Aska preview: almost like The Sims, but with Vikings and less silliness

The Viking-themed survival game enters early access soon and we went hands-on with a closed beta
Aska / Sand Sailor Studio

The survival crafting games are out in force in 2024, with the likes of Palworld, EnshroudedNightingale, along with plenty of others already gracing our systems – and Sand Sailor Studio is adding its own spin on the genre with Aska. The Viking-themed, mythology-infused survival game enters early access soon, and GLHF had a chance to go hands-on with a closed beta.

Aska starts with a Tower of Babel-style scenario. You and your happy little Viking friends used to rely on the gods for everything, but once you learned to clothe yourself and act like human beings, you thought you didn’t need them anymore. So they wiped out everything – well, almost everything.

You and a small handful of lucky people are cast adrift to start over in a new land and prove to the gods that you deserve to live. It doesn’t sound like there’s actually a fail state where the gods sweep in and judge your efforts, but the narrative adds a nice bit of context for everything you’re doing. Always nice to have a sense of purpose.

On a day-to-day basis, that purpose translates to the usual survival stuff. You’ll gather resources to build rudimentary shelter and tools, manage your hunger and hydration, and fend off a handful of weird little guys who pop up sometimes and try to kill you. 

Aska gameplay screnshot
Aska / Sand Sailor Studio

These basics are where Aska’s early access roots show. The game is brutal with how it doles out materials. I spent upwards of a full minute just holding the harvest button to break some rocks with my pickaxe. I got half a dozen stones, but by that point, my patience and my pickaxe broke. Half those stones went toward making a new axe.

Combat is also very basic, though I’m less surprised at that. Of the survival crafting games I’ve played in the past few months, only Enshrouded had battles that felt crunchy and went beyond the usual one-button affair. Sand Sailor promises that combat will involve more skill later, but I didn’t see much of that in the closed beta version I played.

Aska video game screenshot
Aska / Sand Sailor Studio

One concern I do have, whether it’s skill-based or not, is the role combat eventually plays. The team says we can expect enemy raids once we get villages up and running. Foes don’t scale with your tool or experience level, though. They just attack in larger waves as time goes on. Hopefully, enemies and how you can deal with them take on more interesting dimensions during early access, so this component doesn’t become a slog that gets in the way of more interesting things.

Speaking of interesting things, Sand Sailor tells me they researched experimental archaeology – the kind where people recreate practices from the past using period methods and tools – to make Aska’s world feel as realistic as possible. The homes and markets you build, the items you use, and even how you use them are, I’m told, all rooted firmly in historical fact. 

Aska video game screenshot
Aska / Sand Sailor Studio

That aside, Aska’s big draw, the thing that sets it apart from the almost overwhelming number of similar games, is that it’s almost like The Sims, but with Vikings and less silliness. Each villager who moves in has a distinct personality and plays an important social and business role. They have names, attitudes, preferences, and things they want from you to help them live their best life – and, in return, help your settlement thrive.

If you drive them away or let them die, you’re losing part of your settlement that you won’t get back. Considering your settlement eventually grows from a dank and dirty collection of huts into a full-blown small town with advanced defenses and complex development systems, you won’t want to lose that generational knowledge along the way.

I’m not entirely sold on most of Aska at this point. The history nerd in me loves the experimental archaeology touch, though, and those deep interpersonal interactions have me keen to see how the game evolves during early access. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

Published |Modified
Josh Broadwell


Joshua Broadwell is a freelance writer with bylines for GameSpot, NPR, Polygon, and more.