big metal horse that drove us to their home.
A scout whispered of potential dangers, merchants traded in gossip, and the village spearmaster frequently bickered with the archers – which didn’t give me great hopes we’d survive a horror-filled night. Our only hope seemed to be a mysterious witch, who seemed to know something about solving problems (with a little sacrifice, of course).
There was another important role in the village: the game developer. Several of Gord’s developers from Covenant.dev were also exploring, seeing their village brought to life. I caught up with the head of production, Jan Strzyżewski, who shared a little about the mythology that inspired the Gord game.
“Slavic mythology is not like Greek or Norse mythology”, says Strzyżewski. “Polish people don’t know much about Slavic mythology – when our country was Christianized, a lot of Slavic heritage was wiped from memory.” “We know the names and roles of some gods, but the entire mythology is lost”, he adds.
Because of this, Gord is inspired by Slavic mythology rather than directly adapting it. Strzyżewski says his previous work on The Witcher videogame series helped him and the team fill in some of the blanks. “I feel like because of things like The Witcher, [Slavic mythology] is something Polish people are becoming really proud of.”
During the day, there didn’t seem to be much mythology threatening the village. So I turned to politics.
When you enter any new social circle, it’s important to establish yourself. A fellow Gord explorer mentioned they’d met a goldsmith offering to sell his wife for a pig, and what better way to settle down in a new society than acquire a spouse? We rushed to the pig pen and attempted to trade, but with no luck.
The next best way to gain the village’s respect was to prove my Gord-ing skills. The Gord game was conveniently set up in a nearby hut, so I got a hands-on preview with furs on my seat and the smell of an open fire filling the air.
As we established in an earlier Gord preview, Gord is a strategy game that’s mainly about village-building and clever resource management. It’s also highly atmospheric, however, with cinematics and an emphasis on the village’s story tying things together. Like the actual village I found myself in, the digital Gord under my control was filled with individuals, each with their own needs and personalities.
People matter in Gord, and it was important the development team showed this. “It was always the goal, but we were not always sure how to showcase that”, says Stryżewski. “Even a few months ago [in a previous version of the game], units were named, but you didn’t see their name above their heads. We wanted players to remember the different villagers, so we changed this to make them more distinct.”
While showing the human side of Gord was always in the vision, the game’s cinematics weren’t. “We never really planned to have that many cinematics and of such a high quality”, explains Stryżewski. “At first, there were just meant to be some isometric dialogue scenes, similar to something like Northgard.”
“But then we figured out we’d created all these cool characters, and we wanted people to be more attached to them.” “It was hard, but we managed to prepare those [cutscenes]”, Stryżewski adds, “and we’re really proud of how they look now.”
My digital Gord survived without too much trouble, but my real village was suddenly under threat. Horrors were approaching, and we rushed to the main meeting hall. Warriors could only hold the doors shut for so long, and the witch urged us to sing to enhance her magic.
We needed to sacrifice someone to save the village. The spearmaster volunteered, handing me his trusty weapon.
I don’t know what terrors the old spearmaster met beyond the doors of the hut. Stryżewski helped narrow it down a little though, explaining there are only a few types of enemies in the Gord game. Threats come from other human groups, woodland beasts, monsters, and “horrors”, who have more impressive and dangerous powers. “All those horrors are rooted in Slavic myth”, Stryżewski adds.
The horrors sound pretty nasty in the gnarliest way. I look forward to meeting them in my first full playthrough of the game. I also look forward to my new role as village spearmaster – at last, a member of the village, a person of rank in my Gord.
If you’d like to meet a few horrors of your own, here’s plenty of horror board games to get you spooked. Or, for more PC games, here’s the best RTS games to try. Meanwhile, if village building and management gets you going, there’s only one board game you should have your eye on: read our Frosthaven review for more.
This article was originally published on July 28, 2023, then re-released on August 23 to include more of the author’s original photography.