Roots of Yggdrasil is about persistence in both gameplay and narrative. ManaVoid describes their newest title as a Roguelike City Builder game with a strong narrative and a unique deck-building/drafting system. This interesting mash-up of genres has resulted in one of the most thoughtful games I have ever played.
The narrative pulls from the Poetic Edda and has strong roots in Norse mythology. You play as Sunna, a Viking Chieftain, trying to save first her tribe and then the other surviving humans from the fallout of Ragnarok. Their only hope of escaping the never-ending loop of destruction is to escape to the 10th realm.
At the start of every run, you leave your haven, the Holt, and stay ahead of the creeping fog of the void, Ginnungagap, to find resources needed to transport everyone safely. This requires you to use the knowledge you acquire over multiple runs, building up resources till you are strong enough to save all the survivors clinging to the world tree, Yggdrasil.
The Roots Run Deep
The narrative is simple but strong and made more compelling by an amazing cast of characters. Sunna and her team of Scions are a fun entourage with rich backstories and distinct personalities. It is almost a pity that we only get to interact with them in rare events during a loop and at the Holt. I found myself wanting to sit through another loop just to unlock new interactions with them. These interactions and the rest of the game are rendered in a beautiful watercolor style.
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These elements are the icing on top of the robust gameplay system of Roots of Yggdrasil. The game starts with a tutorial that hooks you in, sets up the game, and gives you all the tools you need to get into it. By the time you reach The Holt, you know enough to stumble through your first loop and get the information for the rest of the game. It gives you an understanding of the deck-building elements of the game and how it’s used to develop an island.
Charting Your Course: The Strategy Of Roots Of Yggdrasil
The game has two stages. First, prepare for a loop in The Holt by using resources collected during a loop to unlock and upgrade buffs. Second, travel up the world tree. In this second stage, you encounter events on your travel screen that can give you buffs or curses. You can also find artifacts that give you an edge. All this and even islands (and their goals) change in every loop. The biggest chunk of this game stage is cultivating islands to bloom Yggdrasil saplings.
These help refuel your ship so that you can stay ahead of the Ginnungagap on your way to Asgard and the Gates of Gimle. Your loop ends if the Ginnungagap catches up to you or when you reach the gates.
The best part is that playing through each island is an interesting mix of strategy and luck since each sapling will have different requirements to bloom. You might need to develop a certain population by building housing. You might also need soldiers that you have to train. Or you might even need other types of buildings or exploration/magic objectives. Of course, you also have to explore and unlock parts of the island to reach the sapling. This needs resources you have to farm and other requirements.
You develop all of it by choosing cards to play from your hand during a turn. When you no longer have a move or have met the requirements of a turn, you end it to earn money, and you play your next turn. As you meet population/ exploration/ mission goals, you can add building or resource cards to your deck. While luck mostly decides which cards you draw into your hand, you can choose what your overall deck will look like. All of this needs to be done as quickly as possible. As the day on each loop progresses (turns), the islands and the tree become more unstable, resulting in deadlier curses and negative events.
The game takes it further by allowing you to set challenges for each loop by taking on one or multiple Trials of the Gods. It’s a fun setting that actively encourages you to experiment and try different strategies and playstyles. These little details and tweaks make Roots of Yggdrasil unique and keep it from getting repetitive.
Ginnungagap Isn’t A Threat With Sunna At The Helm
At the end of many loops, this game shines through with almost no hiccups. I hunted for issues to write a fair review, but most were nitpicky. For instance, since so much of this game is procedurally generated and thus, by definition, luck, I had some unfortunate runs where I didn’t get the cards I needed for multiple turns. Then again, I have some legendary bad luck.
Another minor complaint is that you really need to engage with the Trials of the Gods. Without it, it is almost too easy and repetitive, especially as you upgrade The Holt and gain better starting stats. On the flip side, if you trigger the trials without grasping the mechanics, you can make the game too difficult. It is all about persistence and finding the correct balance.
My two main issues with the game are minor. One, it takes time to understand how some of the cards/artifacts and instructions affect your game. The problem is how they are written. What they mean isn’t always clear until you see them in action multiple times, making them hard to strategize with. The timing challenge of the Trials led to me panicking through most of the loop since I couldn’t figure out the timer.
Second, the game has some problems with the controls, especially when you pick up a card to lay it into the world. The game uses the left mouse click to drag the camera and lay down elements. As a result, I have laid down too many buildings in the wrong spot when I just wanted to adjust the camera. If you are near the bottom of the screen when you are doing this or cancelling an action, the other cards will engage instead. It’s not a bad thing except when a timer is running down.
Blessed By The Gods
I feel like I need to start by stating that this genre isn’t one I normally gravitate to. Not that this game fits neatly into one genre. I am more likely to pick up something with heavier narrative engagement, RPG elements, or even active action. Between the strategy elements, the beautiful art, and the fun narrative and characters, Roots of Yggdrasil was a near-perfect experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. It felt like playing a board game with my friends, which is a great feeling to have in a solo game.
|Beautiful art and score
|A slow burn game that takes time to master
|Compelling narrative and characters from mythology that encourage replay
|Some minor sensitivity with Inputs and UI
|A strategy-heavy game that gives you just the right amount of stress and difficulty
|The game adjusts a lot of different elements in each loop, providing a different experience every time
|Ability to adjust the difficulty and challenge in each loop
GamesHorizon recieved a Review Copy for Steam