After my first hour with Medieval Dynasty, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep playing. After hour two, things began to click, and at hour four the game began to set some hooks in me. Small hooks, but hooks nonetheless, and it’s at this point that the minutes began to turn to hours with a quickness. If you are a fan of survival role-playing games, you have likely been here before and know enough to understand that some early perseverance is a prerequisite to the genre. Newcomers, however, are likely to be shell-shocked from the start.
Medieval Dynasty begins by introducing the game’s mostly forgettable story of a young man named Racimir, who is on the run from war and the chaos that follows. His uncle had told him stories of a beautiful, peaceful valley to which Racimir travels in hopes of beginning a new life. The game picks up here, and your first task as Racimir is to build yourself a home, with a list of smaller tasks instructing you to gather the materials you need to construct it. This very first quest is where I suspect many players unfamiliar to the genre will bow out. My first attempt to build my house was in the middle of the village you start out in, a rural town named Gostovia. Once I realized that wasn’t possible, I attempted to move outside the village’s fence. That wasn’t possible either, so I started walking away from the village until eventually the on-screen blueprint of my house went from red to green – indicating that I had finally found an acceptable spot within the game’s hidden parameters to place my home.
Once the location is set, it is time to begin the construction process. The problem is, the game continues to do a poor job of explaining what resources look like and where to find them in the world. It’s nothing a quick Google search can’t fix, but it shouldn’t be necessary this early on in a game (if at all). Eventually, you’ll complete your house and perhaps feel a sense of accomplishment akin to Tom Hanks in the film Cast Away, when he is finally able to make fire for the first time. With that said, from the beginning there is a series of quests called “chapters” which serve as a prolonged tutorial, and they mostly do a good job of introducing the game’s systems to you in a general sense.
After some initial hurdles, things do begin to open up. You’ll learn to craft a wooden spear, perhaps a knife, and then set out to find a meal. You’ve got to eat – this is a survival game after all. Hunting a couple of rabbits with a spear or a trap is a good start in the early days. There are deep systems at play here, and even some systems within systems. Patience and a willingness to learn these systems will directly affect your enjoyment of the game.
Nearly everything in Medieval Dynasty requires crafting, and not to sound redundant, but a lot of times your crafting requires crafting. Need to craft a bucket to fetch water? You’ll need two wooden planks to craft that. Oh, and those wooden planks? You’re going to need to chop down some trees with an axe that also requires crafting in order to get logs. Items break, food spoils, and buildings require repairs, so you’ll find yourself repeating a lot of tasks and processes. The good news is that eventually you can recruit non-playable characters from nearby villages to join your settlement, which will allow you to automate tasks if their skills match the job. This does create its own set of problems, however.
Eventually, you will find yourself engulfed in the routine of everyday medieval life as you labor to build up your settlement. A typical day looks something like this: wake up, grab a drink from the nearby river, cook some meat, check your rabbit trap, hunt a deer, cut down trees, and gather other resources for your next building. The various systems are tied together in a way that creates a very satisfying gameplay loop, and watching your settlement grow is equally rewarding. As the days go by, so do the seasons, which add additional wrinkles to consider. Crops can only be planted and harvested during specific seasons, the winter months force you to dress warmer or carry a torch, and berries are poisonous unless picked during their peak summer ripeness.
There are role-playing elements layered on top of – and intertwined with – the core gameplay. Of course, one of the primary goals here is to establish a dynasty, so to speak, with an heir to carry on your work after you’re gone. If you die while you are without an heir, you get a game over screen and have to re-load an old save. To that end, you’ll want to find a nice lass you can start a family with relatively early. For me, I began this process straight away, and scouted potential suitors during conversations with the villagers of the aforementioned Gostovia. I soon discovered that nearly every lady in the village is spoken for, but thankfully one of them alerted me to the nearby campfire – where travelers stop to rest – as the place to find future Mrs. Racimir.
At the campfire I met a nice 22-year-old woman named Albreda. Chasing after her affection is where I learned that conversations like these are how you discern a potential settlement recruit’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what a potential wife likes and doesn’t like. I made it a part of my daily routine to pop over to the village to chat with Albreda, finding out what she liked to do in her spare time, what brought her to town, and what her favorite season is. She didn’t care for my weird jokes though, and dropped her affection rating accordingly. After nearly two years of courting we got married, and like any good medieval husband, I put her to work harvesting wheat on the settlement farm.
Beyond the social role-playing aspects, there are also story quests and side quests – most of which are fetch quests for villagers that are pretty unremarkable. Additionally, there is a skill tree with six categories: extraction, hunting, farming, diplomacy, survival, and production. Each tree allows you to unlock perks like insulated walls to lower your consumption of firewood, or the ability to reveal NPC personalities to make conversations easier. Every action you perform awards experience towards a related category, and choosing the right perks can make life easier and more efficient.
Your actions also level up four technology categories: building, survival, farming, and production, which leveling up unlocks various facilities that you can build in your settlement. For instance, the survival technology is leveled up by hunting animals, setting traps, and fishing. Progressing in this technology tree allows you to build things like the hunting lodge or the herbalist’s hut.
Outside of my initial frustrations when first starting my adventure, I ran into trouble once more when I became responsible for the well-being of others. Having other people in your settlement is handy because you can give them jobs, like having someone cutting logs at the woodshed. The issue is these folks are not self-sufficient. The lumberjack at the woodshed needs an axe to work, which means that you either have to craft one yourself and put it in the appropriate storage chest, or recruit another settler to craft items who is in turn going to need the raw materials to craft those items. Again, it is systems on top of systems.
While there is certainly enjoyment to be had, it is tough to recommend Medieval Dynasty to anyone who is not a fan of survival RPGs. The gameplay loop is addicting, it’s satisfying watching your settlement grow, and the potential for emergent storytelling is there. Genre veterans will find a lot to like, but the game is obtuse in ways that will turn a lot of players off – and fast.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! My name is Jason Dailey, and I’m a noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband and father to two dogs. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5 and PS Vita, although I recently dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC for a short while. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.