Anvil Saga Demo Preview: Steadily Smelting the Slag

The management sim genre is both large and full, so it takes some interesting scenarios to make your game stand out. Anvil Saga, from Pirozhok Studio, looks to put players into the boots of a blacksmith, with an emphasis on storytelling and decision making.

Anvil Saga Demo Preview: Steadily Smelting the Slag

Oh, to be a young blacksmith in medieval times, yearning for a life of fire and comfort in 14th-century Europe. Anvil Saga charges you with managing your own smithy during the Hundred Year’s War. Players are tasked with both running the shop, managing employees, and taking sides in the war between France and England.

From my experience with the demo, the title shows some promise! It’s still in early development, and as such has some rough edges, which I won’t be covering too much here. Just know that there is still plenty of work to be done, so it’s not a perfect demo experience at this time.

Anvil Saga is currently in development for PC, with a target release window of 2021. Players can wishlist it now on Steam.

Anvil Saga - Announcement Trailer

STORY – MEDIEVAL MANAGEMENT

The basic premise of Anvil Saga is that you play as a blacksmith, like your father before you. The demo opens with the protagonist, Arthur, as a young man, learning the ropes of the trade from his father. In the introduction, we learn that a local baron has sent a valuable jewel for you to craft into a piece for him. You are quickly given a choice to either save the jewel for the baron or use it to make a beautiful piece of jewelry for a local girl.

There’s a big push from the developers to note that your decisions have an impact on the story, and that seems mostly true. Each decision has a percentage score that helps you determine if you’ll succeed or not, and different conversations occur depending on what you choose to do.

For example, giving the jewel to the girl you like will make her like you, but you’ll then have to decide if you will lie to the baron or not. If you do, he might believe you or see through the lie and attack. This doesn’t have consequences in the demo but sets the stage for a high rate of decisions to be found in the final product.

I think that the decisions are well-done and fit the situation really well. There were even options to decide if you’ll pay taxes or not. It’s tough to foresee how well-executed the story and various branching trees might be in the full game, but this demo does a good job of setting the expectation that you’ll be making choices as much as you fulfill orders.

Are you a baron man?

Are you a baron man?

GAMEPLAY – TEMPER YOUR SWORD

The actual minute-to-minute gameplay in this game is going to be very familiar if you’ve ever played a management sim before, regardless of the premise. It all boils down to action meters and inventory handling. You need ore to smelt into a resource, you need resources to build items, and selling items awards money to purchase food and supplies.

I didn’t find there to be anything particularly notable or unique about the management mechanics. There aren’t any new hooks or twists on the genre, you’re just clicking boxes to ensure that your customers remain happy. The real exciting prospects resulted from the aforementioned dialogue choices.

Based on the limited scope of the demo, I can’t say for certain how prolonged time spent within the title may show off some repetition. The good news is that even within the short time I had, there were a number of passing characters and scenarios that tasked me with making choices, instead of simply clicking and making numbers go up.

Expansion is pretty neat, I think. You’ll need to make a shaft in the basement to mine ore, build additional rooms for sleeping, etc. Each type of room requires certain items in order to be effective at replenishing energy or food, and there aren’t any intricacies that might gum up the gears of the overall gameplay. It’s simple, but grants just enough control to be an integral part of the process without becoming a focus.

Got to make that money.

Got to make that money.

GRAPHICS/AUDIO – SIMPLY SMALL

The art style is what initially attracted me to this game. I love the pixel-art and 2D presentation! The graphics are simple but colorful and everything contrasts well with the user interface. There wasn’t a time during the demo that I struggled with identifying or reading a text box or an action button.

Audio-wise, the background music was exquisite, providing some mellow strings and ambiance without taking away from the sound effects, which is where things really shine. The sound of the rain, the tiny hammer on the anvil, even the sound of birds sounds perfectly suited for the game. I’m not one to shout out the audio of a game, so this definitely made an impact!

The demo for Anvil Saga was played on PC. A key was provided by HeroCraft. The demo is also available for free on Steam.

Summary
Anvil Saga is going to be a great pick for players with lower-end systems, and for anyone who enjoys the simple life of management simulation games. The final product remains to be seen, but the demo that is available now showcases what seems to be a promising little title filled with potential.
Good
  • Fantastic sound design.
  • Nice graphics and cute art style.
  • Decision-making that actually impacts the story.
  • Simple management mechanics that let the story shine.
Bad
  • Aforementioned management mechanics are almost too simple.
  • No unique twists on the sim genre.

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