In the beginning, things were tough; very, very, tough. There wasn’t a Tesco Metro on every corner, there weren’t any hospitals full of amateur footballers on a Sunday afternoon. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken wasn’t an option, let alone the old bearded man’s secret recipe. See, early man had none of the luxuries that we have today. Life was cold, wet and full of loads of things that just wanted to kill you at every turn. In the new RTS game Dawn of Man, us lucky yet ungrateful millennials get to experience what it was like to go hunting and foraging, and how to stay alive in a world of danger. Can we live up to the challenge?
There are several options to start with when first embarking on some time with Dawn of Man, but it’s certainly best to start with the tutorial. The game is a real-time strategy affair that puts you in charge of a group of Stone Age settlers, dropped in on a map of your choosing. You’ll start each game with a couple of tents and a fireplace, and then it’s up to you to try to work out how to survive the harsh times ahead.
Like in all great strategy titles, locating and gathering resources is very much key. One of the first things to do is to gather flint and sticks, and when you have enough of these you can then create some buildings; the most useful one to start with is a crafter area. Here you can start to build weapons and with these go hunting with some weight behind you. Whether that hunting takes place by seeing your guys fishing in the local river or taking down a small deer or boar matters little – they’ll have to hunt. There are bigger animals out there too – like the mammoth – but to take that down you’re going to need more than just one man and a bit of knowledge.
The more time you put into Dawn of Man, the more experience you gain and additional settlers will arrive, especially as you go about creating bigger buildings and make use of the variety of tools on offer like food dryers and storage units. And as you progress you’ll discover the movement from the Stone to Iron Age, with a ton more goodies on offer. I don’t want to spoil the things you can build because there is a massive wealth of options that become available and the more creative amongst you will be building metropolitan-type villages in no time at all. As always with a game of this type though, the big question on many console owners’ tongues is how well does the UI translate in the move from PC to console. Well mostly it’s good, but there are a few tiny bits that are a struggle.
Dawn of Man on Xbox One takes a bit of getting used to, but when things click in terms of the UI, it all becomes second nature. There are handy interfaces to play around with, like work placement areas whereby you design a specific task for a certain area. For example, if there is a spot with an abundance of flint, drawing a circle over that area and sending off your clan members will see it mined till it runs dry. You can also allocate those same group commands to a crafting material so that villagers will keep working away and producing the goods without your constant supervision. All this helps with the immersion of Dawn of Man, but things do take time. Thankfully there is the option to forward time at speed so that actions are completed faster and the whole experience doesn’t drain into a grind. You’ll want to be careful though because when things go wrong they go wrong quickly, and you need to keep your eye on proceedings to avoid disaster.
As you progress through the business of survival, Dawn of Man provides knowledge points; for example one given for your first successful hunt. You can spend these points on a variety of things, like new tech, horse-drawn equipment or guard towers that protect against local raiders wanting to come in to murder and pillage. It’s a great system and ensures that you will be playing this game for a decent old while, attempting to unlock everything and build the best society.
For those who become fanatics of Dawn of Man, then there is even the option to play across a hardcore single-player mode, where everything is trying to kill you even more than before, limiting your saves and the like. Nicely there are challenge modes in place as well, putting you into the world with several different scenarios in place, left to hit targets and objectives. It’s a neat addition that gives the game plenty more hours of fun to the already pretty lengthy process.
It has to be said that Dawn of Man doesn’t particularly look like anything special in terms of the visuals, but as you start to play the level of detail in each man, woman, child and animal you encounter is deep. When I lost an individual to hunger or war, I felt a sense of sadness, mostly because there is the ability to zoom in and follow these guys from birth to death: you’ll start to think of these guys as your extended family. But, for all the detail, the menus – while useful and precise – are at times a bit too small in the text department, and you’ll be left straining the eyes to be able to take in everything required. I do however seem to find that a problem with many console ports of PC games, and it is no different here. The sound is decent though with some great effects and atmospheric noises that fit right in with the gameplay itself.
Overall and Dawn of Man on Xbox One is a strong entry into the RTS console market. Like all great games of this type, there are hours and hours of gameplay to be found within, not to mention the extra challenges on offer and specific hardcore option for the lunatics. What I love about games like this though is that you can easily create your own personal narratives with every single playthrough rather than being delivered a set story or campaign. You can follow and get attached to an individual or use them as slaves if you want to be thought of as some omnipotent god, and with Dawn of Man there are moments of tragedy, triumph and many things in between. It helps that the UI – when you get used to it – is excellent and setting automatic jobs in certain production areas is a stroke of genius. Even though the text is a struggle, it doesn’t really matter too much because the overall experience provides plenty of fun times.