Rimworld meets Banished in this blandly-named city-builder

Screenshot of Settlement Survival
(Image credit: Gleamer Studio)

As a game that sounds like the devs forgot to update the initial placeholder name, Settlement Survival might easily be overlooked by discerning city-builders. But despite titling it with a startlingly bland name, Gleamer Studio has designed a well balanced Medieval colony sim with oodles of depth, a homey atmosphere, and a gorgeously mystical soundtrack.

Currently there are few difficulty levels, and each game starts with a random seed. There are a couple of 'themes' to choose from before you enter the game, too. Essentially these are the game's modes, or scenarios. 

You've got your basic Standard Mode, and there's a Sandbox mode unlocked from the start, which is always appreciated. Then more obscurely, there's an Easter Island theme, where trees grow slower than usual and trade is harder since you're stranded in the Pacific Ocean. 

There are a few Rimworld-like reflections in Settlement Survival to note. The caravan-forming trade system, for example, involves gathering up a bunch of items and sending some poor soul off to brave the wide world just as you would in Rimworld, rather than the way some games take a less involved approach. The main difference here being that you can research and buy insurance for your caravans, should you be going for a benevolent playthrough.

The stockpile management system is also quite Rimworld-reminiscent, in that you can decide exactly what to store in each stockpile, which can be drawn out to any size, so your settlers don't have to fight through mountains of agave to get to the wood stores—ouch.

It would be nice to have the option to resize stockpiles, as I'm currently wrestling with a jumble of about six that I can't destroy and remake until they're emptied, so I just haven't bothered. Still at least I can keep track of my stores and stats over time with the handy graphs... Oh, man, I love a good graph.

Screenshot of Settlement Survival charts

(Image credit: Gleamer Studio)

Settlers also have personal inventories, in which you can watch the durability of their tools and clothes slowly deplete. The implication being that, should all your settlers wear through the clothing stockpiles before you manage to research textiles, they'll all end up bustling around in their birthday suits.

That's sure to give them a chill when the games winter period comes around, when the temperature drops. And aside from likely making them sick, will probably upset the poor, naked blighters. Once their happiness drops below the Ultra Low threshold, they're even likely to do crimes! If you feel inclined to pander to their trivial need for apparel, however, you can expect a work efficiency bonus, which gets another level of buff depending on their health level.

As you can probably tell, Settlement Survival has countless layers of depth, and it's evident that each status modifier, and every research tier has been carefully considered. Some of these are still in the process of being balanced, but it's a treat to see something so granular coming together thanks to the devs ensuring every little feature is being well thought out.

Once you're past the sixth year, night falls and lasts for several years.

There are several levels of game speed, and although x10 speed still isn't fast enough for my liking, there's always the modding community ready to add blisteringly fast speeds for impatient hacks like me. You've got seasons to deal with, too, meaning you'll need to stock up and prepare for winter when crops refuse to grow.

The strangest thing about the game's timeline is that, once you're past the sixth year, night falls and lasts for several years. I honestly wasn't prepared when this weird instance rolled around, but it makes for a cute aesthetic change. It does look a bit like everyone's packing 1000 lumen halogens in their Mediaeval hovels, but at least I can see shit, unlike in Cities: Skylines.

Screenshot of Settlement Survival map

(Image credit: Gleamer Studio)

As you're exploring the lands, little narrative pop-ups appear, giving the game yet another level of richness, and if you're not sure you'll be able to take on whatever you discover, you can even place markers on the minimap so you can muster your forces for a later return.

Settlement Survival isn't the prettiest game ever. Broccoli looks like cauliflower and lettuce looks like cabbage, and there are some models that look a little out of place, but it still manages to pull off the low-poly aesthetic remarkably well. A lot of the meshes are being re-worked as I write this, though, and some buildings already have multiple models for you to pick from when placing them, which doesn't come often enough in a city builder.

You can also add new features to structures as you discover animal cubs in the woods, or produce new items: you could place a puppy outside someone's front door so they have a special, good boy to come home to, after a hard day's herding.The ability to check things out from your citizens' perspective is a nice touch, too, letting you personally experience their daily routine rather than just lording over them with a distant, unfeeling eye.

Screenshot of Settlement Survival settlers perspective

(Image credit: Gleamer Studio)

Some things are a little off about the game's design, such as the fact your settlement always spawns near the equator in countries like Australia and Africa (yes, it's Earth you're playing on rather than some made up world). Building Medieval houses in Australia is a little odd, but hey, I can suspend my disbelief for a game as interesting as this.

Right now with the game in early access, there's still some room for improvement. The current state of the game, however, paint's a very promising picture of what's in store for the final product. Everything seems to be balancing out nicely, and the devs are super attentive to suggestions, rolling out updates on a weekly basis to correct any issues that crop up. 

Eventually we'll be graced with some of the veiled themes teasing us from up in that list, namely: Livelong Night, Twilight Town and The Vikings. I've got some idea of what the latter might entail—disasters events that'll see you fending off invading heathens, perhaps. As for the others, they're giving off potential 'endless night' vibes—maybe a mode that prevents crop growth and forces you to forage, hunt and fish, similar to Rimworld's permanent eclipse feature, but we'll have to wait and see about that.

Screenshot of Settlement Survival broccoli

(Image credit: Gleamer Studio)

Still, I'm looking forward to seeing Settlement Survival's final form and I can't wait to experience the full depth of the game. Hopefully the broccoli will someday look like broccoli, as that's my main gripe at the moment. I just can't get past those fields of little white orbs.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for three years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.