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Kingdom Series Review | Empire-Building as a Side-Scroller


 


Developers: Stumpy Squid, Fury Studios, Coatsink

Genre: Strategy, Base/Empire-Building, Side-Scroller, Colony Survival, Adventure, Single-player, Co-op(Two Crowns Exclusive)

Rating: Entertaining and Relaxing: An interesting take on empire-building, with a calming atmosphere to boot


Deceptively simplistic games are always a hidden gem when you find them, the Kingdom series certainly gives off the shine of one.


Going from the original Kingdom game to Kingdom Two Crowns has been a very interesting experience. I have put roughly 40 hours into Kingdom Classic and Kingdom New Lands, both of which are meant to never be truly beaten. I have another 40 hours in Kingdom Two Crowns, ‘beating’ the game about twice.


Summary

The Kingdom series is very easy to understand, but cryptic by design. I would recommend going into the series with very little background knowledge if you can help it. But if you really want to know more about the game, feel free to keep reading. This review will mainly talk about my experiences in Kingdom Two Crowns, the most recent and complex game of the three. Two Crowns also has co-op mode and multiple DLCs to boot. With the general info out of the way, let's delve into what the games have to offer.


Story

When you begin a game of Kingdom, there is no exposition or lead-up. You arrive as a monarch sitting atop a horse. Upon your head rests a gold crown, and before you lies a dark forest that leads to a small camp. With the use of a small sack of coins, you begin to recruit the local foraging populace to help build and work your ever-expanding new kingdom.

As the first night approaches, your walls and villagers are beset by humanoid creatures, greedily grabbing any coin, tool, or person they can get their hands on. When the attack subsides, the trees light up from dawn and you can explore your territory once more. Deeper in the forest, the presence of purple stone portals and mysterious outcroppings leads you to believe that there is more out there.

Kingdom’s lore is basically non-existent, but some games don’t need a narrative to make for an enjoyable experience. It doubles down in mystery and mechanics instead of a storyline.


Gameplay

As the story vaguely outlined, Kingdom revolves around money, building, and a day/night cycle. You start with only a small base camp and two workers. Everything after that is exploration and growth in either direction of the side-scrolling land. Your character is limited to a few actions, which include: galloping or sprinting with the monarch’s mount, dropping or inputting coins, and an ability for your mount. By dropping coins, you can recruit villagers to pick up tools that you pay for. Villagers can become archers, defending your walls at night or hunting in the daytime. They can pick up hammers to help build your kingdom or man siege equipment. Or, they can use scythes to farm and create more coins for your coffers. There are more roles and tools for villagers, but these are the main 3. Buildings are just as flexible, but they are primarily used for increasing income or defending your home. Expanding your kingdom can only be done by clearing out trees and opening up new building spots. Each night, you will encounter a siege from an army of Greed attackers.

These greedy monsters will come in different sizes and will attempt to take your villagers and coins. If they manage to steal all the gold from your monarch, they will steal your crown, ending that kingdom. The main objective of the game is two-fold; The first is to continue expanding through gold/villagers, and the second ultimate goal is to find a way to stop the greed invasions. Hopefully, I can make the game more interesting to first-time players by not going into secrets found throughout the game that help those goals.


Graphics

Most Kingdom players and viewers can agree that one of the main draws of the game is its unique pixel art. With a mix of old-school side-scrolling and nature-esque backgrounds, the game is comforting and atmospheric. Weather changes based on the season, and the water reflections are calming to view as your horse moves along the water bank. The day/night illumination adds intrigue and danger during nighttime, as your monarch only carries a torch, limiting your sight greatly if you aren’t in your base. Another great thing about the Kingdom series is how accessible it is. You can play these games on just about any type of PC specs, and some of the games were even ported to mobile.


Is It Fun?

Most of the mechanics in the game involve very few skill-based inputs, making it a casual game that mainly requires strategic knowledge to play well. The grind in the game is enjoyable as a serene time sink if you aren’t exploring. I think most people will have fun with the games if they want something to just sit down and watch as your kingdom goes about its day. Some aspects of the game can be a bit too much downtime, such as winter. During winter, most of your sources of income will stagnate, making extended periods of winter very boring if you don’t have other tasks to complete.


Should You Buy It?

I would recommend Kingdom Two Crowns as the sole game you should buy out of the 3, as it is the same as the other games with more in it. Just keep in mind that unless you really enjoy the playstyle that it offers, it will be about a 20-40 hour gameplay experience. It is very replayable, but there won’t be many variations in each of the additional playthroughs aside from your own decision-making and graphics.


Is the DLC Worth It?

Kingdom Two crowns offers three additional DLCs. The Shogun and Dead Lands DLC are free, and primarily add different graphical effects as well as a few different character roles for you and your villagers. I think those options are a nice change of pace from the original look to shake things up a bit. The addition of the Norselands DLC added a sizable amount of new content. Incorporating new weapons, units, enemies, mounts, and puzzles. Certain game mechanics will force different playstyles than what original Kingdom fans have been accustomed to. The Norselands DLC is available on steam for 6.99 and I think it's definitely worth it. The new additions are awesome to play with and give a new feel to the game after beating the base content of Kingdom Two Crowns.


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