Dawn of Man takes the colony simulation genre and boils it down to its essence. That’s not to say that the game is simple, but it prioritizes ease of use over complexity. With a clean, customizable interface, it succeeds in opening up a niche genre of PC gaming to everyone.
The game, which sells for $24.99 on Steam, is the work of the small independent team at Madruga Works, co-founded by Martiño Figueroa and Tucho Fernández. The closest experience that I can think of is a game called Banished, which took PC gaming by storm back in 2014. But, where Banished took players from a hardscrabble existence to the eve of the Renaissance, Dawn of Man focuses on the prehistoric period. Players take on the role of a small band of Mesolithic humans, carrying them forward through the Neolithic period and beyond, until ending their tech tree in the Iron Age.
Booting up the game for the first time, it’s surprising how intimate this world feels. The landmass isn’t all that large, but the rolling hills and little rivers give it character. So, too, do the herds of prehistoric creatures like mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and megaloceros.
Dawn of Man allows for an incredible amount of control over your colony. Job one is to set work areas, places where my tiny charges can find flint and wood, and go fishing. I can easily set the maximum number of humans dedicated to each task, and even set a limit on the amount of resources that can be collected from each site.
Once the flow of basic goods is established, I can go in and micromanage individual characters. That’s where some of the fun lies. Organizing a hunt of dangerous creatures like cave lions is easy enough. Just drag a box over a clutch of humans and right click on an animal in the wild. A camera button allows me to zoom in on the action and spin the camera around however I like.
But there is a rhythm to the game that is almost melodic. Its rivers can be overfished, meaning that I have to move work areas from time to time. The same is true of the herds of animals, which will scatter if my hunters linger in one area for too long. Over my first few hours I’ve fallen into a seasonal cadence of hunting game in the west during the summer months, and then switching to the east when winter comes.
I mentioned the user interface before, and that’s where the refinement comes in. There are a series of menus, everything from a chart that shows food storage to one that shows all of your available stores. Using the plus signs in the upper right and left corners of the screen, it’s easy to customize my HUD to show me just the information I need and nothing more.
I’ve just entered the Neolithic period with my people, who I call the Polygonians. That’s when raiders start to appear. We recently fought back the first attack on our tiny village, and next on the list of improvements is a set of walls and fortifications to keep them out. I can eventually throw up guard towers and fortified gates.
Overall, I just can’t say enough about Dawn of Man. It feels as light as a feather, but is giving me so much satisfaction right now it’s hard to put it into words. I should add that this isn’t an early access game, but a completely stable, bite-sized world to explore. The game has been sitting at the top of Steam all week, and for good reason. It’s the rare example of a game that I actually want to buy DLC for.
There’s many directions that Dawn of Man could go from here. Just like my little humans, I’m excited to see how it grows thanks to all the attention paid to it.