Last month, I was able to do a preview of Siege Survival: Gloria Victis. Now, this offering from developers Black Eye Games and FishTankStudio, and publisher Ravenscourt, is set to release. It did make me wonder since I had noticed a few issues in the preview build already, and I wasn’t sure if the studios would be able to refine the gameplay in time for launch.
Sadly, my findings and sentiments from the preview build still stand. While Siege Survival: Gloria Victis does have a few flashes of inspiration, it’s marred in a litany of issues that can affect the core experience. It didn’t help matters that there’s only one story-based scenario, Edring’s Last Stand.
Here come the invaders
Edring’s Last Stand is the only playable scenario for Siege Survival: Gloria Victis‘ Story Mode campaign. A short cinematic shows fierce, Viking-esque invaders from the nation of Ismir reaching your village. These enemy forces are led by a merciless combatant who executes a soldier before he could reach the castle’s gates.
At the time, I thought that completing Edring’s Last Stand would lead to more chapters or scenarios. After all, this is a medieval survival game and there are surely more castles to defend or sieges to contest, right? Unfortunately, even after playing and finishing the review build, there wasn’t a lot to look forward to.
Surviving in a medieval castle
The Edring’s Last Stand scenario in Siege Survival: Gloria Victis places you in the role of villagers who are stuck inside a besieged castle. Your characters are hapless civilians, not soldiers. Thus, you’ll need to acquire the tools and materials that are needed to make it through another day.
During the day, you can have characters construct fixtures such as furnaces, fireplaces, repair workshops, workbenches, beds, and more. Since crafting mechanics are involved, raw materials like wood, meats, herbs, water, and others will be used to create new items such as planks, medicine, bandages, meals, fodder, and fertilizer. You’ll need to manage various aspects such as each character’s hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and physical health. For instance, characters who are injured or sick will need a bandage or a medicine respectively. Then, they’ll need to rest for a day or two to recover their strength. If you have them working laborious tasks, they’ll become greatly stressed. Conversely, if you don’t take care of their needs, they could end up dead.
Moreover, there’s a “metagame” of sorts where you need to continue supplying the bastion’s defenders with resources, repaired gear, and arrows. You’re basically the logistics manager of the entire stronghold.
A night out
Think of Siege Survival: Gloria Victis as akin to a medieval version of This War of Mine. Once it’s nighttime, you can select one character to go out and scavenge for supplies. The town surrounding the castle has several areas. There are many winding streets and lots of loot to grab.
Likewise, there are also several guards that are out on patrol. Ideally, you should be able to sneak past them or hide in the bushes until they march off. You may also choose to run or speed up the looting process, but these actions will make a lot of noise.
If you get spotted by guards, or if it’s almost dawn, then you’ll need to make your way back to one of the available exits. The town itself has three of these and only one is available by default. You’ll need to explore a bit to unlock the other two.
If you’re able to do that, then these additional spawn points make navigation and exploration a lot easier. You may start from other spawn points that are closer to certain loot drops or events. There are also a few shortcuts and passageways that you can discover by using shovels to clear debris or torches to burn corpses that are blocking your path.
Events and dilemmas Siege Survival: Gloria Victis
While you’re out and about exploring the town in Siege Survival: Gloria Victis, you might notice green event markers. These lead to dilemmas that present a couple of dialogue choices. For instance, you might be told of a woman who’s being accosted by two soldiers inside a house. If you attempt to attack the soldiers, you’ll just get wounded. However, if you push down a nearby wall, it’ll crumble down and crush the invaders. You’ll then have the opportunity to recruit that woman, Rena, as a character in your castle.
Other dilemmas include helping someone bury their kin, easing an enemy’s suffering, and getting a scribe to calm down. That scribe, Jacob, can actually end up becoming yet another worker in your castle if you pick the right options.
Lastly, there are certain points of interest that can be important during your playthrough. For instance, there’s an item shop that lets you trade any of your goods for valuables that you might need (i.e., medicine or meat). Likewise, you might spot an area that lets you bring pots to fill them with tar. In turn, you can use these as ammunition for a trebuchet that you can repair.
