Warriors of the North Unit Analysis Part 8: Neutral Animals



Warriors of the North makes more of an effort to make animals interesting and useful. They're... still generally a bit underwhelming, but I appreciate the attempt.

Instead of adding a little bit of clutter, here's the new 'Beast' Ability:

Beast
+10% Ice resistance-10% Fire resistance.

Yeah, it's basically just explicitly formalizing the old Fire weakness and the new Ice resistance. I suspect it's also meant to help players understand which units can eg be targeted by Training, too, but I don't think it's actually mechanically relevant, really.

Bear
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 160
Leadership: 70
Attack/Defense: 14 / 16
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 2
Health: 60
Damage: 7-10 Physical
Resistances: -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Beast, Brutal (Doubles Attack for the next attack or until 2 turns have passed pretty much anytime damage is suffered), Hibernation (If the Bear fails to take any action on its turn, such as by Waiting without moving, it falls asleep. On its next turn, the 'top' member of the stack heals to full, and the turn after that they get an actual turn), Stun (25% chance for melee attacks to Stun targets)

Stun is the main thing here, as far as actually new stuff for Bears.

Unfortunately, Stun isn't quite as impressive as it would've been in prior games. In prior games, an attack that inflicted Stun would fail to be retaliated against; in Warriors of the North, such an attack will still be retaliated against. That leaves the stat penalties and the blocking off of Talents as still relevant, and the very fact that a melee meatshield is inflicting the Stun limits the utility of those effects, especially since you're dependent on the RNG cooperating, Stunning at will can be used to ensure a key unit can't use a key Talent at a key time. Stunning at random... will very occasionally do something useful.

I personally don't really get why Stun isn't just a 100% chance to trigger. Being able to get a Bear, Ancient Bear, or Polar Bear into melee with something and shut off its Talents until such time as the bear is taken out of the fight would actually be a really cool niche, and it wouldn't be overpowered by any stretch of the imagination. Same for being able to trap 2-Speed ranged units; a really cool niche, but not any kind of gamebreaker. Especially since Level 5 units can't be Stunned regardless.

I appreciate the attempt to give the bear series more justification for their existence, but it's a bit limp-wristed in practice.

Ancient Bear
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 240
Leadership: 80
Attack/Defense: 18 / 20
Initiative/Speed: 3 / 2
Health: 70
Damage: 9-12 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points)
Abilities: Beast, Brutal (Doubles Attack for the next attack or until 2 turns have passed pretty much anytime damage is suffered), Hibernation (If the Ancient Bear fails to take any action on its turn, such as by Waiting without moving, it falls asleep. On its next turn, the 'top' member of the stack heals to full, and the turn after that they get an actual turn), Stun (25% chance for melee attacks to Stun target)

They've gained Beast and Stun, just like Bears.

Nothing really new to say.

Polar Bear
Level: 4
Hiring Cost: 540
Leadership: 180
Attack/Defense: 22 / 26
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Health: 130
Damage: 12-22 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, -10% Fire, 20% Ice
Talents: Running (Charge: 1. +2 Action Points), Icy Grip (Reload: 3. 14-24 Ice damage melee attack. If the target is below Level 5, it's additionally slowed for 2 turns), Spirit of the North (Charge: 1. All Vikings and Beasts below Level 5 gain 20% Ice resistance and they do 20% more damage in the form of Ice damage, but suffer -1 Initiative. This effect lasts for 4 turns. Can't benefit Undead or Demons, though I'm not sure why the game notes this given none of them is a Viking or Beast)
Abilities: Beast, Brutal (Doubles Attack for the next attack or until 2 turns have passed pretty much anytime damage is suffered), Hibernation (If the Polar Bear fails to take any action on its turn, such as by Waiting without moving, it falls asleep. On its next turn, the 'top' member of the stack heals to full, and the turn after that they get an actual turn), Hardened (20% Ice resistance), Freeze Immunity (Immunity to Freeze status), Stun (25% chance for melee attacks to Stun targets)

Where Bears and Ancient Bears were basically the same, Polar Bears have been noticeably changed. Their Leadership is higher and they've gained two nifty new Talents and... er... well, otherwise they've just gained Stun and Beast like Bears and Ancient Bears, and had their old cold resistance thing reworked for Warriors of the North. Still, Spirit of the North and Icy Grip radically change how they work, and it's worth noting that they're actually a bit less resistant to Ice than they were to icy effects in previous games. (Offset by Ice being a real damage type, and much more common than when it was a pseudo-type)

Notably, AI Polar Bears will pretty much always open their first turn by Running, moving three tiles forward, and then using Spirit of the North. This is a bit surprising given how many other units have Talents they insist on either using or moving in a given turn.

