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DLC Review: Viking Civilization and Scenario Pack for Civilization V
by Greg Mengel

We also reviewed Civilization V as a standalone game.

Heilir, brothers and sisters of the shield. Fill your mead horns and slaughter the livestock taken during our last raid; we have cause for celebration. Odin smiles upon us, for he has blessed our warriors with a new method of practicing for their bloody and glorious entrance through the Val-hall Gate, conscripting Firaxis Games on Midgard to heed his raven's call. Weight your hammers and sharpen your axes, fierce vikings, for battle against exotic and formidable foes can now be met in the international colosseum of Civilization V.

Warn the world - the fury of Old Denmark approaches.

Lesser nations? Wall your cities and hide your women - your Ragnarok comes.

In their latest DLC for Civilization V, Firaxis Games gives players the ability to lead an old Norse power, Denmark, into the international fray. Like the Polynesia civilisation offered as DLC before it, this new Danish civ represents not only the geographic nation of Denmark, but also the cultures of its Scandinavian neighbors, forming a true 'Viking civilisation' made up of Scandinavian culture as a whole.

Does this blanketing union of Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland do justice to all five of those unique historical powers? Has Firaxis done justice to Scandinavian history with this DLC? Let's take a look.

Harald Bluetooth, king of all the Danes. He once killed a man for a sandwich... and he wasn't even hungry.

To create their Danish civilisation, Firaxis had to look primarily at the Viking Age, during which period Scandinavian raiders sailed by longboat to to nearly every corner of medieval Europe. For a few hundred years, early kings had practically no defence against these Northmen, who would sail quickly (by either sea or river) to a coastal town and sack it before a larger, slower royal army could arrive to provide protection. To implement this uniquely Norse capacity to strike amphibiously from bodies of water like lightning, the Danes enjoy the 'Viking Fury' special ability, which gives land units extra movement while embarked, a milder movement cost when moving from sea to land, and no movement penalty for pillaging a tile.

Viking Fury alone makes Denmark one of the most formidable military powers in Civilization V. When coupled with their special units, the blitzkrieg potential of the Danish civilisation becomes downright frightening. Both Berserkers, skilled amphibious viking warriors who replace the Longswordsman, and Norwegian Ski Infantry, excellent snow and tundra soldiers of Winter War fame, enjoy extra turns over the units they replace that allow them to cover substantial distances in a short period of time. With a navy to protect them as they embark, both can lead quick, effective invasions that will easily wipe unprepared players off of the map.

There are two ways to catalyse Denmark's unique abilities: conquering and exploring. Conquering is fairly simple; no matter how you start your game, choose scientific research so that you get Optics (and therefore embarkation), Steel (which unlocks the Berserker), and Rifling (prerequisite for the Norwegian Ski Infantry) as soon as possible. Whichever social policies you choose are really just a matter of taste, as long as you create an empire that can buy, train, or upgrade Berserkers and Norwegian Ski Infantry in high quantities once they become available. Once you have your army of special units, allow them to travel over water (you may want to train a naval escort) to whichever leader you'd like to wipe the smirk off the face of, cook up some microwaveable popcorn, and watch the nations crumble like sandcastles. Sandcastles being attacked by viking raiders. Your viking raiders. It's a good feeling.

Every Danish land unit embarks in classic viking longboats. This includes modern units like Giant Death Robots, which I imagine weigh at least 60-70 tonnes. It takes a special kind of heroic, foolhardy badass to storm a beach with waves of mechanised infantry, backed only by the naval equivalent of glorified wooden yachts.

Surprisingly, I've also found that Denmark's embarkation bonuses make it a great choice as a peaceful nation of merchant explorers allied with all the world's city-states. It works like this: build a navy of discovery, and send it out to discover all the city-states, natural wonders, ancient ruins, and potential trading partners (opposing players) your map has to offer. The downside of this tactic for any other civilisation is that it takes real time and effort to explore all of the ancient ruins discovered, as a land unit is required to dig around the remnants of old Troy and pillage its cultural, populatory, or monetary benefits, unless your Danish land units receive embarking units that allow them to island-hop from ruin to ruin relatively early on in the game. The benefits of exploration for Denmark can give it the cost-effective leg-up it needs during, say, the classical or mediaeval age, to help pay for either a reign of easily purchased buildings and peace, or an army of Berserkers with their minds set on war.

