Picture this: it’s one o’clock in the morning and despite lying in bed with your eyes closed for hours, you still haven’t managed to fall asleep. If you’re like me, you’ll admit defeat, roll over and type ‘primitive’ into YouTube. Thousands of hours of random people creating all sorts of wondrous things out of almost nothing but sticks and mud await you there, tapping into some long-lost satisfaction centre of our brains from our early days as a species. There really is just something so cathartic about creating something from scratch and it’s exactly that feeling that developer Render Cube seeks to leverage in their survival/crafting and town management adventure, Medieval Dynasty. After just over a year in early access, the full release is finally out in the world, but just how solid is the foundation that this kingdom is built upon?
To set the scene, Medieval Dynasty’s story opens on a nameless war destroying a quaint little village in a fictional version of medieval Europe. You play as Racimir, the last surviving member of a slaughtered family as he flees to a neighbouring valley. Racimir’s adventure starts after he wakes up in a lush forest and the first order of business is to try and find his uncle in the nearby town of Gostovia. Unfortunately, Racimir’s uncle has been dead for some time, but as a favour to the old castellan of the land, and given that Racimir has nowhere else to go, the current custodian of the King’s realm grants him free reign to put down roots wherever he sees fit. From then on, it is entirely up to you how you would like to spend time in the picturesque valley. Will you go around helping the common folk with their errands? Will you try to uncover the mysteries surrounding your Robin Hood-like uncle, or will you get to the business of building your new home and more importantly, your dynasty?
The closest I’ve been to wilderness since the start of lockdown
Medieval Dynasty is, above all else, a survival/crafting and town management game. That being said, there are light narrative elements that provide you with reasons to build certain things and explore the area, at least early on. These quests can range from building hammers or gathering wood for NPCs, to an adventure that will see you traversing almost the whole map and visiting all the other people and villages dotted around the valley. With one or two exceptions, the regular quests can swiftly become repetitive and kind of dull, but they are never too demanding and will often net you a few coins or resources. The main questline, which is all about uncovering the mysteries around Racimir’s uncle and his band of vagabond friends is actually really well written and interesting, with a few cool twists and turns thrown in. Fortunately, if this doesn’t sound like your thing, most of these quests are entirely optional and won’t hinder your gameplay if you decide to skip them, although you’d be missing out on a pretty decent adventure.
The real meat and potatoes of Medieval Dynasty are the survival, crafting and building aspects. As usual in this type of game, you’ll need to ensure that Racimir has enough food and water to get through the day, as well as keep an eye on his temperature as the seasons change. From there, you can gather sticks and rocks to create stone tools, which will allow you to chop down trees and smash boulders for more resources. Eventually, you’ll have enough to build a little house and get started on creating your own village. While this is pretty standard fare for this type of game, Medieval Dynasty excels in making you feel like you are building something worthwhile, progressing from basic tools and structures to better and more complex equipment and constructions. You can also choose to lay down foundations wherever you please (so long as it’s not already occupied) and there is a real sense of pride watching your town go from a single shack to a fully functioning village.
Everything the light touches…is your kingdom
Speaking of functioning villages, it’s one thing to have a bunch of buildings – you also need to fill them with people. As your utopia grows, you can invite certain NPCs from across the valley to join you, becoming your neighbours and making you responsible for their continued survival. Managing your town means that you need to make sure all residents have access to shelter, food, water and firewood. You won’t be working alone though, you can also assign each person who joins you a job, be it hunting for meat and fur, running the water well or mucking out the barn. The management side of things starts off a little complicated but once you get your head around it and follow the in-game advice, it’s pretty easy to get your village running smoothly, freeing you up to build more and do whatever your heart desires.
As the name might suggest, dynasty is fairly important in this game. As you progress through the seasons, Racimir will grow as a person. You’ll be able to gain experience in various skill trees, like survival, farming and crafting by helping others or performing relevant tasks, which will allow you to unlock new skills, building plans and item recipes. Racimir is not invincible though, and if you wish to continue your adventure after he kicks the bucket, you’ll need to find a wife and have an heir. The mechanics behind this are also fairly simple, although very slow going. As of writing this, I’ve played for around 25 hours, which equates to around three years in-game, and I’ve just had a child. That child needs to reach 18 years of age before he can take over so it’s going to be a while yet.