I do wish Bears and Ancient Bears had something over Polar Bears, but this is the first game where Polar Bears are interesting in their superiority, instead of much the same but more so aside a niche advantage. In particular, in prior games if you weren't interested in using Bears or Ancient Bears you were unlikely to care about Polar Bears, since for the most part they were just Even Bigger Bears.

It's also nice that there's an attempt to make animals a bit more interesting/usable as a pseudo-faction within Neutral, given how they've always been some of the more underwhelming members of Neutral, with little reason to take them over... much of anything else. Though that touches on the fact that I really feel like Neutral should've been broken up into 2-3 sub-factions of its own -maybe something like 'wild animals', 'magical creatures', and 'unaffiliated citizens'? Not sure, but Neutral is too vague and unwieldy for the mechanics, and it's only gotten worse as each game added more Neutral units. Who knows, maybe the series will get a reboot and the new version will rework Neutral?

With the exception that I kind of wish Polar Bears had been at least 50% Ice resistance -in general, I think there should've been more units with moderate-to-serious Ice resistance- I do think this is a really good rework of Polar Bears, though. I'd have liked it to go even further, but unlike with Bears and Ancient Bears it's 'this is good, but it could've been great', not 'you made terrible better, but it's still terrible'.

Cave Spider
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 24
Leadership: 14
Attack/Defense: 4 / 4
Initiative/Speed: 2 / 3
Health: 14
Damage: 2-4 Physical
Resistances: 20% Physical, -10% Fire
Talents: Web (Charge: 1. Ensnares an adjacent target below Level 5 with a web for 2 turns, preventing the unit from leaving its current tile or using Talents that involve moving)
Abilities: Underdweller (+50% Attack in underground battles), Stone Skin (20% Physical resistance)

No change, aside terminology adjustments.

Ice being a new, reasonably widespread damage type is yet another issue for Cave Spiders, providing yet more options for working around their modest Physical resistance. Web is still not very good on them. Really, the main point in their favor is that a Viking player might end up wanting to use them -one Item causes all spiders to auto-crit, and the Viking has a Skill that ultimately raises crit damage from 150% to 200%. So if your Viking run lucks into that Item, a spider-centric army could be pretty fun. Or even if you're not a Viking, auto-crit isn't bad, especially if you get the Spider Belt to boost Initiative and Attack.

Venomous Spider
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 20
Leadership: 12
Attack/Defense: 5 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 12
Damage: 2-3 Poison
Resistances: 80% Poison, -10% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Poisonous (30% chance for melee attacks to Poison for 3 turns), Immune to Poison (80% Poison resistance, cannot be Poisoned), Vulnerable to Fire (-10% to Fire resistance)

They now have an Ability to call your attention to their preexistent Fire weakness.

Not much has changed for them overall. There's the spider Item I just covered with Cave Spiders, and that's about it.

Fire Spider
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 12 / 12
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 30
Damage: 4-5 Fire
Resistances: 50% Poison, 25% Fire, -20% Ice
Talents: Web (Charge: 2. Ensnares an adjacent target below Level 5 with a web for 2 turns, preventing the unit from leaving its current tile or using Talents that involve moving)
Abilities: Poison Protection (50% Poison resistance), Fire Protection (25% Fire resistance), Vulnerable to Cold (-20% Ice resistance), Persistence of Mind (Immunity to mental effects), Flaming (Melee attackers are always Burned, if possible)

They're weak to Ice now. No other changes.

I'm actually okay with Fire Spiders being effectively directly nerfed by Warriors of the North. They could be really frustrating to fight in Armored Princess, between their high Initiative, good Speed, immunity to mental effects closing off a lot of tools for stalling them, and the Burn retaliation, especially in conjunction with Web potentially trapping a unit into having to melee them if it wanted to do something of use in a turn. Being able to pick on a weakness to nuke them down faster makes them a lot less frustrating to fight, and yet isn't too huge an impact on their utility in player hands. Just be careful when fighting Ice-using enemies, or swap them out for something not vulnerable to Ice. Not a big deal.

As such, this is my favorite iteration on Fire Spiders in the series.

