There is something incredibly relaxing about Going Medieval. I know that shouldn’t really be the case, especially considering my villagers are constantly complaining, rebelling against my every command, and sleep on the floor crying themselves to sleep because I forgot to put hay beds in. I know it shouldn’t be the case, but it is. It’s truly rare to find a game that is simultaneously relaxing and rewarding, one you can envisage playing to no end, your sock-clad feet curled up comfortably, the clock ticking away as the sun rises from the bottomless abyss, a constant reminder that while time feels endless, work is only a few hours away. And yet, here I find myself, the hours dwindling, the sky blackening and my food freezing as I relinquish one life for that of a digital kingdom in the making.
“From the offset, you’re given the opportunity to customise practically everything about your introduction to each randomised world”
Going Medieval’s first impressions are overwhelming, to say the least. It is rather ironic considering that this is supposed to be one of the more laidback colony-management experiences. However, that’s not to say it’s not impressive. From the offset, you’re given the opportunity to customise practically everything about your introduction to each randomised world. While there are pre-made options for you to choose from, should you want to entirely customise everything from your start date to the available resources at your disposal, you can.
Unfortunately, that level of customisation does not extend toward your starting villagers. While you can randomise their appearance and choose their forenames, I found that to be about as much as I could edit. In all honesty, it’s not a complete shame. It would have been nice to customise my villagers a little more, especially when it came to their skill set. However, I found the randomisation of it left the game feeling fresh each time I started a new save.
“The great thing about Going Medieval is that it never truly punishes you for failure.”
Going Medieval is best enjoyed if you’re willing to fail at first. Throughout my initial playthrough, my villagers were beset with rage and anger at my harsh and strict working hours, my food and supplies were in constant disarray, rotting away as the sun-scorched the necks of my hard workers, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to close a door. The invaders had a good ol’ chuckle at my expense as they slaughtered my people.
The great thing about Going Medieval is that it never truly punishes you for failure. Rather as you fail, and as everything crumbles all around you, the game instructs you where exactly you went wrong. Your food is decomposing because it’s too hot, and your villagers are miserable because you refuse to put beds down. Look, Gamuth and Cratus were being disobedient so I ordered them to destroy their own beds. Harsh? Yes. Fair? Absolutely not.
My point being that Going Medieval doesn’t leave you in the lurch scrambling for answers, doomed to repeat the past. While it doesn’t prop you up as you play, it does help you understand why you failed and what you should do to improve next time.
“You don’t really have direct control over your subjects.”
Unfortunately, while for the most part, my colony’s failings were my own, there were instances where it was simply out of my control. You don’t really have direct control over your subjects as they will often do what they want. At the very least they will do what you’ve told them to in whatever order they so desire. Place some walls down to be built and a farm to be sowed and they’ll get round to whichever one they find more appealing first. You can tweak their priorities to mitigate this lack of control. However, all this does is inform them that they should consider constructing that wall before sowing those fields.
Each individual villager’s job priorities can be modified, with a scale of 1 to 5 dictating their order of importance. I found that putting anything above a 3 essentially means that they’ll never do that thing unless there really is nothing else for them to do. Your villagers limping around with blood spurting from their gaping wounds? Well, Gamuth couldn’t care less so long as there is a wall to build.
“While you can ‘draft’ your villagers, which ostensibly gives you control over where they go, you can’t directly tell them what to do.”
It was clear from the offset that while this job priority system feels intricate, it doesn’t function as it should. For example, putting someone’s highest priority as hunting seems to do very little. In my experience, my villagers would rather trek across the entire map to pick up a bundle of twigs than harm a poor animal.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a way around this issue. While you can “draft” your villagers, which ostensibly gives you control over where they go, you can’t directly tell them what to do. You can interact with certain objects and order them to prioritise that. However, I found once they’re done with that specific object they return to doing whatever they please. I also found that, for whatever reason, I was incapable of ordering someone to prioritise chopping down a tree. Maybe all of my villagers are deathly afraid of wood. Who knows?
“Every Villager feels as if they have their own unique personality.”
While I found this lack of control to be an infuriating issue at times with Going Medieval, it didn’t really ruin my overall enjoyment of the game. As I mentioned before, Going Medieval is incredibly relaxing, even in its most frustrating of moments. Watching your villagers mill about or construct needlessly large buildings for your pleasure is a lot of fun.
They all feel as if they have their own unique personality, with each one specialising in a particular field thus pushing you into prioritising those jobs for them. You can manage their schedules too, which does little more than add immersion and build upon their personalities a little. Gamuth, for example, is a light sleeper and so always wakes up at 4am to pray by the alter. Sure, it’s not exactly groundbreaking storytelling, but it allows for emergent gameplay and narratives to take centre stage and completely immerse you within its world.
“I find that Going Medieval works so well because its base gameplay is so brilliantly refined.”
Going Medieval has a ton of content too, especially for a game that quite literally just launched into Early Access. As I previously mentioned, you can customise your starting setup almost completely, which allows for each and every playthrough to feel unique. Random events also help to spruce up gameplay, adding a layer of unpredictability to the proceedings.
While the minute-to-minute gameplay might feel a little repetitive, at the very least in the first few hours of each playthrough, it still manages to be extremely engaging. This is partially due to the fact that with each playthrough you’ll grow and learn from your mistakes. However, I find that Going Medieval works so well because its base gameplay is so brilliantly refined.
“It is extremely enjoyable constructing a functioning village and welcoming in more and more villagers.”
I find with some colony-sim games that the controls can be a tad fiddly. Despite the fact that Going Medieval is completely 3D, and allows you to up upwards as well as below the surface, I never found there to be an issue with the placement of items. Constructing a city was moderately easy, and while a few things required looking up, for example how to build a roof on a larger room, everything else came with relative ease.
There is a ton of options already for what you can construct, with plenty of decorative items at your disposal too. You can research new types of furniture or construction materials which expands the level of detail you can already obtain. When you factor in the ability to be able to build on a 3D plane, the opportunities feel boundless. It is extremely enjoyable constructing a functioning village and welcoming in more and more villagers. This is by far the most satisfying colony-sim I’ve played since the excellent The Colonists.
If you’re looking for a rewarding, and in-depth colony-management sim with a lot of value, then you can’t really go wrong with Going Medieval. It’s reasonably priced and comes packed with a ton of content already. This is a bountiful and extraordinarily satisfying experience with a relaxing gameplay loop that never failed to fulfil my expectations. I highly recommend this to anyone looking to get into the genre, or for those already experienced in it. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.