Bellwright Early Access Preview

Bellwright Early Access Preview

Fans of survival games are eating really well the last few months. Nightingale, Manor Lords, Soulmask are all released or soon coming, but the one I’ve most had my eye on is Bellwright, for myriad reasons. At first it seemed like a more complex Medieval Dynasty, which excited me greatly. Then it seemed like a modern Mount & Blade, which sounded awesome too. It’s human nature to look for similarities and patterns, so it’s hard to get past saying some games are similar to another. Bellwright definitely shares similarities, but it’s got its own personality.

Before I start talking about the game, there’s a hidden thing that needs to be spoken about. Donkey Crew, the development studio behind Bellwright have a bit of a history of unfinished games behind them. I’m not across the specifics, and I’m not here to speculate, but this is the same company who made Of Knights and Men and Last Oasis, two games that left players wanting more when development on them was finished; much before their full realisation. I’m not here to call people out or to heavily comment. This is just the inherent risk you are taking right now, but this could also be said of many Early Access games.

A quick lesson you’ll learn when playing Bellwright is that you really need to manage people. Not in the “set people to do a job and constantly micromanage them” way, but in the “I need to rely on other people and not myself” way. People are at the centre of this game, and they’re decent at doing their own thing. You can set priorities for tasks you wish completed, but people will generally manage themselves. The management doesn’t exist in a vacuum either. It has a purpose, an objective. It’s a machine that is constantly doing something. This is one of the huge problems I had with Medieval Dynasty, where people would just shut down if they didn’t have tools or if the seasons changed and their task didn’t happen in the new season. Bellwright is smarter than that, and it needs to be. It’s still a bit of a clunky system, but I’m sure it’ll improve with time and feedback.

The bigger your settlement gets, the more people take notice of you. Raids will start to happen on your villages, which you’ll get a days notice for. You can have more than one village, so this can cause you to make a mad dash across the world to defend a settlement. Again, no one man is an island here, so you’ll have to bring some of your villages as a militia to defend. I actually quite enjoyed this system, even if the combat didn’t really resonate with me. It feels very cumbersome to fight, with directional attacks for each weapon. I actually think it’s probably the same thing that happens with Kingdom Come: Deliverance where it gets a lot better with levelling up. Right now I’m still terrible with it, so take my criticisms here with a grain of salt. The raids themselves can be reduced in difficulty or turned off completely, so that’s a nice touch.

Liberating villages turns them into an outpost for your main town. Generally speaking, you raise trust with villagers so they let you build a bell tower, crush the bandits defending the town, then crush them again when you have taken the town and they come to take their revenge. You’ll be doing a lot of the combat anyway, so you get a bit used to having a private militia with you just in case you run into something that wishes you harm.

There’s a story to this game too. It’s fairly standard, tyrannical leader is bad so you’re trying to overthrow them. Doesn’t have to set the world on fire, it’s just a goal to aim for long term. Quests will also be dotted around the map, so there’s more to do than just collecting and building. This will also no doubt be extended upon during the early access period.

I haven’t dived completely into the crafting and research system yet, but what I’ve seen so far I’m impressed with. Villagers complete buildings when you’re gone if they have materials. This is great! Once I went out to hunt for some meat and skins alone, and when I’d come back all of the buildings were completed. Really nice feeling, and adds to the immersion.

I think Bellwright is shaping up quite nicely. If the momentum keeps going as it has so far, this will be a really great title. It’s not without its criticisms early on, AI voicing of villagers among them, but this could be a really interesting title. Hell, it’s even worth the purchase now if you’re willing to take the plunge.

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