Snake
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 70
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 14 / 8
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 2
Health: 30
Damage: 3-6 Physical
Resistances: 50% Poison, -20% Ice
Talents: Strike (Reload: 1. Attacks a single target across an empty tile, doing 4-7 Physical damage and Stunning the target)
Abilities: Reptile (+20% Poison resistance, -20% Ice resistance, -30% to Attack and Defense in snowy battlefields), Poison Protection (20% Poison resistance), Snake Agility (Flat 10% chance to dodge enemy attacks)

Reptile and Snake Agility. Since they already had Poison Protection, Reptile just flatly makes them worse.

Snake Agility, on the other hand, is... frustrating. It crops up so rarely you can almost pretend it isn't a trait on them at all, but every once in a while you'll get a critically-timed Miss. The flipside is that it's not helpful in player hands -it's far too rare to build a battle strategy around it happening, even aside how good play tends to minimize opportunities for enemies to get in strikes on your units in the first place. It's one of the more poorly-considered Abilities in the entire series, and it's unfortunate that the early game has multiple encounters with snakes of every type; my initial impression of Warriors of the North was actually quite poor, in no small part due to getting frustrated by Snake Agility dodges. In conjunction with a lot of other random elements that are especially prominent in the early game, Warriors of the North came across like a game designed to undermine player skill's relevancy. This isn't really true, not even in the early game, but the game's opening doesn't do a good job of communicating that Warriors of the North is much more about randomness being so layered and numerous that you have to adapt on the fly to constantly-changing conditions; it tends to take until the early midgame for the game to really come into its own in this regard.

But even aside how Snake Agility contributes to a misleading impression of the game, a flat 10% chance to dodge is dumb in a game where stacks can easily die in under 5 attacks.

Snakes are one of a surprising number of units that gain Speed at Level 7. The relative commonality of this particular tier of Speed gain is a big part of what makes the late game much higher in Speed on average, allowing you to see such increased Speed on numerous units relatively early. The potential for a Speed boost also makes them a lot more tempting to try to train from an early point; the main reason Royal Snakes tend to push them aside is the Speed advantage, much more than the innate No Retaliation. 3 Speed is a huge advantage over 2 Speed. While Royal Snakes can also get a Speed boost, 4 Speed is just not nearly as much of an advantage over 3 Speed as 3 is over 2.

Swamp Snake
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 28
Attack/Defense: 12 / 8
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 2
Health: 28
Damage: 3-5 Poison
Resistances: 80% Poison, -20% Ice
Talents: Strike (Reload: 1. Attacks a single target across an empty tile for 4-6 Poison damage, and Poisons the target)
Abilities: Reptile (+20% Poison resistance, -20% Ice resistance, -30% to Attack and Defense in snowy battlefields), Poisonous (30% chance for melee attacks to Poison for 3 turns), Immune to Poison (+80% Poison resistance and immunity to Poisoning), Snake Agility (Flat 10% chance to evade enemy attacks)

They've picked up Reptile and Snake Agility. As with Snakes, Reptile is a pure negative for them, and Snake Agility is not only a really bad idea of an Ability but since Royal Snakes have it there's still little cause to use Swamp Snakes over Royal Snakes.

Like Snakes, Swamp Snakes gain Speed at Level 7 and so can foul up your rhythm if you've gotten used to their Speed of 2.

Royal Snake
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 220
Leadership: 60
Attack/Defense: 18 / 18
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 64
Damage: 6-10 Physical
Resistances: 10% Physical, 80% Poison
Talents: Strike (Reload: 1. Attacks a single target across an empty tile for 8-11 Physical damage, and Poisons the target)
Abilities: Reptile (+20% Poison resistance, -20% Ice resistance, -30% to Attack and Defense in snowy battlefields), No retaliation, Poisonous (30% chance for melee attacks to Poison for 3 turns), Immune to Poison (+80% Poison resistance and immunity to Poisoning), Snake Agility (Flat 10% chance to dodge enemy attacks)

Just Reptile and Snake Agility gained. Inexplicably, Royal Snakes don't have the Ice vulnerability Reptile should give them, which fits with my suspicion that Abilities don't actually do anything to resistances in terms of how the game is actually coded. I have to wonder if it's an error or a deliberate choice to keep Royal Snakes awesome/way better than the other snakes. Regardless, Royal Snakes are even less affected by Warriors of the North than their fellow snakes.

Royal Snakes are, like their fellow snakes, another unit that gains Speed at Level 7.

