Here’s the skinny, straight from that most-citeworthy source, Wikipedia:
Kingdom is a kingdom-building simulation game developed by Thomas van den Berg and Marco Bancale (also known as noio and Licorice) with support from publisher Raw Fury Games. The title was released on 21 October 2015 for Microsoft Windows, OS X, and Linux systems with a release for XBox One planned in 2016. Versions for mobile devices are also planned but not yet announced.
Alright. Now for my take on it. I’m normally not the type of person who writes bad reviews, and there are two reasons why. First, I don’t really enjoy writing them. I’m more of the supportive type, and I hate crapping all over other peoples’ efforts. Secondly, I’m skilled at finding the good in things, so I’m kind of a pushover when it comes to reviewing. I could probably eat a shit sandwich – a literal sandwich made with feces – and come up with a few positive things to say about the experience.
That being said, I’m now faced with a problem. I just spent five hours playing Kingdom, a funky little building/defense game that I found on Steam, and now I have to vent my frustrations. To put it frankly, every part of me wants to say that Kingdom sucks the big one, but that wouldn’t be fair. My feelings about it are actually quite complex, and I can only do the game justice by exploring them fully before rendering my judgement.
So let’s do it in small chunks.
The game looks okay. Apparently, tons of people have gushed over the pixel art style, but I can’t really get behind it. For one, the whole “deliberate giant pixels” thing is getting played out as a stylistic choice. There are only so many ways you can render a chunky person or horse, so there’s very little that can be drawn in this style that we haven’t already seen.
Then you run into the problem where the objects on the screen are quite large. We’re not talking Terraria scale . . . this is more like zoomed-in Mario Bros. When the knight on my screen is the size of my fist and it was drawn using 12 huge “pixels,” it looks like a jagged silver bunghole. It’s a limitation of the style itself. The giant lake looks cool, but why is there a beautiful, non-stylized body of water in this blocky world? For as good as it looks, it feels out of place.
If the game was actually worth playing, I could forgive – or even enjoy – the visuals. But as it stands, it just cheapens an already low-value experience.
I am as far-removed from a music aficionado as you will ever meet. I listen to talk radio in the car, and I haven’t bought a CD since…well, since years before people stopped buying CDs. As a layperson who doesn’t know any better, I’ll say the music is alright. It doesn’t distract me or annoy the crap out of me, so that’s about all I can ask for. Here’s the thing that confuses me though: the same people who rave about the pixels are also raving about the music.
To me, it sounds like pressing “demo” on my old Casio synthesizer, so I can’t really elevate it higher than “it’ll suffice.” The fact that so many reviewers find it noteworthy might be an indicator of the overall “meh” factor of the game.
Other Reviewers on Steam
Yes, I’m reviewing the other reviews. To hell with all of you who tricked me into buying Kingdom by calling it a “good game.” It is not, by any stretch, a good game. Even if you adore the art style and the Yanni music, you’re crossing a line by calling it a good game. A car with a cool paint job is not automatically a good car.
When I buy a game, I want something that I’ll enjoy playing. I want the whole experience. If I just wanted a musical soundtrack, I’d go to iTunes. If I wanted to see pretty pixel art, I’d go to Newgrounds and look at it for free.
All other elements be damned; if I don’t enjoy playing it, it’s not a good game.
If you carefully examine the previous sentence, you’ll be able to guess what I’m about to say.
The game play in Kingdom is abysmal. I’ll sum it up this way: Imagine Terraria. Now make the map flat (no jumping and no digging) and shrink it down to about 10% of the size while zooming in really close. Now remove all resource gathering, crafting, armor, weapons, fighting, and free building. What’s left? A $10 waste of my time. What pisses me off is that this game has been called a kingdom building game, an exploration game, a resource management game, and a strategy game. It is none of these things. Here’s why:
City Building –
You start off standing near a dead campfire. Walk over, press down to light the fire, and your little “base” is established. City building! The rest of your limited construction depends entirely on what spots you can find on the ground. If there’s a stone, you can build a tower. If there’s a mound of dirt, you can build a wall. If there’s a little waterfall, you can build some kind of a mill that does pretty much nothing. Apart from upgrading your shitty campsite to a less-shitty castle, that’s about all there is to the building.
Resource Management –
There are only two resources in this game: coins and peasants. Coins are used to build and recruit peasants, who in turn pick up a hammer, bow, scythe, or shield to determine how they will eventually die. Archers defend walls and hunt, builders build, farmers generate coins, and knights lead attacks against the monster-generating portal things on either side of your camp.
Once you’ve given a couple of dudes scythes, they start farming and generating coins. As long as you can keep them alive, you’re pretty much never going to run out of money. Resource management becomes pointless very quickly.
The map is tiny and it takes maybe four in-game days to see it all (so…ten minutes?) Maybe there is some secret way to access more territory, but I’ll never know because the game got far too repetitive and boring for me to give a crap.
You can’t choose where to build anything, so I fail to see any room for strategy. The game is, simply put, a tedious grind. Build walls where you’re allowed to build them, and likewise for towers. Run out, recruit your 4-6 peasants a day, equip them with bows, and repeat every few minutes.
Exactly like Terraria, monsters will attack nearly every night. They look like purple olives and sometimes they wear masks. The longer you survive, the more of them will come. I also saw a couple of giant purple olives and a flying purple mosquito thing, all of which approach your camp, get shot with tons of arrows, die, and sometimes break a wall or two. There’s no strategy here, because you can’t even help them fight or give orders. You basically just sit there holding your pixelated crank while you wait for the sun to come up so you can go back to grinding. Your minions are so shallow that the knights won’t even fight when a wall gets knocked down. They run away…because the archers are programmed to defend walls, so screw them.
I’ll be honest. The only reason I played this game for five hours is because I really, really felt that there had to be more to it. I thought something had to unlock. Some new realm had to reveal itself. Nope. I didn’t even get new buildings. I maxed out every structure (all four of them) in the first 15 minutes of playing, and I was never able to upgrade them again. Fuck this.
Maybe there’s more to Kingdom. Maybe if I have a certain number of peasants then I can build something else, or if I clear enough trees…something, something. None of that matters if the game that I have to play to get to those “fun discoveries” is terribly boring.
On a final note, I realize that this is a pretty harsh review. I’m being emotional, because I get really upset when I’m bored. I also get upset when I see something that starts off with a bit of promise, lures me along by saying that there will be awesome new things to discover, but then laughs in my face at the end of the night because I discovered everything in the first half hour.
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!