Going Medieval Review – An Innovative Medieval Colony Sim

Medieval colony simulator Going Medieval has finally launched into Steam early access! I was given the opportunity to get into the game and start playing over the last few days. Rather than write a formal ‘review’ I’d rather just talk about my experiences with the game. Hopefully that can give you, the reader, an idea whether it’s the kind of game you’d like or not. Without further ado, Going Medieval!

Going Medieval Review

A beautifully simple title menu

The Facts

And So it Begins…

Management games and particularly colony management games seem to have been coming out of the woodwork over the last couple of years. With the popularity of large players in the field such as Rimworld and Frostpunk a lot of games have tried to simulate that success. The problem is that they try too hard to simulate this. I’ve personally found that such games have tried so hard to emulate the mechanics of these titles that they’ve just seemed like bad copies. Why play such a similar version of a game I’ve already played for years? Going Medieval seemingly is trying to spice up the genre with a fresh take. But, is there room for another colony simulation? In the case of Going Medieval I think there is.

I do feel bad for drawing parallels between Going Medieval and Rimworld. Although it is hard to look past the similarities between the two. You have the colony management, the large open space to start from the beginning and a personality trait system. In my many hours that I’ve already sunk into Going Medieval over the last week or so, I didn’t find myself comparing the two at all. I feel more that the many, many days spent playing Rimworld has only helped me get into GM and enriched my experience with the game. The familiarity of systems and colony management helped me immediately start having fun in a UI that can be the biggest drag of colony simulators.

A Familiar Yet New Experience

Running around in Going Medieval
Welcome home Maccus

In Going Medieval you are in charge of a group of settlers. Fed up with their old lives these group of pioneers set out on the world to form a new colony. Veteran colony simulation players with notice a very familiar start to the game. You will begin by choosing the difficulty of your game and picking out your starting colonists. There are a few options to choose from in the starting conditions. This is one of the most important aspects to me. You can start as one of the two default starts. The first of which is “A New Life“, a classic colony building experience where you start with three colonists with a bunch of starting supplies. The other default start is “A Lone Wolf” which expectantly puts you in control of just a single settler.

The third and most important option to me is the ability to add a custom scenario. Here, you can create a start with as many colonists as you wish including the ability to chance some world settings, starting items and more. My favorite part about the procedural generated colony building games is the replayability. With randomized stories and events Rimworld does a great job of this. Adding the option of customizing a starting scenario will also give Going Medieval that great sense of, “Hey what if …” and then trying it out. For the sake of trying to get as much playtime as possible, I picked the default start with 3 settlers. I’ve been playing the same game the entire time on the normal difficulty level.

You’ll then get the option to settle in three possible terrain types. Mountains, Hillside or Valley. Mountains will be rich in resources but good fertile growing land is sparse. Your starting location will determine the type of colony you are setting out to be. The valley will be a great place to start a large farm but you’ll be in a flat open area. You will have to work harder to build a strong defensive position here. Once you’ve determined your starting location for the colony, you will be able to choose your settlers. Much like similar titles, each colonist will have their own strengths and weaknesses. Another great thing to point out at this point is that each colonist not only has an statistics for their height and weight but also a religious alignment. (I’m not sure how the height and weight mechanics affect the game yet. Perhaps in a future update?) There are two bodies of religion in Going Medieval. Some settlers will be devoutly religious and will need to pray at their church many times a day to become satisfied. That being said they will appreciate their Sundays at church a lot more and gain a larger mood boost.

Let’s Navigate a Colony Survival UI! Once We Figure Out How

As soon as you start you are straight on into the game. If you’ve selected the option to show the tutorial, congratulations! Thankfully the tutorial messages are quite helpful and really help you get a grip on the largely confusing UI. Sadly Going Medieval suffers the same fate that plagues basically every colony simulation I’ve ever played. UI clutter. Whilst the icons and menu have their own particular art style, I find the overall look to be not so pleasing. You’ve got the top left cluttered with menus and toggle icons and then the top right-hand side with time controls, messages and stockpiles all jammed together. (Not to mention random buttons such as the bug report and screenshot buttons which could easily go into the pause menu.)

The first thing I’d suggest to people having similar issues as the ones I am whining about is to change the UI size to Small through the Game section of the options menu. Just the spacing alone feels like it is tidying up the whole screen. This isn’t a game-ruiner for me. As aforementioned all colony builders (and simulation games in general) tend to have horrible UI’s. I’ve played Rimworld for over 400 hours and would say that GM has many areas of the UI that work considerably better. For one, the menu for the building pieces are fantastic. When you open up one of the building menus, you have this great little box which shows you what you are placing down. Select the wooden wall and another side-menu appears next to that allowing you to change the wall variant. I love this part of the UI.

