At Gamescom, you can always find highlights you didn’t have on your radar before. This year, we tested some games at Gamescom and talked to the developers. The highlight of our co-founder Sascha Asendorf is the co-op survival RPG Bellwright from the Polish developer Donkey Crew.
What it’s all about: Gamescom 2023 is over, and we at Guided.news were able to take a look at some games exhibited there or test them ourselves. There are flops and surprise hits every year. At one of these surprise hits, our co-founder Sascha Asendorf was a guest and was able to talk extensively with Donkey Crew CEO Florian Hofreither about their new game Bellwright. Find out what it’s all about now!
This is the Survival RPG Bellwright
The story of Bellwright begins as follows, according to the official Steam page:
“Framed for the murder of the Prince and sentenced to death by the Crown, you’ve been living in the shadows ever since. After barely dodging an attempt on your life, you find the assassin’s contract that raises many questions – was it just misfortune that you were framed? Or is there more to it? Determined to find the answers, you journey back to the very place you escaped.”
The start of Bellwright then has many similarities to Medieval Dynasty. In a sense, you start as a farmer who starts by helping others. Collect wood, stones, and other resources, complete villagers’ quests, and increase your reputation.
As the game progresses, you’ll build your own village and can bring in other NPCs as residents. There should be no artificial boundaries, but more on that later. Later, when you have the reputation of a lord, your quests will be different than when you started the game. Now you are supposed to save other settlements from bandit attacks or trade on a large scale.
But your real goal is to overthrow the king and take over the kingdom. You should be able to do that in about 60-150 hours of play. Between 60 and 150 hours of play is of course a big discrepancy, but Donkey Crew CEO Florian Hofreither explains it like this:
“There will be players who can race through the game in 60 hours or less. Normally it will probably take about 100 hours, and those who spend a lot of time with city building and micromanagement will probably need 150 hours. Or more.”
These are the Core Features of Bellwright
- Survival: gathering resources, hunting, base-building, crafting.
- Conquer and expand: Build your village from a small camp to a thriving city and become the leader of a rebellion against the king. You’ll have to build relationships with other cities, expand your army and liberate regions from the crown.
- Resource and city management: Similar to Settlers or Banished, you have to micromanage. Each of your villagers has different needs that you should fulfill and abilities that you can use. You also need to manage your resources wisely to maintain your prosperity and provide enough food and equipment for your inhabitants.
- Skill-Based Combat: You’ll have various medieval weapons and armor at your disposal, which can be used to fight in different ways.
- Command your army: Later in the game, you will also have soldiers in your camp that you can move around with. You can give them orders and win bigger battles.
- Progress system: Every action in the game improves your knowledge and that of your villagers. If you use your residents in specific tasks, they will become better and better at them. The same goes for you.
- Co-op Gameplay: You can play Bellwright alone or with others. Theoretically, Bellwright can be played with up to 20 people, but Donkey Crew will probably limit that to 4 players and wait for community feedback. As the number of players increases, so will the number of opponents so as not to make things too easy for you.
Launch Planned as Early Access in December 2023
Florian told me that the current plan is to release Bellwright in Early Access on Steam. The EA is scheduled to begin in December 2023 and last about a year, depending on community feedback.
I was also able to learn a little about the contents. For example, at the start of Early Access, players should already have access to about 100 buildings you can construct in your village. Of course, all core features will be included, and the map will be about nine km².
The price of the Early Access version has not yet been determined, but Florian assumes it will be between $25 and $30.
My Bellwright Highlight: Unlimited City Building and Management
In Medieval Dynasty I always wanted to build a nice big village and fill it with life. However, this was only possible to a limited extent, as there is a limit to the number of buildings. Bellwright wants to approach this differently and relies here not on an artificial building boundary but on natural limits.
For example, Florian told me that while you have no limits when building, the bigger your village gets, the harder it is to defend it well. If your village grows too fast, you may run out of resources, and your inhabitants will starve. So your village should grow naturally the further you progress in the game.
However, it won’t be boring either, as there should be around 100 buildings that you can erect right from the start of Early Access. Each building will play a different role in your village. While dwellings provide safe shelter for your villagers, watchtowers warn you of impending attacks. Especially with your production chains, you need to plan carefully; the woodcutter building should not be too far from the forest, and the carpenter would not want to work far from the woodcutter either. Your camps should also be well placed so that your inhabitants have the shortest possible walking distances and the effectiveness within your village is increased.
