Simulation and strategy games aren’t really something which are people’s first choice when it comes to gaming. If you ask anyone, most are likely to say they play FPS or MOBAs, with a select few going for RPGs or something along similar lines. The genre really seeks to make a comeback in 2019 after a long slumber with some well-received titles. One of the first releases in recent times is Dawn of Man.
Dawn of Man is a strategy-simulation hybrid developed and published by Madruga Works. The game was released on March 1 for the PC on Steam.
Dawn of Man plays in the singleplayer mode only. Multiplayer mode is not a focus for developers Madruga Works right now, and it would be wrong to expect it to become a thing in simulation games like Dawn of Man. There have been quite a few games in the past which have tried to piece it together, but none have managed to do it quite well. The primary reason why multiplayer fails to work is that there is little to no concept of ‘teamplay’ in simulations. With that being said, let’s move on to more pressing concepts of gameplay.
Dawn of Man allows freeplay as well as pre-constructed scenarios for grinding your way up the ladder. Scenarios are the equivalent of a ‘campaign’, where you have to complete a set number of milestones to progress to the next scenario. Scenarios to complete and a few milestones to go through may not look much, but they quickly become a huge time-sink once you really understand how long one needs to play to accomplish them. Freeplay mode puts you into a scenario, and allows you to play the game completing certain milestones without any restrictions imposed on the gameplay.
You can also opt for challenges, which require you to navigate opposing environment conditions while leading your tribe to victory. The only issue here really is that you need to unlock challenges by actually completing milestones – which might become something to dread when you realize the amount of free time you have for the game,and the amount of time that is properly needed to unlock access to every nook and cranny for freeplay later. But hey, at least that ensures you get to open and actually play the game for quite some time!
The best part is that the game is totally open to the community for modding. Players can design any scenario or challenge of their own and share it about for allowing others to play.
Dawn of Man is a game that throws in some pretty interesting mechanics to make prehistoric survival realistic and interesting for the average guy playing the game. While an accurate era has not been mentioned, the game looks place at the end of the Ice Age, when the ice is melting and leaving behind large swathes of green land. The game reconstructs all challenges faced by man in several phases and presents it to the gamer as they want to experience.
Genre – Simulation or Strategy?
The game is designed as a simulation game, but plays primarily as a strategy game. You guide the development of the settlement. You can build structures for production, storage, residence, transport or worship. The game also has several menus through which you can monitor your workforce and decide upon a course of action to take. You also get to monitor the number of resources stored away in the settlement. The biggest simulation-esque feature in the game is the ability to manipulate time itself, which is a pretty useful tool because of the slow pace of the game (more on that later).
The game’s main focus is on strategy. Survival in a prehistoric era where man is not the apex predator, and without access to fancy technology to help him is definitely a tough task at hand. Start with a small settlement and few tribesmen, and access to a few technologies like the ability to start a fire and to process basic resources around into small tools. With the lack of sophisticated tools and knowledge, you can only gather resources around yourself. This includes small collections of flint, stone and sticks, which can be gathered. Sometime later, as tools become slightly more sophisticated, get to hunt or fish small animals for food. It’s not that you cannot engage bigger animals at this point, but the game’s built with progression in mind, and as such the greater chance is that you lose some men or women while trying to bring down a big predator with your primitive tools, which actually hurts the settlement’s progress more.
Build more structures to allow more people to settle in and also to increase the production and storage capabilities of the settlement. With the passage of time access to composite tools as well as better knowledge will grant the ability to hunt down bigger animals, harvest wood from trees, stone from bigger rocks, ore from deposits, and even start growing and harvesting crops. Dawn of Man ends in the Iron Age, the last designed age for the game.
Structures constructed are mainly grouped into seven types based on their purpose. Residential structures are the structures used by humans as shelter. These structures allow the tribesmen to rest, and store away tools and other resources for later use. More residential structures increase the capacity of the settlement, which in turn allows more settlers to come in from the outside world.
Production structures are required to convert one form of resource to another. Be it for drying meat or fish, removing hairs from skin, converting skins into leather or making tools from logs, stone, flint, skins and twigs, production structures are required for a healthy economy. The most prominent production storage structure is the Crafter’s Hut, used for making the tools you need to progress in the world.
“Religious” structures are ones used for worship. Early men and women used to have strange and powerful gods, who had great powers. Well, with the exception of being a place for the people to let of their fear of nature, the structures serve no other useful purpose.
Transport structures aren’t really “structures” per se, they are just advanced tools used by early humans to aid them in their work of moving resources from one place to another. Storage structures are used for storing all the collected resources, which can later be used for other purposes. I don’t know why, but while trading, the trader’s UI only detects resources stored in tents and not ground structures as the resources available for trade. Maybe early humans actually did care about presentation quality after all? Defense structures are used for protecting the settlement from animal attacks or to hold off aggression from rival tribes, while smelting structures are used for converting ores into hard metal, which in turn are used for advanced tool-making.
The game has a pretty accurate weather simulation. There are four main seasons throughout the year, each with their own challenges. Summer is the hottest season around, and the season when ripe fruits and berries are available aplenty for picking from the bushes and trees. For some reason, maturing fruits and berries cannot be picked, meaning that you would have to wait for the summer to get some grub. Summer forces animals to hide in the shade of the trees, and to seek out places to drink water, making them easy targets for hunting.
Fall is one of the two seasons when the atmosphere is pleasant. Fall is the time when crops need to be harvested and stored away. Animals are in a general phase of retreat, making them harder to find.