The Going Medieval review UI section
The UI of the building menu in Going Medieval is refreshingly informative, good-looking and easy to navigate.

Check out the image above and tell me you don’t like it. When you pick a wall and a material you can Immediately see the insulation, work to build and everything about it. If the future of this game would include being able to move items and menus of the UI around freely, I think it would improve the experience dramatically. Speaking on the menus I think they all serve their purpose quite well. Every where you click you can get a good overview of everything that is going on. Another menu where I have some gripes is the actual settler information menus. I feel like there’s just a little too much going on in such a small area. That being said, I’m sure a lot of people like the vast amount of information given there. Getting more into the mechanics of the game a lot of the information probably makes more sense. For now, I’m happy if my settlers are warm and fed.

Building a Castle?

Going Medieval features a Z-level system as well. This is similar to systems in games like Dwarf Fortress. Using this you are able to design multi-level buildings and castles. Your colonists can also mine into the terrain and this can be used in the design of your buildings. You can dig into a mountain and throw a roof on top of it if you wish. This is another one of the great features that Going Medieval brings to the ball park. The building system is smooth, makes sense and is very well thought out. Think Rimworld meets The Sims. Building a staircase allows your settlers to build up a floor and work on the next level too. This can also be used to create defensive positions on your walls.

Defending my settlement in Going medieval
Higher positions will give your ranged settlers an advantage in battle

Building towers and placing ranged settlers on them will give them a boost to the range and damage of their weaponry. You can also create blockades making it harder for your enemies to get up to them. Building can be done with wood to begin with and as you research new items a greater range of building materials will become available to you. Through continued architecture research you will move from wood and clay, to brick and stone. Yes, brick and stone. There are no ‘metal walls’. Going Medieval stay true to it’s medieval name. There aren’t any rocket launchers or elves. The most advanced weaponry you’ll be creating (for now) is a crossbow.

Looks, Sounds and Plays

Your settlers backstories might be full of interesting details to discover. Maybe the woman you rescued from cannibals last week will be the one to drive the raiders bad and nurse your pioneers to good health? Will Fred lose his wife and ignore his cooking responsibilities, dooming the colony for the winter? Every colony you create will have it’s won story to tell. One very cool thing about Going Medieval is the way that historical events are recorded and available at any time. You can open up a menu at the top left of the screen which will tell you every raid, every harsh battle, every new recruits that has happened since the colony’s beginnings. I love the fact that everything you do is recorded and apart of the history. If you can deal with the graphics, (Or find a suitable graphics pack), this is where cult classic Dwarf Fortress really shines. A story really completes the whole thing. Sometimes things don’t go your way. Expect the unexpected.

A character cutting down a tree in Going Medieval
Mass deforestation efforts happening at happening at the Goinwell colony

The main gameplay loop will be that you are building up your colony, finding new technologies and using them to thrive in the world. Find resources, craft new items and dress your settlers for success. You will have to defend your colony against the raiders that will see you destroyed. Face tough but necessary choices. Will you give up a rescued prisoner to the raider party in exchange for them leaving you alone? Will you try to forage mushrooms in the forest knowing there is a pack of hungry wolves lurking int he trees? How you deal with the situations presented to the colony will define the history of the colony. As far as the general gameplay goes I am quite satisfied. Once you get over the steep learning curve of the UI it just seems to work. The movement works quite well and the path-finding of the characters seems fairly solid.

The combat is turn based, with certain weapons being used quicker than others. Depending on your characters stats they may be better with melee or ranged weapons. Nothing new for colony games. But, the combat can be difficult if you aren’t set up properly. Though I’ve played many hours of Rimworld and other similar titles, I still found myself losing settlers to raids and resulting injuries afterwards. There is a nice challenge to the game that makes you want to improve your base and try new things. With the inclusion of different layers to build on the game promotes your creativity. Something I appreciate.

Finals Notes and Take-aways

Fans of colony buildings starved of a decent game will have a great time with Going Medieval. The game draws colony management inspiration from Rimworld and blends in a building customization relatable to a Sims-lite. If you’ve the money to spend and want to help the development of a game like this, do it. Going Medieval is clearly developed with a lot of time and effort and the team seems very in touch with their community and love to hear and implement suggestions.

Score: 8.5/10

Going Medieval is an ambitious colony simulation game. Although lacking in a large amount content the polish seen in the current state of the game is refreshing for early access titles. Going Medieval is a great foundation of a game and an absolutely fantastic starting point to a game going into Early Access. Early adopters of the game will find a enjoyable early experience and I’m really excited to see how Going Medieval will progress going to further development. I can see myself playing (and loving) the current version for a while and keeping up to date with the game as it’s updated. Expect to see a lot of guides and content coming from Going Medieval.

Now, let me get back to my colony. I’m gonna go build a moat. Why? Because I can.