Kingdom is a game I stumbled upon reading Retronator magazine over on Medium. I follow them because they highlight some great pixel-based art, which I love, but this time I found both great art and a great game.
The history of Kingdom reads like a fairy tale story…started out as a Flash game, got some popularity, then after some time and money, it’s selling on Steam. Kingdom is a simple game at first that tests your endurance and your tower defense skills, but it’s also a game that will test your tolerance for frustration.
In Kingdom you play a king or queen that needs to foster, well, a kingdom. You start with nothing but some cash. Thankfully, cash is all you need. You don’t have much control in the game. You decide where to build things (sorta) and how to spend the money – on offense, defense or structures.
At its heart, Kingdom is a tower defense game. You’re trying to build up your kingdom while defending against attack zombie-thieves and other creatures. The longer you survive, the more people and coins you’ll be able to collect.
What’s unique about Kingdom is the gameplay and presentation. This isn’t your normal top-down tower defense game where you watch a caravan of bad guys enter from one side to the other. Kingdom is a sidescroller and you have to ride your royal steed from left to right in order to keep tabs on everything. Thankfully riding back and forth is a charming task.
The graphics of Kingdom are pixel-based along the lines of Swords & Sworcery or Fez. It’s nothing really new but they’re well done and fun to watch. Game controls are dead easy too…left, right and down (for PC) is all you need. From there you just watch things happen and hope…and I mean hope…things go well.
No crown, no king
While I like playing Kingdom and enjoy the challenge, it has its fair share of problems. Okay, maybe they’re not problems…maybe they were designed that way…but nonetheless they’re frustrating and I hope they get fixed in the future.
The biggest complaint I have is the AI of your people. Archers and builders make up the bulk of your population and they are dumb. They move slow, they wander directly into danger and just otherwise don’t balance themselves well. Given the game gives you no control over free will, I’d like to things would be a little smarter because if a ghoul catches your king, it’s game over.
Other gripes include the lack of stats while you play. There’s no chart telling you how many archers you have or builders. You have to keep track of that in your head and while that’s easy at first, after you get raided once or twice and your people are scattered to the winds, it’s very difficult to get back on track.
The layout of the game, while beautiful, is often a pain point because it’s randomly generated and you’re limited as to where you can build walls, towers, etc. so there is often the case when you’re pretty much boned and just have to hope your stupid archers can get the job done.
One could argue that not having a stat showing how much gold you have is a problem, however, I like how Kingdom handles it. It’s clever. There’s a graphic of your purse in the corner of the screen and it fills up as you collect coins…and that’s your limit. If your purse overflows, coins fall out. I don’t know what the max is – and it may be variable – but I like that there’s a limit because it makes you spend your coins and make quick spending decisions. No hoarding here.
Despite all the flaws, Kingdom is a fun game, especially for the first hour or so. After that it can drag thanks to the slowness and dumbness of your citizens. This is a game I’ll certainly keep playing and watching to see when updates get made. Rumors suggest an iPad version is on the way and while I hope that’s true, they should wait until they get all the bugs worked out before releasing it in the App Store.
If you’re a fan of tower defense games without a lot of micromanagement, Kingdom should fit the bill. And given it doesn’t play like your typical defense game, there’s some new fun here…just don’t be surprised when you’ve been playing for 2 hours and don’t feel like you’ve gotten very far.
Kingdom is available on Steam for $10 but it seems to go on sale quite a bit so keep an eye out and score it for less.