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Gord preview: Frostpunk meets The Witcher

We got an early look at Gord, a Witcher-esque strategy game from Team 17 that adds a dark twist and cinematic scenes to the city-building genre.

Gord preview art of a woman in fantasy clothes outside a settlement

Gord is a classic tale of humanity versus the natural world – only there’s more than weather and wolves to contend with in this grim world. A strategic mind can help you build your population and fortify your walls, but mythological monsters care little for your civilized plans. Gord is a city-builder with a Slavic folklore spin, where you’ll need to guard the sanity of your people as carefully as your lumber and stone.

At Wargamer, we love a strategic videogame as much as a strategy board game. And, never one to turn down a great free strategy game experience, I leapt at the chance to get an early, hands-on look at how Gord plays. Long story short, Gord has potential – in fact, the preview’s biggest problem is we didn’t get to see more of the unique experience publisher Team 17 promises.

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Gord is a single-player strategy game that combines a dark fantasy adventure with city-building gameplay. It puts you in charge of the Tribe of the Dawn, who you’ll need to keep happy, healthy, and sane as they build a home in a harsh environment. While Gord does have a custom, procedurally-generated mode, Team 17 says the main game will be a narrative-driven game as well as a strategic one, with cinematic cut-scenes breaking up the resource management.

Speaking of resource management, Gord gives you plenty of plates to spin. You’ll need to gather material resources to build up your settlements, and the health and sanity of your citizens are key to growing the population. Each individual in the game has their own unique needs and personalities you’ll need to consider.

Plus, there are quests and events to explore while you’re city-building. I didn’t meet any monsters in the Gord preview, but I hear they’re out there, looking for tithes.

Gord gameplay of a settlement filled with citizens

Monsters and horror are a big part of Gord – so much so that the preview came with a long list of possible trigger warnings. Covenant clearly took the ‘dark’ part of ‘dark fantasy’ seriously, and Team 17 says it worked with mental health charity Safe in Our World to navigate tough topics in an appropriate way.

Gord is the debut game from Covenant.dev, a new Polish studio whose team includes alumni from 11 Bit Studios and CD Project Red. It’s unsurprising, then, that Gord shares a dose of Frostpunk’s DNA.

Gord gameplay dialogue

The game takes inspiration from Slavic mythology, so it also has major Witcher vibes. Gord is particularly self-aware about this: within the first five minutes of my preview, I’d managed to earn an achievement called ‘Wind’s Howling’.

The opening cut-scenes establish a tense situation, where you and a disgruntled advisor are charged with building your first settlement. The dialogue is a little clunky, and the woodlands are harsh, but a hands-on, intuitive tutorial draws you into the main meat of the game.

Gord pairs adventure and exploration with a varied system for resource management. The atmospheric music lets you settle into a strategy session by firelight and keeps you on edge any time you send a citizen beyond the safety of the settlement walls.

Gord gameplay showing a citizen's stats and character model

Everyone came out of the preview with a different story to tell – some settlements were torn apart by wolves, others by plague. I personally stayed within the confines of my town, building plenty of mead halls and bathhouses to keep the peasants happy.

There are a few hiccups to note, though. Some of Gord’s visual interface needs polish: for example, I often found it hard to tell which citizen I’d selected to control. I also caught an early bug that led me to restart my game (which may well be patched out by the time Gord is fit for full release, but is worth noting).

Gord gameplay showing settlers reacting to a corpse

Gord’s biggest flaw is its preview doesn’t show off what sounds really special about the game. The sanity mechanics are barely touched in the tutorial, the game’s narrative elements remain a mystery, and the unique monsters Slavic mythology offers were nowhere in sight.

This is all understandable: a good tutorial doesn’t throw the big guns at you all at once. But without these features in the preview, it’s hard to tell if Gord will be a strategy game worth remembering.

For more digital games, check out the best turn-based games we’ve tried. We can also recommend the very best Warhammer 40k games, Total War games, and D&D games.