Wolf
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 60
Leadership: 30
Attack/Defense: 10 / 6
Initiative/Speed: 5 / 3
Health: 24
Damage: 3-6 Physical
Resistances: -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Howl (Charge: 1. All enemy Humans, Vikings, Elves, and Dwarves of Level 1-2 are hit with Fear, and additionally have a 50% chance of skipping their turn entirely)
Abilities: Beast, Night Vision (+50% Attack at night and/or underground), Rabid (20% chance to inflict Rabid for 4 turns on melee attacks. Rabid units are hostile to all units, but the effect ends after the first time they attack something), Horde (+1 to Attack and Defense for every 30 members of the stack, to a maximum of double base. In this case, that's +10 Attack and +6 Defense at most)

No direct stat changes, but they've picked up the 'Beast' explicit Ability and more significantly Horde. Horde doesn't shoot them up a million tiers or anything, but it does mean they take a bit longer to really lose relevancy as anything other than a mass Fear-inducer. (Which Werewolf Elves have always been better choices for)

Unlike the original Horde bonus units, Wolves actually fairly rapidly hit the cap on its benefits. At around 10,000 Leadership they're already maxed on both stats. As such, Horde doesn't help them keep up into the late game, which is unfortunate since in the early game Viking units will tend to work much better. Their low Leadership is part of this, and so they do actually scale quickly in the early game, but it's just not enough to make up for being a basic melee unit and also not a Viking. Later on, you've got the problem that Werewolves end up only 4 Attack and 2 Defense behind, while having better Abilities, the ability to transform back into a Werewolf Elf, and better support just by being an Elf.

This is probably the Wolf's peak, and it's still not very good. Even with stuff like Polar Bears providing support.

Wolves are another one of those units that gains Speed at Level 7.

Hyena
Level: 2
Hiring Cost: 40
Leadership: 20
Attack/Defense: 12 / 14
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 18
Damage: 3-4 Physical
Resistances: -10% Fire, 10% Ice
Talents: Preparation (Reload: 1. The Hyena's next attack automatically crits. Does not end the turn)
Abilities: Beast, Night Vision (+50% Attack at night and/or underground), Scavenger (Can move up to 2 tiles beyond current movement range, if there's a corpse to move to), Horde (+1 to Attack and Defense for every 30 members of the stack, to a limit of double base stats. In this case, that's a max of +12 Attack and +14 Defense)

Like Wolves, Hyenas have picked up Beast and Horde. Like Wolves, it means they stay relevant for longer. Also like Wolves, 10,000 Leadership is already enough to have capped the benefits of Horde, so they don't scale for as long as you might hope.

Unlike with Wolves, Hyenas are genuinely at their best in this game. The Viking in particular can really leverage Preparation's forced crit, finally giving Hyenas something to stand out from other units, and unlike Wolves there's no direct competition to make Horde's stat bonuses less relevant than they might seem. They're still not great, but this is still a pretty big improvement from in The Legend, where they were extremely difficult to justify over much of anything.

Devilfish
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 20
Leadership: 12
Attack/Defense: 6 / 4
Initiative/Speed: 7 / 3
Health: 10
Damage: 1-3 Physical
Resistances: -20% Fire
Talents: None
Abilities: Marine (+2 Morale in naval combat), Vulnerable to Fire (-20% Fire resistance), Night Vision (+50% Attack at night and/or underground), Frightening (Chance for melee attacks to inflict Fear on the target. Victims will fail to retaliate on an attack that inflicts Fear), Frightful Fish (Enemies struck in melee have +40% crit chance for 4 turns), Horde (+1 Attack and Defense for every 30 members of the stack, to a max of double base. In this case, that's a max of +6 Attack and +4 Defense)

They're now weak to Fire, but they've picked up Horde, functionally raising their base stats. I frame it that way because they'll hit the cap on the Horde bonus at 2160 Leadership, which you'll hit fairly early into the game, and stop scaling from there.

It's too bad 6 Attack and 4 Defense is only a minor boost, easily drowned out by damage variance.

I'm really puzzled as to why Warriors of the North swapped their resistance into a weakness. I'd have gotten it if they were given a strong Ice resistance -there's a bit of anglerfish to their design so it would actually make sense for them to shrug off cold, and I could sort of get that leading to a decision to say fire is bad for them. As-is, it's just a confusing reversal.

Lake Dragonfly
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 12
Leadership: 9
Attack/Defense: 3 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 4
Health: 7
Damage: 1-3 Poison
Resistances: 30% Magic
Talents: None
Abilities: Soaring, Weakness (Melee attacks have a 30% chance to inflict Weakness on the target for 1 turn), Magic Resistance (30% Magic resistance), Paralyzes (Melee attacks have a chance of taking away the target's entire supply of Action Points. This chance is 50/40/30/20/10% against Level 1/2/3/4/5 creatures)

No change.