Winter is the coldest season of all, and the settlement needs to be prepared for it. Everyone needs to have warm clothes and enough food that can last till the snow from the landscape has melted off. Surviving winter is an achievement in itself, awarding technology points for research.
Spring is the second season when the atmosphere is pleasant, with flocks of animals migrating back before the summer hits. Rain and lightning can happen throughout the year. Rain is necessary for crops to yield more, while lightning is an unnecessary byproduct which is likely to kill your people or structures if it strikes.
The game’s technology tree is one of the best progression systems in a simulation game that I have seen in recent time. For performing certain actions in the game, one acquires technology points, which are necessary to unlock technologies and improve your tribe’s knowledge about the environment.
The first action performed – constructing a structure or hunting an animal – rewards one technology point for each action. Gathering resources, hunting animals, constructing structures, and many other actions unlock these valuable points. Technologies unlocked unlock access to certain resources, or allow construction of certain structures or tools. Considering the immense brainstorming the developers did, one thing that really sucks is the rate at which technology points are gathered – which is extremely slow. This issues a sense of forced elongation of game hours, but isn’t an issue which cannot be fixed with a few simple tweaks. One needs to grind for hours for gathering resources and trying to locate animals and hunting them down. Also, why am I allowed to buy technologies from traders from other settlements (albeit at a high cost)? That breaks the sense of progression.
The game has a pretty neat UI, designed with the perspective of a simulation in mind. The main options available to the user are available at the bottom of the screen. The user can issue construction commands, set work areas, monitor different aspects of the economy, the population, and do so much more. Monitor the resources flow from particular areas, as well as the number of resources being gathered. Check the number of domesticated animals in the settlements, and even manage them from the UI. Check a statistical analysis of the collection of resources over time, which provides a decent estimate of what resources need to be collected to keep the economy alive. Issue a work area to gather resources of a particular kind from a region. The UI is even equipped with defensive measures to open or close the gates around the settlement, or allow all adult citizens to pick up arms against an invasion, or go back to their work.
An interesting feature is that one can stack multiple tabs for monitoring multiple sections of the economy at once, or close them all very easily with the click of a button. Actual resources stored away is displayed on the top left-hand corner of the screen, just like a typical strategy game. Another interesting feature is the “primal vision”, which highlights all animals and resources in the game world. This is particularly useful for tracking animals hidden inside foliage, who cannot otherwise be seen.
Individual citizens, as well as animals, also display their needs when clicked on them. Whenever their need is low, they tend to go fulfill it or can be manually instructed to fulfill their needs as the case may be. The UI also shows their current state of action (going to work, resting, eating, playing about, etc.)
The AI is where the game delivers the most. Considering the game comes from the developers of Planetbase, which had a pretty good AI, people can say that this was expected. However, Dawn of Man manages to provide a far superior AI than Planetbase, and even I’m surprised by some of the things implemented in the game. The most revolutionary amongst all, perhaps, are the simulations of the creatures rather than the humans. Animals actually have a living rotating cycle depending on the seasons. Animals with furs like mammoths, woolly rhinos, and raindeers rotate towards the snowy areas earlier on to avoid humans from hunting them down, while animals like wild donkeys and horses with lesser protection from the cold tend to move inland. Hostile predators like wolves and even mammoths tend to attack the settlement occasionally. What is more revolutionary is that animals tend to react to human encroachment on the landscape. Drain the rivers off their content of fish, and animals refuse to come near them. Cut down too many trees and animals prefer to move through other areas to keep their skins on their backs. This is something I experienced myself, and it’s an excellent idea, to say the least.
The human AI also fills alive, in the sense they don’t mindlessly move about like drones, but decide when and what to do on their own while assessing the commands given to them. This might prove bothersome to some people, in the sense that they prefer their humans solving problems immediately rather than thinking on their own terms. Also, it seems that kids are more carefree and tend to disobey more direct orders than adults, which kind of makes it more realistic. However, while the animal AI is near perfect, the human AI does have some flaws. Occasionally you may find your people having low morale, with no good reason, the cause for which you need to manually figure out and fix. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any rival settlements in the games as of now, only warring groups of humans trying to wage war on your settlement, who do not attack in the best way needed to take down a settlement having defenses all around it.
The game features one of the most detailed tutorials I have seen in recent times. The tutorial is a dictionary in itself! Everything in the game is explained in the simplest terms possible, which is a handy resource to fall back to if you do not understand a mechanic properly.
Sounds and Music
The game’s main soundtrack is something that matches the theme it is trying to play at. The in-game soundtrack is good, but sadly fails to match the quality of the main soundtrack. Replications of animal sounds are pretty realistic too, and you can hear the sounds when you zoom in close to them.
Graphics and Performance
For a game of this intensity, having so much to explore and do, the graphics fall sadly short of expectation. It seems that visuals became an afterthought when the developers worked on the game, which is pretty sad for a game having so many mechanics to its name. The draw distance is abysmally small, which isn’t good enough to look at your settlement up close. When I’m not micromanaging my people, I am looking up close to see the people, domesticated animals, and structures in my settlements, and I see no reason why I should not be able to do it.
CPU : Ryzen 5 2600
GPU : GTX 1080
RAM : 16 GB DDR4
The game does not have any performance issues whatsoever and ran like a dream on maximum settings.
With the exception of a few small flaws here and there, Dawn of Man is an exceptional combination of simulation and strategy that everyone should try out. It offers strategy fans some decent value for its price while allowing newcomers to the genre truly experience what it is all about.