Dawn of Man is a city builder game themed around the earliest days of man. You start with a small group capable of little more than picking up sticks and rocks, fighting off wild animals, and progress until the discovery of iron and steel. In many ways it’s a ‘traditional’ city sims ala Banished or Forest Village, but its early-man theme shines in key spots.
Graphically and technically Dawn is solid. The game looks and sounds good, and I’ve yet to had it crash or experience a major bug (I had a person get stuck between a rock and a wall they build and starve to death once). Another nice thing is the game loads up extremely fast, which I always appreciate. The game was in Early Access, but is now ‘out’, and still getting updates. So far the game does not have DLC.
As mentioned, you start the game with a few humans in the Paleolithic era. At this stage you are using wood or stone tools, and can’t build much beyond housing, basic storage, and a crafter to make replacement wood/stone tools. In this age you can unlock bone tools, slings, the ability to dry raw meat/fish into cured items, the ability to tame dogs to assist with hunting, and a totem to make people happy when they go worship.
You can’t farm, you can’t mine, and you really can’t do much beyond survive short-term. In this way the game perfectly captures what early life would have been like. Also because you only have such primitive tools, hunting can be dangerous. Animals that run rather than fight are optimal, but even that results in the animal escaping and you wasting your time. If you attack something larger, or it attacks you because its hungry, you might lose someone, or they might get injured enough that they need to recover. But you must hunt as you need the meat, leather, and bones for production.
You earn technology points by accomplishing things (think Achievements) like hunting an animal for the first time, collecting 10 of an item, or reaching a certain population. These points are spend in the tech tree, unlocking new items or capabilities. This is also how you advance into different ages, with the second being Mesolothic, then Neolithic, Copper Age, Bronze Age, and finally Iron Age.
As you advance, life for your people changes. Early on you hunt and gather to survive, and the world is more dangerous to you than you are to it. You can’t hunt every animal, or can’t chop down trees, or even remove larger piles of stone. But as you progress, you unlock these things, and life gets easier. Or more complex. Production chains get longer, things start requiring more materials and upkeep, and a larger population is require to keep it all going.
The biggest change to life is unlocking farming and domesticating animals (goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, donkeys, horses). Once this happens you transition from gathering to feed people to growing what you need. It’s a more consistent supply of food, and frees up your people to work on other things. But it is also at this time that human raiders start attacking, and defending what you have is no longer about the occasional hungry wolf or bear. Combat in Dawn of Man is fairly basic, but its ‘good enough’ right now to accomplish its task; the occasional interruption that must be dealt with, and one that can seriously interrupt your plans.
Dawn of Man is a more relaxed city builder than a game like Banished, where the death spiral can hit quickly and be fatal. That’s not to say Dawn is ‘easy’ or boring, but it is a bit more forgiving. I won (accomplished each major achievement) the first scenario I played on Normal difficulty, and my second scenario, on a map that has longer winters, on Hardcore difficulty (no pause, no multi-saves) is going well. There is a third scenario, one that looks more focused on combat, that I have yet to try.
With its solid theme and overall enjoyable gameplay, Dawn of Man is a great buy if you enjoy city sims.