The clue’s in the name. No, not the Viking bit. Though it does accurately describe the amount of beards and longships awaiting you. It’s the other bit, the bit before the colon.
Expeditions is the name of the series which began a few years back with Expeditions: Conquistador. Both games lean heavily into ideas of travel, of trekking to new places and returning home, of time passing. This is the kind of RPG that’s less about quests and more about journeys.
You play your tribe’s young new “thegn” prematurely thrust into a leadership role after the untimely death of your father. While such a title is technically hereditary, anyone with an axe has the right to challenge - and this being Vikingtown, there’s no shortage of axes.
An early challenge to your nascent rule is a neat example of the whole game in microcosm. You talk to your rival first, running through branching conversation trees that let you colour the tone of your approach, and if that fails, you fight. But even then there’s a handful of choices you can make to give yourself an advantage in the fight. And everything you do - from dialogue choices to actions within quests - has repercussions for how you’re perceived by your party members.
Character stats further illustrate that this isn’t just an RPG about killing and looting - though there is plenty of both, don’t worry. All five attributes, including Strength and Endurance, can offer special dialogue choices while the 66 (mostly upgradeable) skills range from being able to wrench away an opponent’s shield in combat to crafting and repairing weapons to cooking food when you make camp.
When you travel across the campaign map, time passes and your party grows tired and hungry. You’ve got to plan your route between campsites, bring enough food, set guard and scout duties, even assign someone the responsibility of cleaning up the camp before you leave. (Don’t do the latter and it lowers the site’s security, making it more risky to camp there next time.)
Combat is turn-based and tactical. Positioning matters to gain line of sight and flanking bonuses, and success is very much determined by how smartly you employ each character’s skills. Get your archer to let off a ranging shot first to boost accuracy. Stun an enemy with one fighter before another steps around to backstab. If you simply move and attack you’ll be reloading very quickly. Party members can’t die in combat, but they’ll sustain injuries that impair their abilities and must be healed over time while camping.
From the outset your goal isn’t to embark on a quest to save the world; rather you must prove yourself a worthy leader, navigate political instability and earn the respect of your people. This journey takes you all over northern Europe, but you keep returning to your home. Every time you do, you chat to your family and friends and realise how far you’ve come.