If there is a consistent template that characterizes the vast majority of Survival Games, Medieval Dynasty certainly breaks away from it. This conclusion is supported by two factors in particular. On the one hand, our character in the game is not exiled to some inhospitable, mysterious, desolate or post-apocalyptic land, as is the case in, say, Rust, Conan Exiles or Valheim. Instead, he finds himself voluntarily in a mostly civilized and nondescript mountain valley in a medieval world, in search of a relative (more on the "plot" of the game, below). On the other hand, breaking away from the popular "Multiplayer Survival" recipe that calls for players to compete against other each other to secure resources or team up with others to face the PvE dangers of the world, Medieval Dynasty is played exclusively as a single-player game, with a predefined protagonist and no character creation, in a prefabricated persistent world populated by NPCs, and where the main danger to survival is cold, heat, hunger or... bears and wolves in the woods.
But does this particular Survival gameplay manage to work with the single-player RPG elements? The answer is... yes, but not completely. Creatively vague conclusions already in the prologue, how mysterious! Keep reading this fascinating review , dear visitor!
The game's introductory video presents the player with the story of the protagonist, 18-year-old Racimir. Long story short, young Racimir leaves his parents' farm to escape a devastating war, and seeks refuge in a peaceful valley where his uncle, Iordan, serves as the king's appointed Castellan. The game begins right at this point, with Racimir's arrival in the valley, where he immediately learns that his uncle has mysteriously died some time ago. The new Castellan , however, gives him the right to build his own settlement anywhere in the valley... and that's how it all begins.
During the game we can follow a basic Main Quest by talking to various NPCs/former companions of Iordan and doing Quests on their behalf (simple fetch or gathering quests, most of them) in order to learn more about his past, his qualities as a human and the circumstances of his death. The last quest of the story, in fact, features multiple options, which of course don't really affect the game beyond the ending cutscene we get and whether 2-3 NPCs will still exist in the game world. Obviously though, it becomes clear that the Main Quest exists purely as a "garnish" and as an excuse for the player to explore the game world, with the main course being none other than the building and management aspects.
The construction aspect of Medieval Dynasty is different from that found in most other survival games. Unlike the familiar "component-based" logic of constructing each building freely until it takes the shape the player desires, the buildings here are strictly predefined and grouped into specific templates, as if we were constructing a base in a Real-Time Strategy game. So if we choose to build, say, a "Hunting Lodge" from the corresponding menu, its wooden frame will always have the same predefined shape (and, once construction is complete, the same predefined furniture and workbenches inside). Even so, however, despite their predetermined nature, buildings must be constructed "by hand", piece by piece, using the appropriate tool and spending the necessary resources from Racimir's inventory.
The available buildings are also grouped into 4 technology categories, in which the player can earn XP through specific actions (e.g. in the Production category, XP is earned through the creation of items in buildings such as Kitchens and Workshops). Raising the "level" of each category unlocks the construction of extra buildings and products that can be created in them.
Medieval Dynasty also differs from other Survival Games in that we have to recruit and take care of NPCs who will live and work in the buildings we construct. These NPCs are scattered throughout the world's villages and, like the player, have their individual Skills and preferences in favor of one form of work over another. Thus, one will state that he prefers productive jobs, another prefers working on farms, another prefers chopping wood, etc. Placing an NPC in the post where they have a specialty will optimize their production in that particular job, but also increase their Mood , which can be positive or negative, and if it plummets too much then the NPC in question will bid us a fond farewell and simply leave.
The NPCs' Mood is intertwined with fulfilling some classic Survival game needs. If we want to survive long in Medieval Dynasty we must, in addition to fulfilling the needs of Racimir himself (health, food, water, and temperature indicators), make sure to provide the necessary comforts for the NPCs we invite to stay in our village. The main 4 of these needs are shelter, food, water and firewood, so we must constantly monitor the supplies in the journal tabs and make sure to gather the appropriate resources ourselves whenever the need arises, so that we don't run out.
