Medieval Engineers released on Steam Early access this week, and while it’s still in a very early Beta state, it’s already a blast to play. This first stage of early access meant to focus on the core building and destruction mechanics of the game, and that’s exactly what it does. There are clearly some Beta-related issues, but there is something to be said about being given the ability to throw cannonball after cannonball at a huge castle until it crumbles before you.
And by throw cannonball I mean literally, throw cannonball. In case you were worried, you don’t need to be able to build a catapult or some other complicated device to throw things at structures. One of the items you get in creative mode to start is a “Projectile.” By holding your left mouse button you throw it, and the longer you hold the harder you throw. Don’t be surprised if you start to see maps popping up that put you in some kind of target practice game using this mechanic.
The decision to include pre-made maps is a great one on the side of the developers. If you’re like me and can’t even build a proper house in Minecraft that is anything but a square, you will almost certainly appreciate it too. There are the usual small terrain, normal terrain, and large terrain maps, but a few others are thrown in as well. You’ll be able to hop right into a map that features bridges you can test out destruction on, one with a large castle just waiting to be reduced to rubble, and one with a few houses you can raze.
I can’t understate just how satisfying destruction is in the game. Walls will slowly chip away until they finally crumble, and hitting that perfect spot to bring down a large tower never gets old. One immediate comparison that comes to mind is Red Faction: Armageddon. The levels of destruction are relatively the same, although a little more detailed in Medieval Engineers.
If you’re one of those who like to build, there is a lot for you to do already. Several dozen castle pieces are there that allow you to be as detailed as you want with your new home (including a windmill!). Stone walls, wooden rafters, roofs, and other little detail pieces such as barrels that you can scattered around your castle are all at your disposal to place where you’d like. And for anyone wishing to get really in depth with builds, the parts for a catapult are also present, although I haven’t yet tested to see if you can actually build one or not.
Building is refreshingly simple, considering the complexity of the structures you can erect. Unlike similar building games, you don’t have to worry so much about the terrain around your walls. Sliding a block into an uneven mountain will cause it to conform to the terrain perfectly. Not only does this make building on uneven ground super simple, but it sure does look nice.
The biggest issue with building at this point is structures randomly collapsing. It’s important to note, once again, that Medieval Engineers is in an early Beta phase, but I can’t seem to place windows very well – every time I do everything collapses around it. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but it certainly feels like a glitch whenever my walls randomly collapse around a window.
Luckily, clean-up from these mini-disasters is actually kind of fun. Another aspect of Medieval Engineers that isn’t explored as much in the Beta is maintaining. While there isn’t much of it at this point in the Beta, you do have to clean up your own messes in a way. When things collapse they leave behind rubble that you need to move out of the way before deleting the block around it. It’s a small little chore, but it makes it feel like you’re really maintaining a castle which is kind of neat.
As the game expands, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the online community and how it grows with it. There are a lot of different ways to interact with structures already, but the real test will be when more activities and multiplayer are implemented.
What is in the game right now, as fun as it all is, is pretty slim. With multiplayer and roaming NPC’s promised for later updates, it’s just you and only you building and destroying things in maps of varying sizes. If you’re hoping to pay $20 and jump into a completed game, Medieval Engineers is not quite there yet, but if you know you’re interested in where it is heading (especially if you played and enjoyed the developers other game, Space Engineers) and want to play around with some fun destruction, it’s well worth the price.
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