And this is where micromanagement plays a big role. You can assign each inhabitant of your village a specific role to play; woodcutter, stonemason, sentry, cook, hunter, carpenter, deliveryman, construction worker, and much more. Villagers have their own status values, which make them better at certain tasks than others.
So, similar to The Settlers or Banished, you can’t just build blindly and hope everything goes well. Building your village wants to be well-thought-out, at least if you wish to be as effective as possible. In the later stages of the game, your village can function completely autonomously, and you merely set up the construction plans for additional buildings. However, at any time, you can lend a hand in the village yourself and help your inhabitants.
This is How the Battles in Bellwright Work – Even with your Private Army
As befits a survival RPG, there is also plenty of combat. You can either take them out solo with different weapons or hire your own private army. If you are fighting alone, you should stay away from larger groups of enemies and dodge or block/parry enemy attacks.
It only gets interesting as soon as you encounter larger groups of opponents. This happens, for example, when bandits attack your base. If you have set up watchtowers, you will receive a message soon enough that an attack is imminent. Then you can select inhabitants of your base as reserve soldiers and form a squad with them that will follow your orders.
If your troops die, they are not quite dead. They are merely knocked out and get up again. In the next in-game days, they have to rest and are less effective in their tasks. However, if they die a 2nd time, they are lost.
From Quests and Relationships with Other Villages
Bellwright is full of quests given to you by NPCs and entire villages. These range from simple collection or kill tasks to large-scale defense and liberation actions.
In the process, your reputation with the individual NPCs and villages will steadily increase, so your tasks will improve. As a later lord, you will naturally receive more difficult tasks than you did at the beginning of the game.
For example, if you have cleared a whole village of bandits during a quest, they will be grateful to you, and you can recruit the NPCs there for your village. It can happen again and again that these villages ask for your help. You have the option to ignore these calls for help if you already have everything you want from them, but even that has implications.
Your villagers will always remain loyal to their original village, their birthplace. So if you ignore the calls for help from these villages, it will lower the morale of your inhabitants, and that will lower the productivity of your base.
You Should Know this: Developer Donkey Crew doesn’t have a Good Reputation in the Community. What Happened?
A downer for many survival fans might be the actual developer. Bellwright comes from Polish developer Donkey Crew, who previously developed Last Oasis. Last Oasis is a survival game from 2020 that should appeal mainly to PVP fans. However, the community did not well receive the game from the beginning due to lousy performance, bugs, and too little content, and the developers had to deal with hate messages and death threats.
After several patches did not change the situation around Last Oasis, the development was finally stopped in the course of Early Access. Currently, the game has a mostly negative rating of 30%. Development has been put on hold for the time being because Florian wants to spare his developers the negativity from the community, and it doesn’t make much sense at this point in time to mess with further development.
Bellwright itself has been in active development for over 2 years, since before Last Oasis was discontinued. The now smaller development team has learned from the mistakes of Last Oasis, and the demo at Steam Next Fest as well as our visit to Gamescom showed that. However, whether the community will also give Bellwright a neutral chance remains to be seen.
Donkey Crew’s Plans for Early Access and Beyond
The Bellwright Early Access is scheduled to launch in December 2023, and the price will be around $25-30. Early Access is expected to last one year and bring all planned content into the game. However, as with many other Early Access titles, the development will likely take longer, depending on community feedback.
During Early Access, more buildings will come into play that you can erect in your base and more parts of the map will unlock. At launch, this will be about 3×3 km and will continue to grow until release.
Also, mounts like horses will probably be added to the game in the course of EA. However, Donkey Crew is waiting for feedback from the community. Florian’s wish is to extend the map towards the sea to allow shipbuilding and trade routes via the sea.
Donkey Crew’s Plans for the Future – Last Oasis is not Dead Yet
Donkey Crew’s current focus is clearly on developing Bellwright into a good survival RPG and working closely with the community to avoid repeating the same mistakes as with Last Oasis.
However, Florian also says that there is still a desire to make Last Oasis the game the developers always planned it to be. They owe it to the community, even if they shower them with hate. Thus, development on Last Oasis is to continue as soon as Bellwright is finished and financial resources are secured thanks to its potential success.
We will keep an eye on Bellwright and keep you updated on the development status. If you are a fan of Medieval Dynasty or other survival RPGs, we can already recommend Bellwright to you. We’re excited to see what else Donkey Crew can do.