Keen Software House has come crashing down to Earth, it seems. Hot off the heels of their success with Space Engineers, the studio has taken a decidedly different approach to its next game. Yes, they’ve swapped the dark, lonely nothingness of outer space for the green and pleasant fields on Terra Firma. And whilst the core gameplay of Medieval Engineers is, in essence, no different from Space Engineers – build stuff, destroy stuff – it goes that extra mile to engross you in its twee setting. Medieval Engineers, like Space Engineers before it, launched as an Early Access title with a solid amount of content, and whilst its current incarnation only lets you build stuff just to knock it down, it gives an exciting glimpse at the possible shape the game might take in the future.
Before you can indulge in senseless destruction you’ve got to build something first and, even at this early stage, the creation tools on offer are surprisingly slick. You can choose from a different number of fields to start out in, be it a rocky hill terrain, or a plain with a castle town already in it. Building your own castles using the various building blocks available to you is a cinch, and the auto-snap grid means that you will line everything up correctly – almost every time! I say “almost” because, at present it can be a real pain the undersatchel to line up floor panels. That’s before I have even touched on the terraforming tools.
So, you’ve started building that ridiculously oversized mountain fortress and want to even out the ground a little, well it isn’t going to be that easy. Terraforming, in theory, should be easy: you pick your brush shape, give it a width, height and depth, and can set about adding or subtracting ground blocks to the scene. There’s a bit of an art to it though, meaning you need a steady hand to keep things smooth – otherwise you end up with ground that has the texture of artex. Indeed, my inability to use the tool effectively saw me creating underground caverns that had an eerily beautiful quality to them, but I couldn’t get out! Hopefully, future releases will see these tools tweaked a bit for people like myself (idiots, basically).
You needn’t build alone, either! Get a buddy or two in on the action and you’ll be up and running with a serviceable castle in no time; the system really is just that astonishingly easy to use. Think of it like minecraft where each block looks different and has different properties – except they aren’t cubes, of course. There are all sorts of different blocks at your disposal, from round-edged walls for turrets, battlement attachments, and windmill blades for the show-offs.
Humans will be human and it’s in our nature to tear down and destroy, and Medieval Engineers has you well covered in that department. Technical dunces like myself can equip small and large cannonballs to their hotbar and let rip a volley of shots on their structures, watching them crumble to the ground in a cloud of smoke and dust. There’s a perverse pleasure to be had in seeing your time-consuming efforts reduced to nought but rubble within a few minutes, a feeling which is amplified by the warming celtic soundtrack that plays throughout. It’s a highly incongruous matchup, but also very enjoyable. You can further amplify the destruction by kicking your map’s maximum fracture pieces all the way to the top – your PC won’t thank you for it, but it sure as hell looks amazing! If you have the technical cojones to create catapults, trebuchets and other machines of war you can also set your mind free to think up the most dastardly creations it can. When you are done you can upload them to the Steam Workshop for others to enjoy – a feature that will no doubt become inundated with cool items I only wish I had the skills to create.
There is so much untapped potential waiting to come out of Medieval Engineers that it’s difficult to see what form the final game will take. Keen have recently released an update featuring barbarians so who knows, maybe we will see a full-on medieval war simulator, with massive castle-vs-castle battles? I’ll see you all there when I manage to get out of this damn hole!