The early access preview for Sapiens brings an ‘intimate yet expansive colony sim’ to life. With a lot of freedom to build and design your community you can personalise your town from the rocks to the castles. With mod support and work still to be done there’s a lot of hours to be played in this game. However there are some areas that can drag, especially in regards to automating your towns basic needs.
Sapiens is available in early access on Steam, with the full release coming on the 26th July.
You take control of a tribe on a planet full of stone age humans. Each world is unique and you can fine tune elements like climate, sea level and mountain range sizes. You need to build up your civilisation in a Sims: medieval meets Dawn of Man sort of game. The maps are procedurally generated and have different environments to deal with, be it the tundra or a bamboo forest. It’s a PvE experience with any further story being what you imagine for yourself.
The gameplay in Sapiens early access preview looks to differentiate itself from similar games with more personalisation. The developer describes it as ‘intimate yet expansive’, which seems to hold true, although there are some problems that come with this.
Firstly, before your game starts, you get the opportunity to edit the planet. You can raise or lower the sea level, make continents bigger or smaller and make mountains/hills larger or shorter. With your planet created and named you can choice which tribe you want to take control of. You get quite a lot of personalisation through this, with different areas having different biomes and access to materials. For example, if you want to build with clay and bricks, you’ll want to be near to a body of water, whereas if you prefer wooden buildings, you’re better off being in a forest biome.
Some variation in wildlife would be a nice addition, as so far I have only seen alpacas, mammoths and chickens, regardless of where I start. Some predators could add a level or urgency or direction but then again, that could disrupt the peaceful nature of Sapiens.
Building your Home
The building is the area that stood out the most, at least compared to similar games I have played. Whilst the game could use more options and variety, it excels in letting you design each building. You aren’t restricted to pre-set buildings which is great. Whether it’s a small hut or a spawling compound you get to build each detail, from the number of stories to the decoration. You can even create mounds and valleys out of the soil. It’s a slow burn, as larger builds will require a substantial and well supplied community to build, but it feels great to watch your tribe expand and improve.
Whilst the building sections (walls, roofs etc), snap into place, you can turn this off and create a round house (or hexagonal house) if you wish. It’s a nice touch and gets the player more involved in the building process. It may take a few generations, but I’m hoping to get a fort on a cliff for my tribe.
Tech Tree and Resource management
So, to make bigger and better builds you need to have the technology and resources. The tech tree is a little bit simple at the moment. You learn new skills, starting from the most basic of stone knives and fire starting, to the ability to create tools and brick houses. As you need to tell your citizens what to investigate and learn about, it can get a little anachronistic. In my first world I had developed bricks and large wooden houses before I had even figured out how to make a spear. It does feel nice though to see your Sapiens improve over time.
The main area of trouble I found in the game was in resource management. Your Sapiens need to be kept loyal and healthy or they will leave the tribe. They’ll require shelter, food, and music to keep them happy. The trouble though is with the aforementioned intimacy. Currently you can’t seem to automate your sapiens actions, meaning, for example, they will begin to starve if you don’t tell them to butcher the animals and cook the food in storage. In the same way you may run out of materials for a house you’re building and must manually click on the resources you need. Some streamlining would benefit the game here.
There’s some steps towards this direction. You can decide which Sapiens will do which tasks, and they’ll improve at it as they go. There’s even an alert over actions your tribe can’t do and what you need to get the process going. However at the moment this strays into micromanagement territory which can be a bit frustrating. The game would benefit from some level of automation, at least so your town keeps functioning as you focus on building.
Graphics and Audio
The Sapiens preview has a level of charm when it comes to the graphics, however it’s basic visually speaking. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, the buildings look great, and the night sky especially looks beautiful. The graphics may be simple, but it pieces together nicely, making your towns look quite stunning in the right lighting. That being said, if you wanted to build a super realistic looking town then this isn’t the game for you.
The sound design is well put together as well. The ancient sounding music, both in the menu/background, as well as the music played by your citizens is upbeat and nice to listen to. It didn’t get annoying or jarring. The Simlish/minion like voices are pretty funny but adds a layer of life to the town. Too often in games like these the characters are just silent and don’t feel like they’re interacting. All in all, that game is fine in terms of sound and visuals, but it’s not going to knock your socks off.
Sapiens was played on Steam for this preview with a key provided by Vicarious PR.