Reviews

Medieval Dynasty review — A tale of many buckets

Being a peasant sucks. There are some real opportunities afforded to a peasant, though. You can starve to death, freeze to death, die of dehydration, be poisoned by improperly prepared food, be eaten by wolves, mauled by bears — the choices are endless! Just surviving for a year is a challenge. Well, it particularly sucks for you — the war reached your little family farm, killing and burning everyone but you. Chasing stories told to you about your uncle, you set off to try to find a quiet place to start over.

Arriving at the little hamlet of Gostovia, you find out that your uncle’s story is a little more complex than your mother told you. It turns out that he was a bit of a rebel and a celebrity around these parts. Trading on his goodwill with the villagers, you are given the chance to establish your own foothold, as long as you pay your taxes and stay out of trouble. With little more than sticks and a stone axe, it’s time to get building.

Medieval Dynasty - First 30 minutes on PC [Gaming Trend]

At its core, Medieval Dynasty is a survival crafting game, but you’ll spend more time building and managing your town than anything else. Sure, you’ll wear out your gather key to pick up sticks and rocks, but you’ll eventually figure out how to make an axe. After an axe, you’ll make a hammer. From hammer to spear, spear to pickaxe, and so on and so forth until you’ve finally cobbled together a crappy reed hut. Congratulations, you are the owner of a home that wouldn’t survive the Three Little Pigs rhyme. You are gonna freeze to death if you don’t get a move on — you’ll be starving to death soon!

Equipped with little better than a sharpened stick you’ll hunt down little rabbits and foxes, as well as the occasional roach from the nearby stream. Even a caveman could make fire, so roasting that flesh will keep your belly full. Thankfully the stream is swiftly moving, so it’s safe to drink. Food, water, shelter — it’s time to expand our horizons.

Toil faster, peasants!

Your neighbors have problems, mundane and otherwise, that can use your help. They range from typical delivery tasks to tackling the encroaching wolf threats. These tasks reward you with Dynasty Points that correlates with how much people trust you. Dynasty also rewards your work with experience that you can spend in skill trees and, when combined with coin to research, learn new items and professions. Since you earn XP by performing actions, merely picking up sticks will even net you a little knowledge.

Chopping a tree into blivits with an axe is tedious, so wouldn’t it be better if you could make somebody else do it? In fact, wouldn’t it be better if somebody else could do all of your chores!? It’s time to recruit some lackeys!

Once you hit a very easy milestone you’ll be able to recruit somebody to come to your budding village to perform work. Well, it turns out they don’t like sleeping on the cold ground, and that means you’ll need to get to work building a house for them to live in. More sticks, more stones, more reeds, and a whole lot of hammer work later and they’ll have a place to lay their head. That’s when the complaining about wanting water and food begins — it’s endless with these people!

Watch out for huffing and puffing piglets.

Being serious for a moment, this was my first real hitch. I’m using cupped hands to get water, but my villagers can’t be bothered to walk 30 feet to the edge of the water. No, they need a bucket or a water skin or they just won’t be happy. I hadn’t unlocked the tech to make a bucket, and I couldn’t afford the cost by any stretch, so I had to resort to thievery. Dipping a stolen bucket into the stream, I dropped it along with firewood and cooked meat into the chest inside their house and went about doing work. I assigned this peasant the job of sawing more wood at the nearby lumber stand I’d constructed. After I dropped an axe in her work box, she set to work cutting logs, sticks, and planks. Whew! I just wish I didn’t have to resort to theft to get her rolling.

After a bit more work I decided that I didn’t want to hunt any longer. Stalking my prey is fun and all, but I’ve got empire building to do. I built a hunting shack and set off to go find somebody to do my hunting for me.

On the way out of my village I was informed that my one and only villager didn’t have any water. “Ok, I’ll go refill the bucket for you”, I thought to myself. There’s no other way to say it — she ate the bucket. There is no bucket anywhere in the house, so there’s no other explanation. She bared her little peasant teeth and ate the damned bucket. A quick check revealed that I was still short on learning how to make a bucket…so another person in the nearby village had their bucket stolen in service of my lumber empire. This game is making me a thief.

