Dawn of Man is a survival and city builder from the creators of Planetbase. The similarities between the two are there, but Dawn of Man has managed to be its own game. Whether it is a unique concept or not is a different question entirely.
So what is Dawn of Man? Essentially it is an ‘early years’ city builder, starting all the way back in the stone age and finishing in the iron age. You start off with a basic settlement of humans and guide them through the many ages that follow. You then start unlocking different research technologies that those ages supported. For example, in the Neolithic age, you can unlock thatching and pottery.
The start of this game reminded me an awful lot like Banished. With the few of the humans in your settlement and a couple of tents already in place and a fire going, you have to find your feet yourself. Luckily there is a half decent tutorial that helps you get going, although it only shows you the very basics and lets you learn the rest yourself. The UI is very simple to use and it’s easy to go between building certain structures, viewing stats or seeing what resources you have. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is a very good looking UI and probably one that could have been developed better.
Once you’ve worked all those basics out, it’s time to get going with your civilization. You can select work areas for your people to gather sticks, get rocks, fish, hunt and collect flint, plus the opportunity to unlock more. Now this game is micromanagement at it’s finest. If you like it, then great. If not, then this game might not be for you. If you have an area you want your people to hunt in, they will stick to it. If you want them to hunt the boar 5 foot next to the area? Well, you’ll have to manually select them to hunt it. It’s very tedious in the stone age, but as you start moving through the ages you start becoming more autonomous. Much more so that all you end up doing nothing for long periods of time.
The good thing about Dawn of Man is the hunting and the number of creatures in the game. I’ve hunted cave lions, rhinos, mammoths, goats, bison, other things I can’t even pronounce and more. By hunting them you have a sustainable source of food and resources to help get you through your winters.
One of the features the game excels with is one called ‘Primal Vision’. When you click the ‘Primal Vision’ button, the game will pause and show you all available resources in a different color, as well as any animals in the area. What makes it so good is that it shows you how hard it is to hunt a creature. A goat, for example, would be green indicating it is an easy hunt. A mammoth, however, would be red indicating a harder hunt. If you do select the mammoth to hunt, the game will send more people to hunt it though. These colors are also based on how old the animal, so, for example, a young mammoth would be orange, showing it is an easier kill.
Dawn of Man is fairly easy with crafting. You can build a crafting tent at the beginning where your humans will go to craft clothes, weapons, and other resources. You can then choose how many of each you want made. For example winter clothes I put to 100% of the population to have, whereas fishing rods I only put to 25% of the population as they aren’t a necessity for everyone. You can do this with any resource and decide how much of each you want to be produced. As you move through the ages, the more resources can be produced too.
Once you’ve moved past the stone age, the game gets a bit more interesting rather than the tedious micromanaging it started off as. You can start unlocking defensive walls, farming plots, granaries, domestication of animals, sleds for transporting those raw materials and much more. I’ve still got some way to go yet to unlock all these technologies, but even by the third age, the game is a lot more fun.
Although Dawn of Man is enjoyable and is an easy city builder to play, there are a few negatives that come from it. As mentioned, one is the micromanagement factor. A lot of games these days the AI involved are intelligent. This is not of those games. A fellow camp mate getting mauled to death by a cave bear? Let’s just watch it. Run out of flint? Let’s wait until the person at the computer tells me to sort it. These problems are endless, as I said though, if you enjoy micromanagement, you will like this.
Another negative is the graphics. For me, Banished has much better graphics and that game was out 5 years ago. The humans in your camp rarely have differential features from one another, the tents they live in have zero differential features unless upgraded, and all the animals look the same as well. For a game released in 2019, this is a poor show of what can be accomplished in this day and age.
There are other niggly points as well which was disappointing. A person got killed by that bear again? Do you want to bury them in a cemetery? Well step forward, we have just the place, wait. No. Sorry. No cemeteries. They just disappear. That bear attacks another human, they want to kill it right? No. Just no. They get killed with no sign of self-defense. Do you want to increase morale from all these brutal killings from bears? Some kind of recreational activity? No. Let’s build a totem pole for you to pray at until the iron age! Yeah, it is a bit ridiculous.
Don’t get me wrong, what I’ve played of Dawn of Man is enjoyable. It is an okay city builder, and if you liked Planetbase or Banished then there is a very high chance that you will like what is on offer here. Is it better than either of those games? No. Is it a memorable game? No. Will I play it again? Probably not.