The resource management genre is one that hasn’t been exploited as much as others, and one in which each new release stands out among the other games on Steam. Kingdom, developed by Noio and Licorice and published by Raw Fury, is a new take on the age-old challenge of properly managing a small village and helping it prosper, eventually seeing it turn into a sturdy castle that can withstand any enemy. The game is an interesting release, albeit being tainted by a series of odd design choices that might, at times, result in an unpleasant gaming experience.
A simple, yet artistically impressive game.
Kingdom presents itself in a rather simple way: you control the king or queen of the castle, your gender being randomly generated at the start of each match, and have to work toward its expansion by managing your finances and build order. As you move through a beautifully crafted 2D, pixel art world, in a style that might seem simplistic at first, but one that sports advanced technology, such as multiple transparent layers for weather effects and a dynamically generated terrain, you’ll push your horse to the brink of exhaustion while looking for gold. Gold is the only resource in the game and pretty much what controls everything in Kingdom. Reflections, dynamic water, and a rather colorful palette also add to the charm of this title, which really gets the best out of the pixel art. Your vain attempts to survive, since Kingdom is a game where failure is so common it could be considered one of the features, and where the final objective can only be found through dangerous exploration, are accompanied by a masterfully composed soundtrack, available as a DLC and sporting a good amount of tracks that perfectly suit all moods you could be going through. From a smooth and calm music to mark the beginning of a sunny day, to creepy and dark tracks for the more dangerous events in the game. The soundtrack clearly demonstrates how the developer considered how much sound impacts the overall experience.
For loyalty alone will not fill your subjects’ bellies. Gold is required to do everything and its availability and your ability to manage it will decide how long you get to live. From building defenses to hiring new soldiers or workers and arming them, everything will require you to count your coins and think twice before giving the order, as you’ll often risk spending too much and approaching a crucial part of the game lacking the funds to go on. The building process remains quite simple, but it’s here that one of Kingdom‘s biggest flaws begins to surface. To build a structure, you will have to clear the appropriate amount of land, invest some of your gold and make sure you have some builders ready to do the heavy lifting. As the game doesn’t include a micromanagement system when it comes to units and doesn’t allow you to command them toward a certain direction or structure, your free workers will automatically accept a task and make sure it is completed as soon as possible. This seems amazing during the day, but will be utterly annoying at night.
Nights in Kingdom are where all the fighting happens. While you’ll spend most of your days expanding, you’ll have to spend the night repelling hordes of goblins and other vile creatures who are after your gold and, eventually, your crown. Losing your crown will result in a game over. To do so, Kingdom allows you to build different defensive structures such as walls, watchtowers, and catapults; hire different kind of units like archers, swordsmen and knights; and prepare for the assault by reinforcing your village. What the game doesn’t allow you to do is control these units which results in you being unable to evenly distribute your forces along the map as you end up having a few fully manned watchtowers on the left flank, for example, while remaining completely exposed on your right as you can’t order your men to leave the structure and defend a different access point.
AI is this game’s downfall.
What’s really annoying in Kingdom and, most of all, has the greater impact on gameplay is the degree of stupidity some of your subjects will demonstrate, especially at dawn. While most production facilities are located outside the walls and will naturally be more vulnerable to an enemy attack, your workers should automatically return to the city center once their workday is over. Some of them though, especially the more expensive farmers, will sometimes decide to hang by their workplace a little longer, perhaps expecting to be paid for their overtime while the enemy charges at them and quickly steals their tools, forcing you to pay more gold to have them back to work. The fact that all you can do is watch as your people are butchered, as the King or Queen cannot attack the enemy or even get off their horse, another one of Kingdom‘s odd design choices, makes these events even more frustrating and leaves the bitter taste of a game that is controlled by luck rather than skills. Another instance in which the poor AI design is highlighted is when using catapults. These devices, which are deployed by the outer walls and are supposed to be hurling large rocks at the enemy army to quickly dispatch most of it, require a worker to interact with them in order to be readied for use, but not for the payload to be launched. This results in the catapult automatically launching the first rock as soon as a group of enemies is within range, telling the engine to send a worker over to be reloaded and then having you wait for the worker to physically get to it from the city center before it can launch again. As catapults are especially effective in late game against flyers and larger bulks of enemies and as your workers walk at a relatively slow speed, you’ll end up without artillery support for long times, a problem which could have been easily solved by automatically placing a builder next to each siege weapon or by allowing you to choose when to fire them. Lastly, while watching one of your archers trying to hit wildlife from behind a wall by trying to knock an arrow through the masonry can be entertaining, it surely isn’t the most effective way to do so and will make you lose precious time.
While most of the aforementioned flaws are not game-breaking issues, they definitely negatively impact on gameplay, rendering it less pleasant than it should be. Kingdom is still an enjoyable game, especially since it appears as a simple title which is, in fact, really hard to master and that offer a theoretically infinite degree of replayability, but suffers from these issues and will see you having to take a break from the nonsense to avoid going insane. Its pleasant aesthetics and overall content play a huge role in making this game one that stands out of the crowd though and with just a bit more work and a final layer of polish, Noio and Licorice could turn Kingdom into the definitive 2D medieval sidescroller.
A PC copy of Kingdom was provided by the developer. To learn more about our score, read our review policy.