Dawn of Man uses strategy and city-building mechanics to create something addictive and truly brilliant. You follow a civilisation of people existing from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, with an aim to help them survive. Innovation and careful planning are the keys to survival. Let’s talk about this mammoth game.
At first glance, I didn’t think the game looked very impressive. In fact, the overall aesthetic of the game is quite ugly. However, if you take the time to study the finer details of your environment, the animations of village life are interesting. The textures are not the cleanest I’ve ever seen but you can still tell that a fish is a fish and grain is grain. Your people will eat, cut down wood, craft and live with individual animations for each action.
The tutorial is extremely helpful in ensuring you learn the ropes. Although, some techniques to do with management will need to be explored during your own playthrough. You will be mentored on how to assign work areas, change the game speed and monitor the workload of your people.
You can pick from several scenarios that place you in a vast and material abundant world. Each scenario has milestones you will need to achieve to unlock further scenarios. These add an element of challenge to the game and it becomes almost obsessive trying to complete all milestones. From simple tasks such as building certain monuments to more difficult tasks like increasing the population, you will be subtly prompted to an efficient way to play.
Don’t worry, if you aren’t so keen on challenges there is also a creative mode where you can run rampage without the pressure of the milestones. You will also have a choice of the age you start in.
So… enough chit chat. Let’s get into the game itself!
Dawn of Man uses ‘Tech’ points to upgrade the technology of the time. These points are important because they allow you to gain something useful for your camp. For example: Using your tech points to discover the wheel allows you to make carts which makes transporting much easier. Although every playthrough will be exciting and allow you to experiment on the most effective way to expand your camp, the first playthrough is so rewarding. Traveling through the ages and uncovering certain innovative ideas for the first time is exciting and learning their uses even more so.
Everything you build depends on the number of resources you have available to you. The game is brilliant at ensuring you know what materials the building needs so you can prioritise the workload. You can even upgrade as you move throughout the ages – for example – with the development of masonry you can build roundhouses.
The management system for your people can be confusing at first but through trial and error, you will become a seasoned pro. The game gives you a tonne of stats from productivity to the breakdown of your animals. At first, the mechanics can seem overwhelming and I found that I tended to lose track of what I was wanting to accomplish very quickly. However, using the task menu and primal vision is most effective in keeping track of your villagers. My first camp was a disaster and half my population died from starvation so don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the hang of it straight away.
You will need to contend with the elements during your year on year cycle. The game has each season and the environment changes depending on this. This concept extends to the clothing you give to your villagers, ensuring that the appropriate weather-resistant gear is crafted for when it is needed. Storms are also a major occurrence during the game and your villagers WILL be struck by lightning if you aren’t careful. Ultimately your people will carry on their day to day whatever the weather but may die of hypothermia if not dressed properly.
Using the environment to survive is key. There is an abundance of animals located around the map that you can hunt. Using primal vision, you can see which ones will be easy to hunt and which ones will take more resources. The likes of mammoths and wholly rhinos will appear to be red meaning you should get several people together before you start to hunt. Animals such as deer will appear in the vision as green, generally indicating that it may only take one or two people to hunt. However, the risk is usually worth it for the reward. Mammoths yield a lot more meat than deer.
Interestingly, as you progress through the different ages, the animals will become extinct and new ones will appear. The level of realism is excellent, and I would even place Dawn of Man into a simulation genre.
I won’t lie and pretend the villagers aren’t needy as heck because… they are. Yet, we must feel slightly sorry for them as they do our every bidding. Not only can they die from hypothermia or starvation, but they can also contract diseases. This extends to your animals and crops as well. The realism is cruel but necessary to give you that ‘what next’ feeling.
Materials will also show up using Primal Vision which is helpful when you have exhausted an area of resource because it will show you where your next area to use is. You will be able to obtain flint, sticks, logs, fish, mud and all sorts of vital materials needed to build and expand your camp. You can set limits for your animals and work areas so that things do not get overwhelming. The trouble comes when separating your population to ensure everything can be farmed. However, keeping an eye on the workload is key because your villagers will no longer prioritise their tasks. Adults can, of course, do most of the leg work, but you can also use the children to complete more simple tasks such as: collecting berries, finding sticks and general fetch quests.
You will encounter various other groups within the world such as raiders and traders. Raiders will attack your camp with no mercy, so it is best to have the majority, if not all, your villagers equipped with some sort of weapon. You will receive a notification when they are near so you can prepare your camp. Traders will also visit your village with several different wears that change as your game travels through the ages. Even more fascinating is that the trader will use the technology as you upgrade it. One visit they may be using a sledge and once you have progressed through the ages, they will turn up with a cart and donkey. You do not have a currency, instead, a trading system is used where each item has a value and you trade materials or items to that value. The trader saved my life many times when I was low on food or clothing. They may even turn up one day with a skill that you would usually gain through using a tech point. However, these can be quite expensive, so you need to ensure you have valuable materials to trade.
My current playtime stands at 22 hours and I am still on the first scenario. I’ve had half my population starve to death. During another playthrough, half of them were killed by raiders. During ANOTHER playthrough my entire village was taken over my goats, they reproduce at an alarming rate.