Siege Survival: Gloria Victis is an unusual game. It is a mix between strategy, survival, and stealth. While these elements may have felt disjointed in other games, thanks to Siege Survival’s consistent atmosphere and single core objective, the game manages to give those who play it a good challenge along with conveying the depressing realities of what a war of attrition entails.
This is a review coupled with a supplemental video review. You can watch the video review or read the full review of the game below.
Siege Survival: Gloria Victis
Developer: Black Eye Games, Fish Tank Studio
Platforms: Windows PC (reviewed)
Release Date: May 18th, 2021
Price: $19.99 USD
After a short intro sequence showing your city being attacked, the game’s campaign starts by allowing the player to choose important story elements. This includes deciding who your soldiers protect but also determines what the enemy does. It gives the game more personality than the generic starting scenario selector you often find in strategy games.
This affects the game in subtle ways and helps promote replayability. It’s a cool idea and I would love to see other games adopt this feature. You are then dropped into the castle’s stronghold as you go through a small tutorial explaining how the game works.
The game is split between two distinct locations and gameplay styles. The castle stronghold and the city. During the day, the player controls up to 4 characters within the castle’s walls, managing resources, constructing and upgrading buildings, taking care of livestock, growing food and building equipment needed by both you and the soldiers defending the castle.
During the night the player picks one of their characters to journey into the city in search for the resources you will use back at the castle. This part is reliant on your ability to stay hidden, prioritize the right resources and understand proper risk management.
While each of the game’s two halves might be considered shallow compared to other strategy or stealth games, it is how victus combines these two elements that allow the game to shine.
Gloria Victis is a punishing game, definitely made for players who not only want a challenge, but also don’t mind replaying large parts to get things right. My first playthrough was definitely a learning experience. While the main goal of the game is to drive back the invaders ravaging your city, as the player you don’t do this directly, instead your main goal is to send resources to the city’s soldiers so they can win battles for you. This is easier said than done because not only do you have to keep your soldiers well fed, well armed and bandaged if they get hurt, you must also do the same for the characters you are controlling as well.
The player is constantly making decisions about who should get what. If I am low on water should it go to the soldiers or to my workers? Who should receive food or bandages? Even your livestock need to be properly fed. This takes resources away from your men or women in the hopes of getting eggs or manure in the future.
During my first playthrough I was barely able to keep my characters from starving to death. This was due to a few mistakes I made early on. At night I wasn’t strategic with what resources I was scavenging. I also made the mistake of inviting too many citizens to my castle early on. Even though I only had the infrastructure to feed a few soldiers and two workers, I had 4 workers in the castle all using up resources that I didn’t have enough of. To make matters worse, getting seen during the night sections of Victus results in more guards being stationed near where you were found the next few nights which only increases the chances of you being seen again.
The player can use resources to construct torches and shovels to unlock passage ways to other parts of the city and thus make it harder to be seen. Sadly for me all of my resources were instead going towards feeding my workers rather than feeding my livestock or sending my soldiers resources. Eventually I decided to just slaughter my livestock in hopes of both saving resources and collecting what little meat I could from them, but once your livestock are dead, they are dead for good, meaning you will have to say goodbye to future eggs. Suffice to say this play through resulted in a slow and painful defeat.
I made the decision to restart the game, a big deal because I was 6 hours into my last one. This time investing in early upgrades that would guarantee I would have plenty of food and water. I also made sure to only have two workers for the first 10 days of my 2nd play through. This resulted in my two workers working themselves to exhaustion every day but meant that not only could I feed them and my soldiers, I could invest resources into unlocking more parts of the city which in turn gave me more strategic options for where to scavenge.
While not being very large, Gloria Victis’s city has a lot of personality to it. Resources are located logically based on what city district they are in, the map is designed well allowing the player to traverse it in many different ways. This is important in case you get caught too many times in one area and need to find an alternate route.
The city is also filled with events. These events often give you both moral and logical choices to make. Depending on which character you brought to the city and the state they are in you can succeed or fail a certain event.
Hidden throughout the city are also traders and passageways. As the name implies, traders allow you to trade resources for others while finding passage ways allows the player to start the night from a different part of the city.
Combat is definitely not the main focus of this game though it does exist in Gloria Victis. At night you can make the decision to attack guards, though I generally advise against it because dead guards lead to tighter security. There are also the combat sections during the game’s castle segments.
During these events the enemy will fling one of three types of projectiles at you. Rocks which can destroy the things they land on but can be scavenged for resources, fire arrows which catch buildings ablaze, and rotting cows which will cause characters to get sick if they walk through them.
The player can fight back however, both through the soldiers you have been sending resources to the entire game which include food, water, armor and weapons as well as by building a trebuchet. The trebuchet is powerful in that it allows you to directly harm your attackers but requires you to maintain it and go into the city to fill up tar pots for ammunition.
