I remember playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2 five, maybe six, years back. The ability to destroy buildings and cover was a revelation. At the time, I was convinced it was the next big feature and that I’d be romping through mostly destructible worlds within a year or two. Sad to say, it did not turn out to be true. My ability to predict the future has once again been foiled. Maybe next time. Maybe it’s the fact that tailored experiences have been the order of the day over the last few years. Maybe it’s deemed to system intensive to implement. I really don’t know.
What I do know is that Medieval Engineers has the engine I have been waiting for, even while still being in early access testing. When I fired up the game for the first time I had not done much more than watched the teaser video and a few short YouTube clips. Let me say this more or less up front. The game is at this point simply a sandbox that lets you play around with their physics engine by building (and yes, destroying) medieval themed buildings and building basic physics based objects like a draw bridge. If you’re looking for a fully realized, high definition Minecraft with physics based weaponry – the vibe one might get from their teaser video – then it is not there yet.
But, what is there is pretty impressive for what it is. I imagine that I will not soon tire of watching buildings crumble under their own weight. But beyond that, the basic systems in place for building are on display and work well. Although I did not find the system particularly intuitive, I did find that I was able to get off the ground and building simple structures before too long. A word to the wise: take the 15 minutes and watch the tutorial video they link you to on YouTube. After a crash course in medieval engineering, I was able to build slightly more complex buildings. You can also copy and paste elements fairly easily in this sandbox mode, which means you can populate the map with buildings quickly if you want to. The real fun – for me at least – comes when I, much like a child on the beach who just saw their sibling finishing building a meticulous sand castle, proceeded to destroy everything without mercy. A convenient set of projectiles in the form of stone balls can be selected from your action ball and hurled at high (or low) speeds at whatever you’ve created.
A voxel brush also allows you to paint new terrain in the world easily. There isn’t much reason right now, but the ability to change the landscape is available. With luck, gameplay elements will emerge from this mechanic. But then, that summarizes most of my feelings about what Medieval Engineers currently is. A great engine and a great idea. My hope is that before long this evolves into what is also a great game. If you are someone who likes to build sand castles and destroy them, you can probably already get a fair amount of enjoyment out of Medieval Engineers. But if you are looking for a game, one that lets you defend those castles against other players, one that asks you to build those structures over time and collect resources, it just is not there at present. As an alpha, that is not a damning assessment, but it is the current state of the game.
For that reason, I have to cut my preview short. There just is not enough there at the moment. As I have described, I really like what is there. They’ve done a good job setting the stage for what I hope will be a good game. But this calls for a Part II – which I will write when more gameplay elements emerge from the still relatively unformed clay that is the Medieval Engineers early access. I will also include a gameplay video at that time as there isn’t all that much to show this time around. For now, keep an eye on the Medieval Engineers early access on Steam and check back here for Part II of this hands-on in the future.
Postscript: After writing this preview, a new patch has just been released with “barbarians” that will spawn into the map with the goal of destroying any King Statute they come across. This does provide at least some element of gameplay. After trying it out briefly it does add something to the game, but the feeling I get is that it is a feature patched in quickly to help stifle the poor feedback that they were receiving of the lack of gameplay. To their credit, it is something, but it is not a game changer. For my part, the promise of the engine and the fact that they have been releasing regular, small, updates is enough to keep my interest piqued.
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