You begin this base-building survival game with a single item: a time machine

Dinosaur, castle, and rocket ship
(Image credit: Tbjbu2)

Most survival games start off the same way: you're standing alone in the wilderness and you have very little in the way of supplies or gear. Maybe you only have a few basic food items and a bandage or two. Sometimes you have a basic knife or an axe. Often, you start off with absolutely nothing but a grubby loincloth and have to immediately begin scrabbling around for food, water, and basic crafting resources.

So it's a little unusual to find a survival game that starts you off with absolutely nothing except a time machine, which seems like it should be at the end of a very long tech tree instead of the beginning.

But that's what you get in the opening moments of Grand Emprise: Time Travel Survival, and before long you'll be using that time machine to transport yourself through history from the age of dinosaurs to colonial times to modern day, and even deep into the future.

Grand Emprise: Time Travel Survival is scheduled for a release next month, but the free demo that's part of Steam Next Fest gives you a little taste of both the survival crafting systems and the era-hopping adventure that awaits. I begin the demo in what seems to be the early days of Earth, with nothing but a handheld time travel device and the suggestion to pick up some rocks to fix the broken machine. I grab some stones from the beach, whack 'em against my time machine, and I'm transported to the future (the future of the past, I mean) and into the age of dinosaurs.

As you'd guess, having literally nothing in my inventory but a time machine with a dead battery, I am quickly eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. But all is not lost! After respawning I peer at my tech tree to learn how I can recharge my time machine to get the heck out of there. I won't go into all the details, but let's just say I brutally bludgeon a gentle Triceratops to death with my rock collection, use its delicious raw dinosaur meat to charm a Utahraptor into letting me ride around on its back, then race it across the island and deep into a cave where I find a time portal that leads me to a mysterious ancient temple. 

Yeah, it's all a bit bizarre, but it's not long until I'm able to travel to a different era, at which point I'm killed by an angry hippopotamus. Looks like no matter where I go in time, I'm being bitten to death by a large land animal.

I haven't gotten much further in Grand Emprise yet, but it feels pretty ambitious with all the different time periods and technology it's promising, from forging iron tools to managing a colony of primitive humans to sieging castles to conquering space travel. And it looks like you can take your tech from one era to another, so if I want to get revenge on that T-Rex who ate me it looks like I'll be able to face him with a gun or maybe even a biplane. 

Just take a look at how much wild stuff is crammed into the trailer above, from giant sandworms to futuristic mech battles. And it's all the more impressive that it's being made by a solo developer. Check out the free demo yourself here on Steam, and watch out for that hungry T-Rex. 

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.