In a way, this game reminds me more of other depressing games like those in the souls series or the cult classic I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream than it does most traditional strategy games. I know that sounds weird but the game does everything in its power to really have you feel the despair of what it must have been like to live through a city siege during the Middle Ages.
This is enforced through Gloria Victis’s writing and music. While the story of Siege Survival is brief, it gets the job done. It’s main priority is informing the player about the state their city is in, character’s strengths and weaknesses and giving the survivors and soldiers of this city just enough depth to motivate you to want to protect it.
In this way the story is mainly concerned with relaying the player information important to the gameplay rather than getting you engrossed in the game’s world. Likewise the music is scant but mainly exists to help enforce the feeling of despair that it has going for it.
The story and music come together to mentally put the player in a state of hopelessness which perfectly fits the gameplay. Even when I am doing well in this game I have to keep on my toes. You are always a day away from death. Whether it be starvation, sickness or wounds. This led my brain to always running a mile a minute.
During the day I am thinking about what resources I need to collect at night and at night I am thinking about how to put these resources to good use during the day. This is why when you are confronted with a moral dilemma in this game, it actually is a dilemma. Sometimes allowing a citizen to die alone is preferable to bringing them to your castle where they might be a drain on resources.
While playing the games daytime sections I would often have the game’s timer set to as slow as possible. This allowed me to better micro manage my characters. Often you will have 4 characters doing 4 separate tasks at once.
Upgrading buildings, collecting rainwater, chopping wood and cooking food and between that I would have them checking traps or repairing armor and sending resources to our soldiers. At times I felt like I was a chicken with my head cut off, something I haven’t felt since back when I first started learning to micro units in Age of Empires, though thankfully it isn’t quite that complicated.
Characters also get tired after working for too long so sending a few of them to sleep while the others worked ensured I had at least one character well fed and rested enough to be able to go out at night. This is important because a hurt, hungry or exhausted character won’t be as efficient at scavenging.
You also want to make sure you are sending the right character out at night. Some characters are stronger, some better at fighting and some able to hold more resources. Once your character is at max capacity, you can head on back to the stronghold or try looking for more resources to trade out for. However both your day and night cycles run on a timer.
Take too much time scavenging for resources and the sun will rise. For obvious reasons you don’t want to be scavenging the enemy infested city once the sun rises. This makes remembering where you left resources the night before, optimizing your routes and bringing shovels or torches to create shortcuts important along with remembering guard routes and switching up your scavenging locations in case you get caught.
Unlike so many other games where looting feels tiring and repetitive, due to how important the resources I was gathering were, each find was exciting and so too was discovering ways into hidden locations which often require a key to access. You can find those keys in other parts of the city, rewarding exploration.
Gloria Victis is a game with replayability in mind. It is unlikely you will be able to search the entire city or upgrade every building in your first playthrough. Also, because the worker cap is 4, you will definitely need to play more than once in order to find and use every potential citizen there is to find in the city. Since each citizen has their own strength and personality, the people you bring back to your stronghold will change how you play the game.
The campaign can take you anywhere between 8 and 12 hours to beat for your first playthrough and that is assuming you don’t restart like I did. Outside of that you also have a New Game plus which involves tweaked scenarios adding variety and making the game easier or harder as well as new start scenarios which will also change how the game is played.
While I did enjoy my time with Siege Survival: Gloria Victis and while I do expect to put even more hours into the game moving forward I do have a few complaints. These are mainly things I would consider quality of life issues. For one, the game autosaves at the start of every morning but only then. This means that if you messed up badly you can go back to the beginning of any given day.
This is made to punish players for failure which I understand, but at the same time it sucks when the night section starts and I forgot to bring a shovel resulting in me having to load back to the start of the day. This means I have to spend 10 minutes micromanaging my characters again just to get back to where I was before I made that simple mistake.
Another issue I faced was crashing. Not super frequent but during my 15 hours of gameplay I have experienced 3 crashes. Thankfully all of these were from me reloading past sections of the game so I never lost any progress. Finally, there is content. While I can envision myself maybe putting another 15 hours into the game, by then I feel I will have seen everything there is to see.
25 to 30 hours of content isn’t short by any stretch of the term, but I would like to see a bit more content down the line. As it is, after I beat this game 1 or 2 more times I can’t imagine myself picking it up again which is a shame because I do like what the game has going for it. Hopefully content updates will fix this because I want an excuse to boot it back up again sometime in the future.
In conclusion, Siege Survival: Gloria Victis isn’t for everyone. If you are looking for a punishing game to sink a few weekends into then go for it. There are players out there who like the idea of being able to screw themselves to the point of having to restart from scratch. If on the other hand that feels too daunting for you, I can understand. But for those interested in what they see, Siege Survival: Gloria Victis can offer you a fun if somewhat depressing time for a cheap price.
Siege Survival: Gloria Victis was reviewed on PC using a review code provided by Ravenscourt. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.