A giant snake monster ruined my apple-fueled medieval utopia in the Steam Next Fest demo for this settlement sim

Image for A giant snake monster ruined my apple-fueled medieval utopia in the Steam Next Fest demo for this settlement sim
(Image credit: Zugalu Entertainment)

I was doing pretty well in the Next Fest demo for Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown. I'd achieved a happy equilibrium, with all my villagers gathering and producing the necessary supplies for my hand-built hamlet's steady growth. Lumberers were lumbering, quarriers were hauling rocks, and my orchard farmers were churning out apples: the basic fuel of every thriving feudal society, as any medievalist will tell you. The idyllic atmosphere was so peaceful I could almost forget about the accursed fog plaguing the land. Until that accursed fog manifested a rampaging snake kaiju, at least.

Thrive, which you can check out in its Next Fest demo until February 12, has you play as one of the few people who've entered the deadly Waelgrim mist and survived, which was apparently all the excuse your king needed to pass the crown off to you and make the whole apocalypse situation your problem to manage. Now you're leading that fallen realm's refugees in the hopes of building a new home and future for your people. Evil fog's still around, though. Unfortunate.

Due to arrive in early access on Steam sometime this year, Thrive is shooting for a blend of city-builder, 4X strategy and RTS combat. In practice, based on a run through the demo's tutorial, you can imagine it like a bunch of parallel games of Banished scattered across a big map, with AI or player-controlled kingdoms developing alongside yours.

I like my share of laying roads and managing resources and Thrive serves up plenty of both, particularly on the resource front. Advancing through building tiers in the demo involves so many different resources that they don't all fit on the UI—at one point the tutorial informed me how to swap out the resource displays so I could track the ones I really cared about. 

In my case, that was apples. After running low on the basic foodstuff early on, I did some restructuring of my hamlet, making sure all the storage yards, food markets, and farmer houses were laid out to facilitate peak orchard efficiency.

Optimization definitely seems like the make-or-break in Thrive, assuming you're not counting all the buildings that get broken when something that looks like it crawled out of Monster Hunter appears to ruin your day. As you play, a bar fills up to indicate the presence of the Waelgrim fog. When it fills, bad things happen. That might mean you lose some of your food stores. Or it might mean a massive reptile bulldozes some of your prime real estate. That's life, I guess.

You've got another day to try the demo of Thrive: Heavy Lies the Crown during Steam's Next Fest. With any luck, figure out defensive structures before the devil-snake appears.

Lincoln Carpenter

Lincoln spent his formative years in World of Warcraft, and hopes to someday recover from the experience. Having earned a Creative Writing degree by convincing professors to accept his papers about Dwarf Fortress, he leverages that expertise in his most important work: judging a video game’s lore purely on the quality of its proper nouns. With writing at Waypoint and Fanbyte, Lincoln started freelancing for PC Gamer in Fall of 2021, and will take any excuse to insist that games are storytelling toolkits—whether we’re shaping those stories for ourselves, or sharing them with others. Or to gush about Monster Hunter.