Out of all the games I played at publisher Team17’s media event, Gord was the most interesting and unusual. Developed by Covenant (short for Covenant.dev), whose team includes former members of The Witcher 3 and Frostpunk, it’s a single-player adventure strategy game, a city-buillder where players need to manage and guide a small group of medieval villagers as they construct a gord in the middle of a foreboding forest. More than that, it’s a dark fantasy with an unforgiving sanity system and numerous Horrors that are heavily inspired by Slavic folklore.
You’re never out of the woods
The peasants in Gord are not heroes. They are merely humans from the Tribe of the Dawn who have been essentially forced to carve a path through the Lysatian forest, because the kingdom of Calanthia wishes to expand its crusade northward. The tribe’s unenviable task is, effectively, to create a series of self-sustaining forward camps through the uncharted woodlands, all to the satisfaction of the king's rather pompous emissary named Edwyn, who treats the villagers like disposable, lowborn heathens. Perhaps somewhere down the line, Edwyn will get his comeuppance, but in the meantime the task is to ensure the survival of each gord in the campaign, even if that means making cold, harsh decisions.
At the start of the game’s demo, I led a group of five in an attempt to find an advantageous place to settle the gord. After fighting off some wolves and foraging several herbs for health, I found a suitable clearing for a circular village and quickly constructed a simple palisade for protection. From there, I built various structures like a lumber mill and a forager’s hut, which automatically went into operation once I assigned a villager to the task. Gathering resources, including wood, reed, food, clay, and iron, was fairly easy since there were trees within the gord and a nearby stream just past the entrance, but eventually the villagers needed to explore the forest for more resources and that’s when the trouble started.
Are you out of your Gord?
The developer who guided me through the demo advised me that I should have villagers explore the woods in pairs and with a torch in hand. This is to minimize the amount of sanity damage they’ll take just for daring to walk outside the safety of the gord. Like in Darkest Dungeon, sanity is vital in maintaining the health of the villagers. As the gord expands, the tribe will face off against hostile wildlife and raiders, where it’s best to have at least a few villagers become archers and guards clad in armor. Even if they survive, though, they will sustain psychological trauma, so it may be worth sending them to a tavern to drown their sorrows. Or perhaps, it’s better to invite a witch into the gord who can build a church to a seemingly evil god and have the villagers pray to it, like something out of Cult of the Lamb.
That last example is merely one of many difficult decisions that players will need to make as the tribe explores the wilderness. It’s possible to reject the witch in this instance, but not having a temple means that no Faith can be generated. Faith is a resource that can be spent by the player to cast powerful Incantations, which can potentially save the gord later in the session. Other times, the villagers might encounter a powerful Horror that will demand them to complete a quest or face its wrath. This can mean sacrificing resources or even an innocent child, as harrowing as that sounds. That said, these Horrors are nearly impossible to kill, so there may be no choice in the matter. The only upside is that satisfying a Horror's desires will usually provide a boon to the gord, but the hit to the tribe’s overall sanity may be too much to take. It will be up to the player how many dark deeds the gord can suffer in the name of survival.
On July 12, the developer announced a short delay for Gord's release, which is now set to arrive on August 17, 2023 for PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5. Pre-ordering the game will give players a free upgrade to the Deluxe Edition, which includes a digital artbook, a digital soundtrack, and an additional custom scenario called “Hold Your Ground.”
This preview is based on a PC build of the game provided by the publisher at a private media event.