Ep. 03 - Siege Survival: Gloria Victis
Gloria Victis, an MMORPG that just (Feb 2023) came out of early access after 6 years , spawned a single player survival builder game with management and stealth parts. Yes! That is what I call a genre mix. The question that I had was, did they pull it off? They did, mostly. Here is what I learned from Gloria Victis: Siege Survival.
The dreadfulness of it all, the hopelessness of the situation and the rain. The dastardly rain. They do create an atmosphere quite like I could imagine being inside a medieval castle during a siege could feel like. Most dreadful. The Atmosphere works, for the most part. Some of the game's mechanics go into creating atmosphere while others go into a very gamey sort of direction. Timed crafting bars for example. But I am getting ahead of myself. Gloria Victis starts with you being in control of the fate and future of one single young person who somehow survived the initial attack on the city he lived in. A mix of a short cutscene and some introductory text with some choices set up your game. And so the challenge begins!
Our main character ended up in the bastion of a castle that is now being besieged by a faction called ‘the Ismirs’. After you manage to get yourself setup with a place to sleep, you realise that you will have to sneak into the besieged town at night to gather resources to survive and also help the remaining soldiers with food and water and such. They constantly urge you to deliver all of that support: Food! Arrows! Bandages! Stuff and things! Very stressful survival business that is.
To make managing all those tasks possible, the game offers different game speeds and a pause mode, which is a great help, since at first the games’ building and crafting mechanics are not very intuitive. Time management being on of the core concepts in this game. You start your character on a task, a bar appears, showing the progress and then you wait. While you wait, you check your resource storage and your next options of making survival just a bit more probable.
Then comes the night time, where you decide what you need to do to survive: Sneak into the town to scavenge resources? Scout for the enemies movements and report to the soldiers? Sleep in a bed to just survive it all? Your choice! Should you decide to sneak out during the night, you lose the ability to pause the game and have a real-time, top-down stealth game in front of you. You have until dawn to grab as many resources as you can (limited by your very tiny, but surprisingly wide pockets), while you avoid making noise or getting noticed by the enemy soldiers in general. They are patrolling the city, doing their usual pillaging and killing, very evil all of it I am sure! Come daylight you get a warning that you really need to go back and hurry into your secret tunnel entrance that leads back to the relative safety of the bastion.
And now, a third layer to the game, at the start of the day you (sometimes) encounter an event. It could be that the enemy is laying siege to the bastion, which can affect you directly and other times indirectly. Without giving away too much: There are some scripted and some random events in addition to the probability of being besieged and attacked by enemy soldiers. However, you don't fight them off yourself, you are not a soldier after all. You do try your best though, to supply the defending forces with all sorts of items that you, hopefully, managed to craft during your daytime. And that is how the core gameplay loop works: Daytime routine: Eat, drink, craft and build, repair, prepare and help the soldiers. Night time management (+ probable stealthy scavenging). Event and/or Encounter. Next Day. Repeat.
And here an issue becomes apparent that jumped at me during the first 1-2 hours of gameplay: You do not really have many choices at first. It is absolutely mandatory to get more resources. Lots of moves need to be made, things need to be crafted. No choice at all! This might put players off I am afraid. It nearly also did put me off, but then I realised that the game offers exactly what the setting suggests. The needs are dire! You have no choice! The situation is hopeless and you can only try to do all the necessary things and maybe, just maybe make it another day. To give the game some gameplay value though, nobody would enjoy a certain death simulator where you are entirely without chance to progress, improve and win, help does arrive! Might have been that I was looking into the wrong corners of the city or was just unlucky, but it took me a while until I encountered it for the first time.
The help arrives in the form of, minor spoiler, other people that join your efforts in the Bastion. That changes the game into what really makes it a fun sort of management, survival and stealth mix. As far as I can tell from my single playthrough, you can meet different people who join your cause, depending on how you go about exploring the besieged city in your nightly adventures and some other decisions you make. Each Person has different strengths and weaknesses, but they all do contribute to the efforts of surviving the siege.
As soon as you get to that part of the game, it becomes a struggle towards something instead of a hopeless drifting into a certain death. The game still suffers from being a tiny bit limited in its scope in regards to the crafting and resource management and it also lacks a bit of depth in contrast of what could have been done with the setting and the framework, but is fine as it is. I do not need every game to be an open world kind of time sink, with a map as big as 2.4 times the surface of mars.
It is not an open, sandbox kind of game, but it is also not 100% linear. Randomness has a decent place in the gameplay and getting another crafting station ready feels like a powerful step forward, like having achieved a crucial step towards survival. Of course, the siege is taking its toll as well, there is a constant crisis to manage, you can be thrown back a few steps in your efforts to rebuild and reorganise. But then again, that is the whole point of the game. Large replay value would come with a randomised city map, which is sadly not the case, but there are some other stories to discover and community created content that I have not tested.
In its entirety, Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is a very decent addition to the genre of survival games and it does pull off its daring mix of genres rather well. Personally, I am happy that it did not put the ‘open’ tag into the mix as well, it would not have been as enjoyable a game I am sure. I do, however, strongly recommend watching some gameplay to make sure you know what you are getting into. Surviving a Siege is not for everyone.