Review: Siege Survival: Gloria Victis
Reviewed on: PC
For better or worse, Siege Survival: Gloria Victis feels like a game from a generation or two ago.
The original Gloria Victis, a medieval MMORPG that ditched the fantasy elements of its competitors for medieval European siege combat, came out 5 years ago now in 2016. On playing its new stealth-strategy-survival hybrid spin-off, it feels like little has changed since. Despite the change in genre from a combat MMO to a top-down strategic affair, assets feel grubby and dated and animations, when actions have them, appear stilted.
The core gameplay here is of course different to its action-oriented counterpart. Rather than swinging axes in first and third person, this is a more sedate affair. Controlling at first one, and then multiple castle dwelling medieval characters under siege from enemy invaders you spend the daytime pointing them towards crafting tables and workshops to build and expand and spend the night portions of the game sneaking around the exterior of the castle, avoiding guards and stealing resources to build with when the sun comes up
In theory, this is a pretty solid gameplay loop of ever-increasing resource needs in the daytime and ever more dangerous expeditions at night with better and better resources. Survival games abound right now, but few in this setting or with such clearly defined phases. If nothing else, Siege Survival feels unique. It's not too dissimilar to This War of Mine, which also took the same approach to portray people under siege, scrabbling to survive. There, with tighter controls, a clearer interface and more personal attachment to its characters through clearer story events, the stress of the game worked to make you feel real sympathy for their situation. Here, with a clunky UI, zero voice acting and fairly boring story interstitials when they rarely appear, it feels hollow.
It also feels slow. Interminably slow. Even sped up with the game's time controls crafting and upgrading takes forever. While this is tense in the night portions of the game where guards approach, it's incredibly dull in the day when you have nothing to do but sit and watch a man crouch and jitter over a tiny fire. Making your character slow may sound great for a stealth game where you need to strategize your movements, but in reality, it makes the nighttime sections less fun as you trudge step by slow step towards yet more piles of wood and cloth. Even when enemies appear, your characters rarely have the speed to quickly evade them and combat, when it happens, is just a case of watching two very similarly dressed soldiers swing axes at each other until whoever has the smaller axe keels over.
The speed isn't just an issue on the micro-level either. The game takes a long time to get going and offers little guidance. It feels like developer Black Eye Games are banking on the fanbase from the established MMO understanding the dour tone and slow pace as part and parcel of the franchise. However, the sheer lack of immediacy or action downplays that somewhat. Where the MMO of Gloria Victis is, at least from what I can tell from trailers, focused on getting into the thick of battle, here in Siege Survival you are ... surviving a siege. There's no heroics here and little action. It's not immediately gratifying in the way it should be, strategically in-depth enough to keep attention for long, or broad in scope enough that you could take this medieval siege and make it your own.
Perhaps there is a reason why survival games about ordinary people surviving horrible warzones are rarely attempted, and when they are it's often to make a point about how miserable the experience is. Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is certainly interesting, and perhaps with more polish could be something worth sinking the required hours into to get something out of it. For now, it's difficult to recommend to those not already enmeshed in the Gloria Victis eco-system.