What a beautiful child. You will lead millions…willingly or otherwise
Despite being a previously early access title from a fairly small development studio, Medieval Dynasty is absolutely gorgeous. Everything in the valley looks fantastic and it’s such a joy to just explore its lush environments as it changes through the seasons. The bright green new growth in spring is just as beautiful as the snow-covered hills in the middle of winter. It also has an immersive sound design so that if you’re tracking a deer through a copse of trees during a rainstorm, you feel like you’re really there. I recommend playing it on the highest settings your rig can handle, with headphones if you can.
Unfortunately, with Medieval Dynasty coming from a smaller development crew after an early access period, there are still a few things that bugged me while playing. In terms of actual bugs, there was never anything major, although a few times an NPC would float for a while or I pretty much became a ghost in the world, unable to interact with anything and clipping through walls. A quick quit and reload cycle fixed this though. There were also a few instances of some items disappearing from my inventory after I’d picked them up, but it was only arrows or seeds, of which I had many, so I wasn’t too bothered. It was more that a lot of the game feels like it has a really solid foundation, but is only at 85-90% of what it could be.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy playing Medieval Dynasty, but it does feel like it could have benefitted from a few more months in early access while some features were polished to perfection. My main gripe is that a lot of the NPCs are very samey. Once you invite them to your village and give them jobs, they are basically drones that have nothing interesting to say and provide almost no company in your town. Even after you romance your wife and decide to start a family, she essentially becomes part of the furniture that you can barely interact with. I’ve reached a plateau where I can build more structures to attract and sustain more people, but I have little motivation to do so.
This is about as interesting as your community gets
Another issue is something that I think I can only describe as resource discrepancy. For example, the game encourages you to farm fairly early on, but to do so you need fertiliser. Fertiliser can be made with rotten food or manure, which you can get from animals at a massive loss (10 x rotten meat/manure = 1 fertiliser). Food takes a long time to degrade and you can’t unlock the ability to raise animals until you have enough skill points in farming, so you’ll need to buy what you need, which is actually quite expensive and money limited. You can, of course, make money by farming and selling your goods, but you need fertiliser to do so. Even when you do eventually unlock the ability to raise animals, you need to buy their food or farm large amounts of two specific crops to keep them fed, so they produce manure, so you can farm more. It’s exhausting and feels more resource heavy than it needs to be.
Finally, my last gripe has to do with how Medieval Dynasty treats traversing the world. The main quest asks you to travel pretty much all across the map, going from town to town. This is also a great way to meet different types of vendors for resources you can’t create early on, such as warmer clothing. The only problem is that you have to walk the entire time, and it’s a fairly sizable map. There is no fast travel option, which I’m actually fine with as this adds to the immersion. You can unlock a horse, but the amount of skill points and resources you need for that is aimed more towards a late-game player, which despite playing for 20+ hours, is still well beyond my reach. I totally understand that it adds to the realism of being a young nobody in the middle ages, but with how important it is to move around the world and trade goods, I would have liked even the option to rent a horse to make everything slightly less laborious.
It’s a hell of a view though
If I had to pick one word to summarise my opinion of Medieval Dynasty, it would be “investment”. I really enjoyed my time in its gorgeous valley and I’ll no doubt keep coming back to watch things grow when I feel like chilling out, but the initial amazement of its deep systems has slightly worn off for now. Thankfully, the developers are fairly active, already announcing a content roadmap and that they plan to continue to support the game by adding new features in the future. If you enjoy things moving at a slower pace, long-term payoffs, and you are a fan of games like Ark: Survival evolved, Conan Exiles and Green Hell, this is a game for you. If nothing else, creating my town from absolutely nothing definitely satisfied that primitive impulse in my brain.
Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher
- Render Cube
- Toplitz Productions
- September 23, 2021