Like in its Polynesian DLC, Firaxis released a historical scenario along with the playable Danish civilisation. 1066: The Year of Viking Destiny puts you in the shoes of Harald Hardrada of Norway, Sweyn II of Denmark, William the Conqueror of Normandy, and the besieged Harold Godwinson of England, as they strive to either protect (Anglo-Saxons) or conquer (Vikings and Normans) the fields, hamlets, and cities of early mediaeval England.

From a strictly gameplay-centric point-of-view, this scenario is terrific. Each playable leader receives his own powerful special unit and ability, to cultivate a strategy around. Both Sweyn and Hardrara receive the amphibious, quick-moving Berserkers used by Harald Bluetooth in regular games, as well as the general embarkation bonuses of Viking Fury. William the Conqueror can both dig in with the Motte and Bailey improvement (a castle built by Swordsmen which provides +100% defence to any units on it and damages all enemy units adjacent to it by 3 health per turn) and unleash offensive hell on enemies with his Norman Knights, which receive the Blitz promotion (allowing them to attack twice per turn), to carve his place in history. Harold Godwinson protects his throne against all three threats eclipsing him, by enlisting the help of city-states (influence with them degrades at half the normal rate) and employing Huscarls, which receive a free Cover I promotion (+25% against ranged attacks) and boast a +50% combo bonus when facing mounted units.

How different would European history have been if he didn't win at Hastings? This scenario can make that happen.

The entire scenario is geared towards reckless war - allied city-states turn over direct control of their units to you; happiness, culture, and diplomacy are turned completely off; and the only way to beat the game is to complete the Domesday Book wonder in London (which can only be constructed after building six Domesday Shire Courts in English cities). With so many special units and abilities to choose from, there are numerous tactics that can be employed in order to take London and complete the Domesday Book before time runs out.

Never before have I seen a country as demolished as the England in this scenario. It's downright gratuitous. If you play as any of the invaders, you'll get a scripted note every so often saying, "Hey, you know that rapine and murder you keep writing home about? Well, Steve back here in the motherland wants in. I know, I know, Steve didn't want to come before... he said the whole idea of invading a foreign country was a waste of time. But he's changed his mind! And he convinced some friends to come along. Come on, check them out." Just like that, you'll receive six free, mincing, bloodthirsty units to unleash on whatever quivering English women, children, and sheep are left in its burning towns and fields, for absolutely no cost. The wanton destruction I caused playing this scenario three times left me quiet, philosophical, and in dire need of a shower, some community service, and a good pray to any dear and fuzzy god other than Thor, whose bidding I'd followed quite enough for one afterlife, thank-you-very-much.

Anyone who read our Polynesia DLC review knows that I have a huge problem with the lack of effort Firaxis has put into adding unique, scripted flavour to new Civilization scenarios. Paradise Found, the scenario released alongside Kamehameha and friends last March, was a huge let-down in that it tried so very little to recreate the legendary creativity and scripted fun of scenarios found in Civilization II. Everything was bare-bones, and that made the whole scenario feel dry and unfinished, like a deserted beta Firaxis chucked out at the world, in a failed attempt to justify its unreasonably high DLC prices. '1066' does a much better job of spicing up the scenario, even though it still falls nowhere in the standards of the scenarios of yore.

Ah, Stonehenge. After the seventh world war, when humans have long since been replaced by Robotnikoidian overlords, it'll still be hanging around, standing up straight like nothing's happened.

Seeing Stonehenge, or discovering a decrepit Hadrian's Wall north of York. Becoming allies of Welsh city-states and receiving Longbowmen before they were popularly implemented into the general British culture was fun, as was seeking out and conquering Ireland as the Normans instead of London, potentially making Dublin the high seat of an Irish Empire with the power of historical England. Though there are no creative, slightly-theatrical scriptings to go along with the conquering of Dublin or the addition of Welsh peasant longbowmen to your army, they still go a long way towards making the scenario especially deep and fun for history buffs hungry for a richer scenario, in which they receive dynamic, interesting, fun answers to all their 'what-ifs'. We want historical Easter eggs. 1066 is a quantum leap in the right direction.

The Viking Civilization and Scenario Pack has a lot going for it. A legendary, extremely popular civilisation to play as, a challenging opponent to square off against, and a reliably entertaining historical scenario that - whilst not amazing by any stretch of the imagination - is worlds better than its uninspired Polynesian DLC counterpart, Paradise Found.

I tip my mead horn to you, Firaxis. It may be a little expensive, but this DLC will definitely grace my computer screen for months, maybe years, to come. Odin would be proud.

8/10 [?]

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- Greg Mengel

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