7 Grand Steps: What Ancients Begat Review

It's the Ciiiiircle of Liiiiife

  • Developer: Mousechief
  • Publisher: Mousechief
  • Release Date: 7 June 2013
  • Time played: 4 hours (INCOMPLETE)

So what prompted me to purchase 7 Grand Steps: What Ancients Begat and what is it meant to be about? Well for starters, the game has an awesomely pretentious title but why I really got the game was because it sounds unique. The goal of the game is to ensure your family survives several generations of Western Civilization and apparently the story changes depending on your choices. Customised, branching storyline dependent on your actions? Sold. Also, the fact that the game is set over many generations as you progress through various ages (e.g. the Copper Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, etc.) sounds pretty epic.

The full price of the game at $20 USD seemed a bit too much as a gamble so I managed to get it when the price was discounted (probably $10 USD). I actually played a bit of the game when I first bought it but I've only managed to get the motivation and time to type up a review now. I did want to finish the game before reviewing and I think I was about half-way there (Whoooooaaa!! Livin' on a Prayer!) but alas 2014 is almost over and I still haven't reviewed all the 2013 games! That backlog. Anyway, here's my review.

Plot (3/5)
The game is set during ancient times and presumably follows the rise of Western Civilization from the Copper Age, to the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age. I'm not sure if it goes any further than that since that's as far as I got (before a reformat resulted in the save game being deleted). You basically guide your family over several generations, ensuring they are able to survive and maybe even prosper through the many ages.

Just as it is with games like The Sims or even Kudos 2, the "plot" in 7 Grand Steps is one that is developed by you and your actions. You choose the personalities of your children and their children and the numerous generations to follow. There will also be occasional story events where you'll be able to choose how one of the members of your family proceed. Your actions will determine if they achieve success or fail abysmally.

Gameplay (3/5)
7 Grand Steps is basically a digital version of a board game and the closest board game I've played that is similar in theme to 7 Grand Steps is the 2007 game Agricola. In Agricola you're responsible for developing a farm, raising a family and becoming prosperous. 7 Grand Steps has similar goals in that you're trying to make your family wealthy and prosperous but goes about it quite differently.

7 Grand Steps has a wheel with 4 rings on it representing different classes of society (the ruling class, nobles, artisans and labourers, if I recall correctly). On each of these rings there are spaces where player pieces can sit, which includes your player pieces and those of computer opponents. The player pieces represents families and your goal is to collect beads that randomly spawn on the spaces which will increase your "legend" points. Once you gain a number of "legend" points you successfully complete your objective, whatever that objective may be, such as discovering a new technology or becoming a hero. These usually help you to advance to the next ring in the wheel which means your family improves their standing in society. Landing on a space with another piece already on it (provided it isn't crowded) will generate tokens, tokens that you can use to move your pieces next turn or for educating any children you have.

This brings me to one of the most interesting aspects of the game which is an example of an abstract game mechanic actually mimicking life's struggles very closely. Tokens in the game are used for two things: moving the patriarch and matriarch of the family forward in the hope of collecting beads or educating your children in certain skills. Moving the patriarch and matriarch of the family around the wheel, catching beads will definitely make the current generation of your family prosper but if you spend too much time doing this, the parents will eventually die off leaving uneducated children for the next generation. Alternatively, you can sacrifice all your tokens to ensure the children are well prepared for the next generation, although without any surplus tokens, they will be effectively penniless and unable to get a good head start. They'll have to be self-made men/women. Also investing too many tokens on the children means less tokens for your pieces to move around the board, which runs the risk of your pieces being eaten by the crocs - being eaten by the crocs apparently symbolises falling into poverty. Basically, just like life, there has to be a balancing act when it comes to providing enough skills and wealth for the next generation to succeed, while also ensuring you don't suffer too much either.

Also, once you're in the ruling class this opens up a mini-game each turn where you're able to actually rule the country in what is an obvious nod to the classic text-based BASIC strategy game, Hamurabi. So that was definitely a pleasant surprise and it keeps things interesting, even if it is text and numbers based.

Overall, the game is reasonably addictive and fun to play, but then again, I like board games so maybe my tolerance for these sort of games is higher than your average computer gamer.

Occasionally you get to choose how your family's story unfolds through prompts like this one

Sound (3/5)
The game has some basic sound effects such as the sound of beads and tokens jingling but that's about it. There's also no voice acting in the game but it's not exactly necessary either.

Music (4/5)
Music consists of either epic scores or folk music using instruments that sound a lot like Arabian lutes (aka Aouds). The music, while not exactly memorable, suits the game.

Graphics (2/5)
It looks like the developers decided to use default Poser models or something similar for the characters in the game; many of the characters don't look very realistic as if they were all just mannequins. I think the game would've actually benefited with simple 2D drawings or paintings instead to be honest.

Replay (2/5)
I actually enjoyed the time I played with this game and it can actually become quite addictive, almost to the point where you'll be uttering "Just...one...more...turn...", even though you're not playing Civilization. The addictive nature comes from ensuring your family increases their social standing as they go up the different rings of the circular board. Would I play it again if I finished it? Probably not because there's a lot of effort involved in ensuring your family makes it throughout the ages, and while there will be some differences between each playthrough, the motivation is basically the same.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any serious bugs while playing the game and the user interface is adequate.

Score – 6/10

If you like board games and fancy giving a shot at leading your family to greatness, 7 Grand Steps is the game you've been looking for. Unfortunately, the game isn't too attractive thanks to the low-budget character models and while there are some opportunities to affect your family's story, it seems to be determined by chance more than anything else, not to mention it turns out to be of secondary importance compared to raising your family's social standing.

7 Grand Steps: What Ancients Begat is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official 7 Grand Steps website ]