Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
[UPDATE AUGUST 2016: Kingdom has been re-released on Steam as Kingdom: New Lands, which you can read more about here!]
Being a monarch is hard work, especially when you’re without any loyal subjects. Armed with merely a torch, your trusty stead, and a few gold coins to your name, you seek out new lands to call home. In Kingdom, a new pixelated 2D sidescroller strategy game from Noio, Licorice, and publisher Raw Fury, you bring civilization to the unruly masses inhabiting the countryside, glory to your name, and defense against the creatures of the night who would delight in seeing it all stripped from you.
While this isn’t Noio’s (or, by his real name, Thomas van den Berg) first game, it was the first time I stumbled across something he made. Having just heard about it the day of its launch on Steam a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the game’s minimalist aesthetic. From the gameplay concepts (build and expand your kingdom while protecting your gold and, ultimately, your crown; if you’re attacked and lose your crown, you also lose your right to rule–after all, those with the fanciest hats wield the most power) to the pixel art and UI, Kingdom is seamless in its execution, blending modern flourishes and technique with old-school visuals and simplicity.
Despite its simplicity, however, there’s quite a bit of depth to the game. In exchange for a few coins here and there, you can pay your engineers (at first I thought they were just builders, but then I found they could also man siege weapons) to build and upgrade walls and defense towers, clear land for farming, and further fortify the heart of your settlement. By recruiting peasants from the surrounding areas, you can influence which class they take up by buying the appropriate tools. For example, two gold pieces will buy a peasant a bow, allowing them to hunt for you (in turn, making more money) and to defend the ramparts when needed.
As the game is a sidescroller, you have only two directions to expand: forward or backward. Each scenario and monarch is randomly generated, so your growth is also dependent on what the terrain provides, such as streams for farms or outcroppings of rocks to act as foundations for make-shift watchtowers.
Though building your settlement is easy and straightforward enough, it’s its defense that proves to be difficult–and, admittedly, where Kingdom begins to show its weakness. Aside from using money to influence their loyalty and specialization, you have virtually no control over your subjects. This makes it very difficult to lead coordinated defenses as there’s no easy way to direct your forces from one side of the settlement to the other, often allowing you to be overrun early on unless you manage to recruit a decent amount of archers.
Being without a weapon yourself and relying on the ridiculous firing arcs of your hapless subjects (if your archers aren’t up in towers, they shoot in very sharp arcs over the wall onto enemies, often missing), night time raids are often stressful. As you’re unable to direct your subjects or call them to your side in your defense, the only tools you have are the limited speed of your horse or by throwing gold at your feet, hoping it’ll distract any pursuers enough to buy you time to get away.
Having sifted through the reviews on Steam present at the time of writing, a lot of negativity seems to be surrounding the game’s combat mechanics, stemming either from a lack of direct human control, or the lack of competent AI. And while Kingdom is a fine game in its own right, it could benefit tremendously from a future patch that gives the player some amount of control to defend the realm they’re building. Otherwise, the game becomes less castle-builder strategy game and more a waiting-on-my-impending-doom game… which if you’ve already lost, what’s the point?
Criticism aside, Kingdom is still pretty fun, blending genres and styles not commonly seen together (at least, to my knowledge, I can’t think of another sidescrolling strategy game off the top of my head). And while I look forward to see what’s in store next from Noio, it’d be interesting to see the continued support for this new title, especially with how open to suggestions van den Berg and his team seem to be. With promises of free content updates and no paid-for DLC for the PC version, I’ll have to come back to this in a few months and give it another go. Or as soon as they give the king a sword.
Oh, just a single sword and I’d play the hell out of this game.