Survival games tend to follow a certain pattern: you’re thrown into the world with nothing but a fig leaf on your bits, like Adam freshly spewed out of Eden, you smash trees and rocks with your bare caveman hands, and you incrementally build up a sustainable life for yourself. This loop is plenty enough for some, but there are those of us who want a bit more purpose to the survival grind.
That’s where Medieval Dynasty goes deeper than your typical survival game. Yes, there’s a fair bit of tree-lopping and rock-smashing as you lay your foundations in the forested wilderness of medieval central Europe, but it grows into something much bigger: with a little luck your rural hovel will grow out into a village as travelers and war refugees join you, you’ll establish trade routes with neighbouring villages and pay taxes to the king, you get married, have kids, and ultimately die, then take control of your heir to continue expanding your medieval township.
Medieval Dynasty is as much a management game, life simulator and RPG as it is a survival game. Clearly there’s something potent in this genre blend, because the game has been a hit since it first entered early access back in September 2020. With the game's journey to full release now complete, let’s remind ourselves just what makes it so unique.
As your settlement becomes more settled in Medieval Dynasty, you can assign different people to work the roles that you’ve spent enough time breaking your back on - be it hunting, farming or raw resource gathering. Suddenly, your character has some time on their hands, and can start specialising using an elaborate (and very elegantly presented) skill tree.
Skill improvement takes the satisfying Elder Scrolls route whereby you gain points by actually doing the thing you want to improve in, and each of the six skill trees has its own set of unique talents within it: a Hunter can specialise in archery or tracking for instance, while the Crafting skill tree lets you specialise in crafting, sewing, cooking and other craftsy activities.
Or perhaps you fancy yourself a mayoral kind of figure, in which case you can work on your Diplomacy skill which makes you better in your dealings with NPCs, improves your approval rating, and builds up your dynasty reputation points - which you can use to recruit more villagers and further expand your town.
Whichever path you choose, you’ll need to be prepared for the dangers that the elements and wilderness present. There is plenty of food to forage and hunt, but anger a bear or a pack of wolves, and you can quite quickly find yourself a food resource in their own survival stories. Likewise, the changing seasons present all the challenges you’d expect them to during the middle ages - affecting everything from food supplies to firewood consumption.
The beauty of Medieval Dynasty is that death doesn’t have to be the end. Woo a lady by comparing her strength to that of a wild boar (and other provincial compliments), keep that Body Odor bar low, and you’ll soon get married, have children, and nominate the one you wish to take over your township once you die.
Medieval Dynasty layers the survival loop with great touches from other genres that really invest you in pushing on; it’s not just an endless means of overcharging your dopamine levels, but a wholesome journey where you watch your children grow up and see the stragglers who join you grow into a fully functioning community.
Medieval Dynasty is out now, and you can pick the game up on Steam, GOG and the Epic Games Store. Like the town you build within it, the game is constantly expanding, and will continue to after launch, so if you want to keep up with all its latest goings-on you can join its communities on Discord, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.