I never played Gloria Victis: Medieval MMORPG, the massively multiplayer online role-playing game that had a self-professed emphasis on realism. That game, released into Steam Early Access in 2016 is still in development. Armed with that limited knowledge, I was very surprised when I ended up getting into Siege Survival: Gloria Victis. I thought it would be a combat heavy game that focused on siege battles, taking place in the same world as its namesake massively multiplayer role-playing game. It’s my fault for not reading what was on the tin, so to speak. Siege Survival: Gloria Victis has the same low fantasy emphasis on realism, but went entirely in a direction I didn’t expect.
Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is a strategy game that’s more about resource management than building fortifications. You control a group of peasants—tradesmen, farmers, etc. after their nation was invaded, and their castle walls’ placed under siege. While you don’t have direct involvement in combat, your decisions are vital to the survival of the bastion. It is up to you to build crafting stations, prepare food, farm, scavenge, and even scout out enemy strength and positions so you can anticipate their next attack. It’s a surprisingly novel look at siege type gameplay, and gives an alternate perspective that really shows the human impact of conflict, and how those who aren’t directly in the line of fire can struggle. Of course, your peasants aren’t exactly safe from the effects of siege warfare. Not only do they have to contend with supply shortages and low amounts of food or water, attacks can literally rain down flaming arrows or rocks.
Gameplay in Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is segmented into days, with each day broken up into day and night. During the day you build, upgrade, repair, and generally prepare for the next coming attack. Since you’re under siege, preparation can have a desperate feeling to it. There is never enough food, water, or supplies—especially early on. The soldiers defending the walls have to be fed, too—so it’s a gamble between feeding your workers, or sending that food along to those risking their lives to defend against the hordes of attackers. On days where battles occur, you will have to weather the effects of that day’s battles—and even bring supplies to the front line. You don’t actually see the battle transpiring, except for the glimpse into your courtyard, where your workers will have to take cover from incoming projectiles.
The courtyard in inside the walls is the main area where you build, upgrade, and make supplies to provide for the soldiers and workers. You will need to build specialized stations to make everything you need, like workbenches for tools, a sawhorse to cut lumber and firewood, and a drying rack to preserve food. You will also need to take care of the needs of your peasants by making sure they’re fed, have enough to drink, and are rested and free of any injuries or disease.
During the night, you can send out scavengers into the city, which is almost its entire own gameplay loop that revolves around item gathering and stealth. The city is under enemy occupation, and enemy soldiers patrol the streets. You have to dodge patrols while gathering supplies from the city. At first, you only have one section of the city open to you, but as you explore you will find shortcuts to unlock to make the city more accessible. There are also events to discover, with potential soldiers and workers or other rewards waiting upon successful completion.
Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is a surprisingly melancholy game that is about people first. It’s not about war machines, or the siege engines that are coming to break down the walls—but about the people inside those walls trying to stay alive. As such, there are some poignant and bleak moments. Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is narratively driven, and gives a glimpse into the world of Gloria Victis from a different perspective than the MMO. Even its music is relentlessly sad and foreboding, giving the entire game a feeling of hopelessness—like survival in your fort is definitely not guaranteed.
I really wanted to like Siege Survival: Gloria Victis, and while I really appreciated some of its novel approaches, I never really found myself having fun. At first, I was a bit bewildered by the tutorial that seemingly dropped off after giving the very basics. When I got into the gameplay loop proper, I was hoping the feeling of bleakness would translate into thrilling gameplay, but everything is a mixed bag. The base building aspect is interesting, but there is so much micromanagement that I found it to be tedious. Hungry workers don’t eat on their own, nor will they work to complete a task if you accidentally click them off of it. The night time scavenger gameplay is interesting, and perhaps the most fun—but it’s simple, and even when you get a sector of soldiers riled up and looking for you, evasion is often not too difficult.
I was surprised by Siege Survival: Gloria Victis. It affected me in a way that games like Warsaw did—a game about the doomed Warsaw uprising. It feels like the odds are stacked against you, but you can barely keep it together by the skin on your teeth—and that just shown only by status bars, but representations of people that I actually started to feel a connection to.
Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is available tomorrow on Steam.
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