Heading into town I found somebody who was VERY excited about hunting. She was bragging about her tracking skills, so I knew she’d be a great fit. The house I’d built for the bucket-eating peasant lady would be perfect as it holds three. I recruited her to the cause. When she arrived, I ran into the next problem.

I’m not sure if there are some local rules around witch covens or something silly, but two women can’t inhabit the same house. There is no way that I could find to put two ladies in the same home, meaning I had to scramble to build a second house so she would have some place to sleep. With her sleeping in her own space I now needed to supply water, food, and firewood to two locations…and now I’m off to steal a third bucket. This is getting out of hand.

They should invent mirrors so you can look at yourself before you leave the house, sir!

Meat is awesome, but your growing village needs more than pure protein to thrive. Setting up a farm, you’ll find that it’s not as simple as throwing seeds at the ground. Crafting a wooden hoe you’ll grub up the soil, drop fertilizer on it, grind it into the dirt, drop seeds, and then wait. Since (at default settings — more on that later) seasons are only three days long, your little crop seeds will turn into usable food quickly. Cabbage, carrots, onions, and meat sounds like a hearty meal — unfortunately I’m too stupid to make it. Unlocking traits always seems to happen a very, very long time after you’ve gathered the materials to combine them. Maybe I can convince these rubes to eat the cabbage instead of my precious stolen buckets.

A quick check on my lumberyard revealed that my peasant was now a time thief as well as a bucket-muncher. She was standing around waiting for somebody to bring her a hatchet. Sure, that hatchet was made from sticks (which she was supplying) and rocks (which were lying at her feet), but she wasn’t gonna move a muscle — she’s paid to chop wood, and she ain’t doing anything else. As I envisioned her sitting there chewing on a bucket, I made a dozen stone axes and dropped them into her box. I could almost hear her laughing as she went back to sawing.

Tired of the bucket carnage, I built my first real production facility. My villager would need a hammer and logs from my lumber stand, but carting them back and forth was a pain. I built a basic storage barn, which allowed my carpenter to pull from stock. Perfect — I set this person to spend 40% of their time making buckets, and the rest making knick knacks like bowls and spoons that I could sell for profit. A small line indicated her production amounts, provided I kept her supplied with tools and materials.

In between my empire building, I needed to separate what was fact and fiction about my uncle. Opening my map I could see more than half a dozen villages in the immediate area. Talking to the tax man of my local town, he sent me to a distant cabin to meet up with another member of my uncle’s little troupe. I walked there along the roads, and as long as I stuck to those paths, my trip was uneventful. I talked to this man Sambor, and he sent me back. My tax man sent me back to Sambor again who then sent me to another distant village with a different package. Back and forth and back and forth, nearly every quest involves a Lord of the Rings amount of tedious walking. You get eaten by wolves pretty easily if you step off the path, but you might find the odd resource node or overturned cart with goodies if you do, so exploration is necessary. Ultimately, however, a good half of my time in Medieval Dynasty was spent walking. You can get a horse, but when a basic mount will cost you 10,000 gold, plus another grand to saddle it (and that’s nothing to say of maintenance, food, and a place to board it) then that becomes a problem for future Ron, not “barely keeping the roof attached” Ron. Sure, I could also raise a foal, but they aren’t much cheaper and bring with it their own set of financial obligations. Honestly, if there’s a major complaint with the game, it’s this one. I’m all for realism, but let’s just say my uncle willed me a horse and pre-paid for board in the town, shall we?

How about forging me some iron buckets. See if these idiots eat those…

Back at my village I had managed to prop up a fishing hut, two hunting cabins, food and material storage, upgraded several of my homes from thatch to wood or stone, and we now had a smithy, carpenter’s hut, herbalism shack, a shack for sewing, a barn, and more. My little upstart was slowly becoming something self-sustaining. Unfortunately, I also discovered that my villagers, despite literally thousands of cooked steaks from the kitchen, couldn’t be bothered to feed themselves. Among everything else I had to accomplish, I was also Meals on Medieval Wheels, having to drop off meat in their homes every so often.

