When Geoff Keighley introduced Tribes of Midgard during the Summer Game Fest kickoff stream on June 10th, he almost stumbled over its description.
“Stave off Ragnarök in this ancient Norse-inspired co-op action survival RPG that you can also fully play solo,” he said, slowing down his speech and smiling when he got to the end, clearly relieved.
The elevator pitch for Tribes of Midgard is a mouthful, but it’s also the only way to really explain what the game is all about. It doesn’t cleanly fit into a single genre: It’s playable solo or with up to 10 people; it twists mechanics made popular by titles like Don’t Starve Together and Diablo, and it offers all of this in a procedurally generated, auto-scaling, giant-infested ancient Norse landscape.
“It’s a brand new genre,” said Julian Maroda, CEO of Tribes of Midgard studio, Norsfell. “That was really at the starting point of what we wanted to do, was to take a couple of genres and then bring them together to make an experience that’s highly accessible.”
One of the game’s most innovative aspects is its approach to death in the survival genre. In Tribes of Midgard, the goal is to protect the Seed of Yggdrasil, the mystical tree at the center of your village, by feeding it soul seeds and defending it from nightly attacks. If the tree dies, Ragnarök reigns and it’s game over. However, there’s no permadeath on an individual level — when a player dies, they lose all the soul seeds in their possession, but they’re able to rejoin the village and continue the fight.
This is different from games like Don’t Starve Together and other survival titles, which often use permadeath as the main source of tension.
“We thought, hang on, survival is such a thing that everyone understands,” Maroda said. “As a human, survival is almost in our genes, we understand the concept of survivability. And so what we wanted to do is, how can we broaden that concept to make it appeal to a much larger audience, to make it way more accessible, so that other players can also enjoy this type of game?”
Tribes of Midgard scales in real-time, meaning players can jump in and out, and enemies and resources will automatically adjust to fit the number of people online at any given time. As a tribe progresses, enemies — including the monstrous giants — become more difficult to defeat. There are RPG and inventory-management mechanics, streamlined methods of resource gathering, and an ever-changing ancient environment.
“The worlds of Tribes of Midgard are completely procedural,” Maroda said. “We generate those worlds with a seed every time and they’re quite different. That increases replayability, that increases a lot of the sense of exploration, of not seeing the same thing happening over and over again, same with our modifiers slash ruin system. [These] can have drastic effects on you as a character.”
Maroda and his team began building Tribes of Midgard four years ago, when games like Rust and Don’t Starve Together were peaking. Developers identified three trends that they thought would propel the video game industry forward in the coming years — survival mechanics, team-based multiplayer experiences, and Vikings.
For the most part, Norsfell’s predictions were on point. As demonstrated by recent releases like Assassins Creed Valhalla and Valheim, Norse mythology is once again all the rage in the video game market — so much that Maroda already sounds tired of explaining how Tribes of Midgard is different from Valheim.
“Those three trends in the end, almost four years later, kind of materialized,” Maroda said. “We saw things like Overwatch being PvP but with a lot more collaboration and cooperation. …And then the Vikings, yeah, everywhere. Valhalla even did it, there’s Thor movies, there is the Loki series now. So we kind of converge, which is great. We foresaw that happening. People at Valheim also kind of foresaw that thing happening and took a similar course.”
Norsfell’s motto is, “forge new genres that bring people together,” and Tribes of Midgard is the manifestation of this mission. It’s due to hit PlayStation 4, PS5 and PC via Steam on July 27th, published by Gearbox. It costs $20 for the standard edition, or $30 for a deluxe version with cosmetic items and two adorable pets. There’s no crossplay at launch, but Norsfell is actively working on that feature.
Maroda hopes the $20 price tag will allow some players to pick up a few copies of the game and give them to friends so they can all play together, all for the price of a single AAA title.
“You can absolutely play Tribes on your own, it’s super fun,” Maroda said. “But I think that the sense of scale that we wanted to have, with both that dichotomy between the giants and the players, really takes hold when you’re 10 players.”
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