From The Witcher 3 to Kingdom Come: Deliverance, games in medieval settings rarely resist the pull of telling a heroic tale. It’s burned into our culture, with our views of the time spray-painted by the fantastical exploits of rakish vagabonds and wayfaring knights rather than the toils of everyday folk trying to survive in such a world.
Medieval Dynasty is its own kind of rags-to-riches tale, where you’re going to have to survive many a harsh winter and overcome the brutality of nature to get there.
This unique spin on the survival game casts you as a young man fleeing the horrors of war with his family. You begin by just trying to scrub together enough wood for a fire, but this humble fire pit can eventually grow out into a community, a village and a thriving trade hub. Crucially, every character ages and eventually passes away, so you’ll need to secure your dynasty by bearing a child, who will take over the running of the town upon your death.
Without an heir, your bloodline ends, and so does the game.
So Medieval Dynasty is trying to do something more than just force you through the cold cycle of survival – it’s laying the foundations for you to craft your own story. As nomadic folk pass by, you can invite them to join your community on condition that they play their part. Interact with NPCs and assign them roles based on their specific skillsets, while building out your own character’s talents through an elaborate skill tree. You’ll be faced with high-stakes RPG decisions and events that will have big ramifications, and impact the prosperity of your village.
As you build out, word of your burgeoning township will get to neighbouring towns, who’ll want to trade with you, and offer quests in exchange for goods and wealth. You’ll be able to form alliances and, once your dynasty becomes prestigious enough, even get the attention of the king, triggering unique events that will shape your future.
But where the later game turns into something of a management-RPG hybrid where you make the big calls, it’s a long and arduous journey to get to that point. The open-world landscape is beautiful but harsh, changing dynamically with a full four-season day-night cycle that will drastically affect your attempts to survive.
You will be interacting with wildlife – from rabbits and deer to wolves, boars and even more dangerous creatures – so will need to have your bow at the ready and blades sharpened. You’ll constantly be dealing with the basics of food, water, health and endurance are all things but, as is the way with survival games, the environment can easily become your enemy if you don’t learn it and tame it.
A key thing for developer Render Cube was not to make this game about combat, but about seeing your hard work pay off through careful management of your community. It’s an interesting arc from pure survival game to management sim and RPG, and it’s a real joy to see your progress embodied in the town’s evolution from campfire to wooden shacks, all the way through to full stone mansions.
The neat thing here is that survival is about more than just your individual character. In a world that accepts the inevitability of death, continuity is achieved through successive generations of your dynasty, and your township as a whole. Medieval Dynasty is a less lonely take on the survival game and a more humble take on the RPG, and you can buy it in Early Access on Steam now.