It’s Siege Survival, But it’s Not Very Glorious…
In these dire times we often feel the need for some blissful escapism from the cruel realities of life, and Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is a game that absolutely does… not provide this. It starts with a cutscene of a defeated, battered soldier crawling desperately towards the safety of a castle before being stabbed by a monstrous figure in a horned helmet. This is where things begin, with a medieval city fallen and only a single stronghold remaining for the defenders – surely to be assailed relentlessly until it falls as well.
Whereas I was expecting Siege Survival to have my player character be some sort of lord or king, deciding the layout of a castle and what taxes to levy on the common folk, I was instead put into the role of a lowly peasant. From an overhead perspective I started directing around a worker named Flint, who immediately began scurrying about the ruins, collecting useful items. Once he’d collected various supplies, he was able to store them and begin constructing things within the keep, allowing him to craft tools and cook meals.
Each character has their own needs – they require feed and drink to keep them from keeling over, and if they don’t get to rest then they’ll also keel over and have to sleep on the ground. And this is a distinct possibility since the story started off without Flint even having a bed to sleep on – one needed to be built in the keep. I met one other survivor – a widower who’d lost his family – who I was also able to control but we needed to work and rest in shifts as we didn’t have enough resources to build more than one bed!
Each night, your characters have a choice to sneak into the battered, conquered city below to scavenge for supplies and search for survivors in need of help. This is essential to do as what little you can scavenge within the keep itself will not last long. Even worse, the streets are patrolled by the conquering Ismir raiders who will batter your sneaking survivors. There’s a rudimentary stealth system where you can click on bushes and hide in them to evade the hostile view cones of approaching enemies. It’s not terribly realistic as foes can walk directly in front of your character and not spot him as long as he’s hidden in a bush. It’s pretty bare bones, but for a management simulation it was definitely a serviceable stealth minigame that added something to the resource management.
What’s most pressing after your playable characters have had their needs taken care of, is the bastion – where your soldiers live, and from where they repel invaders wanting to bring the stronghold down for good. Much like your characters, the soldiers also require food and water to continue fighting, but will also need a fresh supply of arrows that will be exhausted after every battle. Their weapons will get broken too and will need to be repaired, along with developing wounds and illnesses that will need to be bandaged or cured respectively. Keeping the troops well supplied for battles is crucial as some may die in battles if they’re not properly prepared, but resources are so scarce it can be a struggle to look after both the soldiers and the workers under your command.
Piles of diseased corpses can be burned with a torch and rubble can be removed with a shovel, and these open up new areas to be searched for resources in nightly scavenging runs. This equipment needs to be crafted though, and it’s very possible to screw yourself over because you’ve been supplying the soldiers so much you won’t have enough equipment to help you make the best of your scavenging runs. When scavenging grinds to a halt, resources can rapidly dwindle and this can send things into a bitter downward spiral.
As the story progressed I certainly appreciated the unique perspective you get playing from the viewpoint of a humble worker as the soldiers yelled at me to work harder so they would have what they needed to fight on. It’s a worthy reminder that the burdens of civilians in war can often be just as weighty as those placed on the soldiers.
The developers kindly provided me with a guide, but I decided to play through without it, wanting to have a raw playthrough where I’d face the full challenge, and I may have gotten more than I bargained for!
Even with a guide though, I believe I would have struggled only a little less, as the scarcity of food and supplies becomes increasingly grim as things progress, and it seems this is intentionally so. It’s called Siege Survival, after all, and the objective is not to conquer or build a great city, but merely to get through each day alive. This forces some often cruel choices as you’ll have to choose whether to continue feeding your pigs and chickens (who produce fertilizer and eggs respectively) or to butcher them to save on food and gain a little meat to last a few more days.
The situation seemed increasingly dire and I may very well need to play through again from the start having learned some brutal lessons to achieve more success. Despite being cruel and unforgiving, Siege Survival: Gloria Victis did intrigue me with its unique survivalist premise. I’m looking forward to seeing how this downtrodden peasant simulator progresses in the future.