Building is not a free-form affair in Medieval Dynasty. Instead, you’ll build templated versions of your homes, with several options to improve their quality. Wattle is made of sticks and thatch material, making it cheap and easy to build, but it won’t repel the cold come winter. Logs are required for upgrading to wood structures, though you may still end up using thatch for the roof. Stone structures require a lot of rocks, but when reinforced with daub, can be a warm and cozy place to live. Your villagers will be content in thatch for a while, but if you want them to truly be happy, you’ll have to upgrade those living conditions.

For being a small studio effort, the environments in this game are absolutely gorgeous. The trees, the rocks, the mountaintops — everything looks semi-photorealistic. Chopping down a tree has that tree slowly fall to the ground, bouncing and coming to rest where gravity takes them. Continuing to chop the tree turns it into logs as branches are removed. Honestly, the only thing I wasn’t all that impressed by was the look of the villagers. Frankly, they are all a little dead-eyed for my taste. Once you get past that, you can enjoy the view in this relaxing title.

I sat back and looked over my tiny little village. I built this (off the back of many peasants) with my own two hands (and many other hands of many other people). It’s impressive work (supplies provided by my peasants), and I’ve made a home here (it’s made of stone — yours is thatch). As I dropped my well into the center of town, it felt like a milestone. Wait…why are my villagers saying they don’t have water? Yep, you guessed it…these lazy cretins can’t fill their own water buckets.

Medieval Dynasty - Official Trailer | gamescom 2020

One of the many ways that Medieval Dynasty is different is that it is a generational tale. You’ll marry, have a kid, and that kid will grow. Your villagers will also have children. As everyone gets older, those children will start working, taking over for their parents. The shoddy bucket-eating thatched hamlet you built can grow to a bustling bucket-eating town with over 100 buildings.

NPCs in Medieval Dynasty have little to say. Literally everyone who isn’t trying to sell me something insists “You should go to Hornica. Someone there needs your help” when I ask them if they’ve heard anything interesting. You can ask them questions about their skills, but there’s little more on their mind but trying to get you to do more walking. They stand around outside of their homes first thing in the morning as if expecting me as their benevolent overlord to talk with them, but when they have nothing to say I just nudge them off to go perform their work.

Periodically you’ll be faced with choices, usually between seasons, that can impact your settlement. Sometimes it’s a wandering traveler, other times it’s a storm that whipped through damaging your empire. There is also a major event that I won’t spoil here to address. All of this happens over a long period of time, so you might be tempted to mess with the timing in the custom game options. I’m going to try to discourage that. You can extend the seasons out to be 30 days, which gives you a longer period of time to deal with construction or recruiting, but it also means your crops will take 30 days to germinate and produce food. The three days really do strike the right balance, even if it may not seem like it in the beginning.

Frankly, these “almost there, but not quite” moments are present throughout the entire game. It’s great that I can see and manage my village from a management tab, but it’s obtuse, and has no tooltips to tell me what the icons mean. There are notifications that somebody is starving, but a worker missing resources or tools isn’t shown unless you check the management tab. You often find out when you’ve run out of something and are wondering why. Is this a bug? It’s hard to say, but when I see people fall from the sky repeatedly every morning like they are being beamed into my world like an alien version of The Truman Show, it seems like it might be a programming error. It might also explain why they keep eating the buckets…

Medieval Dynasty is a relaxing game with an emphasis on crafting more than survival. It pulls you in for the long haul, with a full run taking upwards of 100 hours to complete on normal pacing settings, depending on just how much you expand your empire. Somehow it makes chores fun — I just wish my peasants were more self-sufficient and less ravenous for delicious hand-crafted buckets.

Medieval Dynasty review — A tale of many buckets
75

Good

Medieval Dynasty

Review Guidelines

Like some sort of peasant Animal Crossing, Medieval Dynasty casts us in the role of mayor of Dysentery Village. You’ll slowly grow from labor-intensive shacks to a semi-self-sufficient hamlet through the sweat of your brow, building a dynasty that will last generations. You’ll just wish your peons would pitch in and carry their own water...and stop eating the buckets.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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