The only general you’ll fight is General Clunkiness
With all of these concepts, one might wonder where Siege Survival: Gloria Victis goes wrong. Well, it’s due to all these concepts that are introduced and how they hardly mesh with the overall gameplay. For starters, you’ve got messy UI and control systems. While it’s true that you can control multiple characters and have them work on various contraptions, you’re bound to have headaches when you’re trying to micromanage all of them. For example, it becomes a hassle when you have multiple workers heading off in different directions to interact with specific objects. The character who reaches their respective spot first will have that panel pop up. It’s easy to get confused since several pop-up boxes will appear in quick succession.
Moreover, the point-and-click system can be fairly janky. Whether you’re moving around your base or scavenging all over town, you’ll often click on icons on the ground. It’d be better to have an auto-run button. Instead, you’d rely on a single click to walk and double-clicking to run.
Information tooltips are also not that helpful. There’s a chance that you’d follow the tasks outlined at the upper-left corner of the HUD. Next, you’ll realize that you suddenly lack resources for another feature that’s equally important. For instance, you’re asked to use wood and materials to create a workbench, herbal workshop, and fireplace. But, you won’t see a notification asking you to build a butcher’s table which can create fodder. If you can’t do that early on and you can’t find the resources while scavenging, you’ll have nothing to feed your livestock with and they’ll be dead in a couple of days. Reaching a bottleneck when it comes to resources can happen when you least expect it due to how the mode is structured.
Perhaps another disappointing factor is that Siege Survival: Gloria Victis doesn’t really have a compelling cast of characters. You don’t necessarily feel attached to any of the villagers that join your scrappy band. There are no additional dialogues or interactions after they’ve been recruited. At best, they provide minor boosts to certain actions, but not enough to be considered truly unique. In a way, the first villager you control, Flint, is the only irreplaceable one since he’s got more space in his inventory for nighttime scavenging.
Issues are further compounded during “battle days,” or days when the besieging army and the defenders fight it out. The battle is simply depicted as a bar at the top of your screen, with each group’s relative strength being shown. However, hostile forces can rain down blocks of stone and flaming arrows. If characters get hit, they can get wounded, taking them out of commission for a while until you can heal them.
Your fixtures in the castle can also catch fire or get damaged, and they’d need to be repaired. It gets even more annoying when you assign a character to put out the fires, but they don’t go ahead with the repairs afterward (you’ll need to manually click on them to continue the action).
These sequences do nothing but waste your time. Characters could find themselves huddled in a corner for an entire day lest they get injured, or they can only complete a select few crafting tasks. Since supporting the bastion is part of the metagame, too many delays and mishaps can snowball into losses in soldiers and morale. It’s like trying to create new items or materials in This War of Mine during the day, except you’re also getting raided as this goes on.
What else can you do in Siege Survival: Gloria Victis?
Thankfully, I kept some backup saves in case I messed up my Siege Survival: Gloria Victis run. You don’t really want a lot of problems to happen since the game only saves during the day, and reverting to an older save file means losing progress. In any case, I finished the Story Mode scenario by day 30 which, I guess, is the actual ending. All I had to show for it was a panel telling me that the Ismir invaders were defeated, and another screen recounting the events that I encountered during my playthrough.
Additional options could then be selected. These include “Scavenger Mode” which is mostly focused on nighttime escapades, “Explorer Mode” which makes the economic and scavenging aspects easier, and “Defender Mode” which emphasizes supporting the bastion’s soldiers. There’s also a “New Game Plus Mode” that just lets you tweak the difficulty and number of battles, your starting resources/animals, and the characters that are available by default. Lastly, there’s a Scenario Editor that allows you to load a village’s template to fill it with patrolling guards or loot drops. You may also share these scenarios for the community to try out. I haven’t fiddled around with this mode extensively, but I can surmise that this would be a treat for players who like this sort of feature.
Overall, though, Siege Survival: Gloria Victis didn’t necessarily wow me. Clunky mechanics, poor controls, and an unintuitive UI soured what could’ve been a rather unique survival experience in a medieval setting. A single Story Mode run with the game’s lone scenario, essentially the default mode or how the game is meant to be played, was enough to showcase what it could offer. Sadly, it’s not an experience I’d like to prolong.