Functionally, this is probably their least appealing game in the series, just because Undead are all over the place to be heavily Poison resistant. The Ice and Fire content doesn't really change this, either -the Marshan Swamp is dominated by Undead and Undead Lizardmen, the underground portion of the Ice Gardens is dominated by Lizardmen. Poison resistance everywhere... and Ice Creations are a new addition that's fairly heavily Poison resistant... and the only Poison-vulnerable unit in the series -the Chaos Dragon- has been relegated to Wanderer Scrolls instead of being kept as a regular Spell enemy Heroes could potential use.

Fire Dragonfly
Level: 1
Hiring Cost: 14
Leadership: 10
Attack/Defense: 4 / 1
Initiative/Speed: 6 / 3
Health: 8
Damage: 2-3 Fire
Resistances: 30% Fire, -30% Ice
Talents: Haste (Reload: 1. Doubles Action Points, using supply at activation. Does not end the turn)
Abilities: Soaring, Fire Protection (+30% Fire protection), Vulnerable to Cold (-30% Ice resistance)

+1 Initiative, but now they're weak to Ice.

The boost to their Initiative is a pretty big deal, actually, though when it comes to fighting them it tends to be drowned out by how easily they can be taken apart by Ice damage Rage skills and Spells. But using them? This is probably their best in the series, Ice weakness or no. 6 Initiative lets them get the jump on a lot of things naturally, and makes it so you need only limited support to get them getting ahead of everything. The Skald in particular might really enjoy using them once he's got Warriors of Valhalla maxed -it's not 100% resurrection like Armored Princess' equivalent Skill on the Paladin, but 90% resurrection is still enough to make even grotesque casualties tolerable. Especially when the Skald has way more money than the other classes anyway.


Ice Spider
Level: 3
Hiring Cost: 340
Leadership: 120
Attack/Defense: 18 / 22
Initiative/Speed: 4 / 3
Health: 60
Damage: 5 Ice/Physical
Resistances: 25% Physical, 50% Poison, 80% Magic, -100% Fire, 80% Ice
Talents: Web (Charge: 1. An adjacent enemy below Level 5 is rendered unable to move for 2 turns)
Abilities: Underdweller (+50% Attack in underground battles), Ice Creation (Immunity to mental effects, 25% Physical resistance, 50% Poison resistance, -100% Fire weakness, 80% Ice resistance, cannot be Frozen, +50% Defense in snowy battlefields, -50% Defense in volcanic battlefields, immunity to some Spells), Spits Ice (Range: 5. 30% chance to Freeze enemies for 2 turns)

The only new unit in Warriors of the North I class as an 'animal' rather than a sapient. There's no such additional unit in Ice and Fire, either.

Ice Spiders are another of those rare units that doesn't leave behind a corpse when destroyed.

For a ranged unit, Ice Spiders are a bit short-ranged, but make up for it with high mobility and some nice utility. Web is a lot more directly useful on Ice Spiders than on any of the previous spiders, so long as you make sure to use Wait or something to allow the Ice Spider stack to Web an already-done unit and then back off next turn to start flinging ranged attacks.

They're also surprisingly durable. While their Leadership-to-Health ratio is unusually awful (50%), this is substantially offset by their incredible suite of resistances. Everything except Astral and Fire damage does noticeably below normal damage, Ice and Magic in particular being laughed off, but even Physical damage doesn't go so far on them. Astral is even rarer as a damage type than in Orcs on the March, and while Fire is something to keep in mind -Ice Spiders are another unit you might want to have a swap ready for- overall Ice Spiders are surprisingly reliable. They are, in fact, the first really good spider-type enemy in the series. Them being added also means that if you luck into spider-supporting gear, you can finally go all-in on a spider army. As with prior spiders, a Viking who happens on the spider-bolstering Items is especially good at leveraging Ice Spiders thanks to the crit thing.

The main flaw Ice Spiders have as a unit is actually their somewhat low Initiative. 4 isn't bad, but it's low enough that unsupported Ice Spiders can find themselves taking unnecessary casualties, getting a Freeze after their target has moved, and so on. A midgame Skald can patch that over pretty easily, though, and anybody can potentially find the belt that's +1 Initiative to spiders to help on that account.

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Next time, we cover what Warriors of the North has done with Neutral Sapients.

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