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.
It’s been about a year since I wrote about Noio, Licorice, and Raw Fury‘s sidescrolling 2D feudal leadership simulator Kingdom. Though pleasantly surprised by the minimalist game’s depth and visual polish (what can I say; I’m a sucker for retro-style pixel art, especially when given a modern flair), it’s admittedly been a year as well since I really picked the game up. As the game was, Kingdom was fun, but the lack of direct control of subjects (and thus, no coordinated defense efforts) and repetitive gameplay got to me and, much like all the other monarchs before me, I had failed to erect a lasting realm.
A few days ago, however, as I was finding games to reinstall on my Steam library, a familiar name popped up but it looked different: Kingdom was now Kingdom: Classic and Kingdom: New Lands lay outside the borders of my defined categories, meaning it was, indeed, new. Sure enough, the original Kingdom can no longer be purchased, instead replaced (perhaps usurped?) by New Lands. While the game’s store page keeps mum on the exact changes (a few of which we’ll go over shortly), I gotta say, they’ve certainly followed through on the “revitalize the experience” part as I found myself almost mesmerized until the wee hours of the morning, zipping my lordship back and forth through his lands, collecting taxes and throwing money at poor people without a banner to serve like it was his job.
But given that this is a re-release of a game that was just launched a year ago, there might be two questions burning in the back of your mind. The first of which might be…
What Kingdom: New Lands does well
I mentioned my two major hang-ups with Kingdom: Classic: it’s too repetitive and the player isn’t given much control over their realm aside from tossing coins at people and buildings. To date, the mechanics remain largely unchanged. I still have to nudge people hoping they’ll make the moves I want them to by teasing them with money. So what’s different this time around? Either New Lands got more interesting in other ways or I’ve gotten more boring over the past year. Fortunately in this case, it’s the former.
Now before you think of massive strategy games like Total War or any of Paradox‘s titles, there isn’t a fair comparison to be made. New Lands was born from simplicity and thus, a simple game it remains. That isn’t to say it’s without its challenges; simplistic games are often easy to learn and difficult to master. Where Classic might have been a tad too simple, New Lands feels a bit more engaging and alive. And a lot of that’s in the little details.
For example, the game seems to have a better understanding of its own scope; each scenario has you starting on an island with your objective to build a ship and sail to the next, starting over with what subjects and supplies you bring with you. I’ll admit, I didn’t get too far in the original to come close to the end-game (I got bored with watching my guys get slaughtered by the strange portal-dwelling creatures that pillage the lands; if only I had that sword… or the archers knew to shift when one flank’s being attacked). That said, I didn’t have a clear objective from the beginning aside from building. I didn’t know why I was, just that I was supposed to.
With the inclusion of the islands, my objective is a lot more obvious — at least, in order to progress in the story. I might not know what the big evil at the end of the journey is that I’m supposed to conquer, but at least I know the milestones now. Knowing the first step of my trek across this strange Medieval world starts with repairing a dilapidated boat gave me (and by extension, my subjects) purpose.
And with this purpose, I was motivated to derp back and forth, shaking down farmers and back-handing merchants trying to swindle me out of my just tariffs. Also, the fact that there were merchants to back-hand was also a nice addition over the classic version.
Okay, so you don’t actually get to back-hand them, but still. Everyone seems quick to pour out whatever coin they have when you pass by. Who needs a sword when you’ve got a strong pimp hand anyway, amirite?
While you still can’t exercise your will directly upon your serfs, defending your lands is a bit easier to manage this time around. For instance, if you want to bolster your garrison, it’s handy to know that an archers always distribute themselves evenly on either side of your fort. This is useful when trying to manage your troops on scenarios with one front — and, though useless during most of an invasion, the garrison on the other side makes for a great reserve.
Without spoiling too much as you advance your own demesne, once you build a stone keep at the center of your camp, you can also recruit sergeants clad in plate armor, equipped with swords and shields. These guys come in handy, keeping your garrison in line (each sergeant commands a squad of three archers), coordinating their attacks and tactically retreating before the walls crumble under the enemy’s fel onslaught. For a few extra coins, you can even command them to assault the enemy, sallying forth to destroy their demonic doorways.
Now, as far as those “little details” I mentioned earlier go, a lot of them are simply aesthetic. What I’ve found helped negate my initial boredom from Kingdom: Classic were little effects like seasonal changes as time passes, or how archers stationed in towers or assigned a sergeant don uniforms to complement the colors of your house’s banner (which, in turn, is randomly generated each time you start a new game). Speaking of new games, every time you die or start over, it’s seems to be the ghost of your successor that guides you to your new homestead as the game’s opening subtitles challenge you to do better.
There’s still more to explore and discover, but much like New Lands‘ name suggests, most of the fun is in your own adventure.
Still, there’s a few things that could be tuned up for even more of this fun I keep talking about. That brings us to the answer of that second question I mentioned…