There’s nothing like having to fend off a pack of wolves with a wooden shovel, before sitting down in a dark hut to a diet of raw mushrooms to make you grateful for pizza, electric light, and Ikea. Medieval Dynasty is a simulation game that is far more interested in a basic level of historical accuracy than in making sure you’re having a wild time, but somehow it’s all the better for it.
When you arrive in the game you’re just a lad following in the footsteps of his father, ready to build his own settlement but with little more than a few coins in his pocket. You’re gifted some land and a hammer for building, and the rest is up to you. Every tool has to be crafted with resources you can find in the rivers, forests, and meadows, and everything is hard work. Trees need to be felled, rabbits trapped and roasted, rocks collected, clay dug. You can only carry so much though, so building your house means slowly carrying a few heavy logs to the building site, then hammering them into place. Thirsty? Unless you’ve started hunting and have the leather to sew a waterskin, you need to head to a water source to slake your thirst. It’s slow, it’s repetitive, but it’s also oddly relaxing. Forget sims games where you can whip up a whole town of perfectly spaced buildings in minutes, here just building a simple hut is an all-day job.
Medieval life isn’t without its dangers either. While my character has yet to suffer rickets, they have faced wolves, poisonous mushrooms, and dehydration. Hunting boar nearly finished me off, especially as I don’t have coins for a bow so hunting means essentially running after my prey with a handful of big sharp sticks and hoping the animal’s AI forces it to run into striking distance. Healing means searching out broadleaf plantain, an awkwardly rendered plant in a sea of green, and you get used to avoiding excitement, rather than seeking it out like you would in any other game. Perhaps in any other year than 2020 that would be a negative, but honestly I’m happy to sow some rye in my fields and appreciate the quiet.
Of course, to build a settlement you’re going to need to woo some locals to join you. There are other towns to visit, more people to dismiss you like the hut dwelling loser you are, but this being ye olden days that’s a lot of walking. The wooden faced inhabitants – cutting edge mo-cap this is not – are hard to impress. To improve your Dynasty reputation you need to make conversation with them – options are basically a chat about the weather, gossip about an unseen noble, or some hunting/farming chat – or a creepy comment compliment about being a beautiful lady that is a little bit Borat but is all part of a flirting mechanic that will later allow you to con some poor woman into to being your wife and fellow hut dweller. If you thought romancing characters in Mass Effect was an effort, this may well crush you to dust and send your confidence to the afterlife.
The pace at which my dynasty is progressing, I’ve got a long life of being a lonely man living in a hut ahead of me in Medieval Dynasty, but right now that’s a welcome break from the madness of the modern world.
Medieval Dynasty is out now in Early Access on Steam.