This is mostly true in the early to middle stages of the game. As we progress by developing the village, unlocking new productive buildings and staffing them with workers to whom we give the production orders we want, an automation slowly occurs: the carpenter collects wood, the worker in the workshop uses it to make buckets and waterskins and the person in charge of the well will fill them with water, the hunter will collect meat and the cook will grill it, the blacksmith will make tools for all of the above using the metals brought to him by the workers in the mines, and all of these products are automatically placed in the community's warehouses. As "nerve-wracking" as it may be at first that we are essentially called upon in the game to do jobs more for the survival of our villagers than our own, it is even more satisfying to see our humble settlement slowly transform into an organized and self-sufficient community that can survive practically "on automatic pilot".
The above briefly describes the game's basic gameplay loop. There are several other minor parameters that affect things, such as the fact that time in the game is divided into four seasons (we can extensively customize the game's startup so that, among other things, each season lasts from 3 to 30 in-game days), each with its own unique weather conditions, which also affect what varieties of produce we can grow at any given time on our farms. It is also worth mentioning that every Spring we have to pay as taxes to the king an amount of coins that increases depending on the size of our village (and also whether the king in question is "good" or "bad"), so in addition to fulfilling the basic needs of the community, we have to take care of gathering a certain wealth every year, mainly through buying and selling goods (and here, too, an automation can be introduced in the late stages of the game, by unlocking a Market building). Either way, the basic pattern at the core of the game remains: resource farming, character development, recruiting villagers, village construction and development, unlocking new technologies, ???, profit.
The main flaws that can be identified in the whole construct are two. The first is that in the early to mid stages of the game (i.e. before the desired automation is achieved), HEAVYand continuous grinding for resources is required in order to ensure the growth of the village and the survival of the community. There were times when I wanted to just leave my village and explore the world, but I got so caught up in the daily routine that eventually it just got... too late into the night to leave. "Hm, the woodshed has no axes and the smith has no copper to make more, let me craft two or three of those myself... But by the time I gather the materials for them, the Hunters' knives are also broken, so let me make a couple of those as well... Now I see we have no firewood, let me cut down 5-6 trees to stock the warehouse... DAMMIT, IT'S ALREADY NIGHT-TIME". Despite its RPG elements, Medieval Dynasty is still a Survival game, and this element will constantly override all of its other special features.
The other, and perhaps main flaw, is that the game's world is pretty generic and empty, and this hits particularly hard in a purely single-player title that doesn't offer the team activities that one might engage in when playing a multiplayer game. We have villages with NPCs, different flora and fauna in the various environments on the map, and occasionally a bandit camp may spawn which we can clear and loot. Other than that, and leaving aside the resource grinding and village development, there aren't many other activities the player can engage in. 99% of the quests that can be offered by the NPCs in the world are typical and constantly repeated "Bethesda-like" fetch quests ("fetch me a wooden bucket", "fetch me 3 logs", "kill 4 wolves"). The Main Quest, while having an interesting central premise, is rudimentary in its implementation and ends relatively quickly. Finally, the fact that we're talking about a generic and not particularly original medieval world means that there is no special feature that could intrigue the players and make them more invested in exploration or any Lore. At the end of the day, the only thing left to fill the time is the constant grinding and micromanagement of our village.
There are, of course, redeeming factors. We're talking about a small indie production that lacks the polish that we would see in similar high-budget games. Also, even though the game only came out of Early Access status on Steam a few weeks ago, it's still largely a work-in-progress, with its creators proving to be extremely active in the game's community hub on Steam and particularly eager to enrich it with extra content, as evidenced by the road map listed just above.
And ultimately, this is a game that wants to stand out from the rest of the Survival titles currently available. And that pursuit is largely successful: indeed, the enjoyment one derives from Medieval Dynasty ends up being more akin to the equivalent satisfaction of building a beautiful and symmetrical city in Cities: Skylines than it is to clearing a dungeon with your friends in Conan Exiles or taking down the third boss in Valheim. But this feeling remains that there's just something missing from its world. Hopefully with the support of the developers it will be further developed to fully realise its potential.