A friend of mine recommended Kingdom to me, and another sent me a copy of it, so I wound up putting some time into it over the break. It’s a 2D sidescrolling strategy game where you play as a ruler who can collect money and drive construction, and you’re trying to build your kingdom in the wilderness.
It’s one part Terraria/Starbound, one part Majesty (did anyone besides me play that game?)– essentially, you don’t have any direct influence and act entirely through your subjects. Your subjects can be found at camps and lured into joining you with money. Money comes from archers, who hunt game, and farmers, who tend crops. It appears as coins on the ground which you can pick up, and your subjects will pick them up themselves if you’re not around and hand them over if they see you.
Money is used to equip your subjects– you can spend money to make a tool or weapon and unequipped subjects will gravitate towards it and pick it up. It can also be used to build– upgrades, walls, farms, watchtowers, and so on. These will be staffed by appropriately-equipped subjects, and they’re built by builders, which is another tool type.
Opposing your progress is the Greed, bandits and monsters who continually harry your kingdom from the edges. They look to steal your money and tools, and will attack you and your subjects to get them. As the ruler, you have a crown, and if you’re hit and have no money to drop, your crown will get knocked off– if the Greed steals it or it’s otherwise destroyed, you’re done.
The Greed comes at night, and in the night all of your subjects will rest and, with the exception of Builders (who will toil through the night heedless of the danger), will sit inside the borders of your kingdom– whatever the outermost wall is. From there, they’ll shoot at and defend your kingdom from the Greed.
Success is about expanding your kingdom while keeping yourself safe from the ever-escalating attacks from the Greed. Overextend and you’ll find yourself spread too thin to fend off the Greed, turtle up too much and you’ll be overrun. It’s important to venture beyond the borders of your kingdom, both to expand and to find important things to help your growth.
The whole game is a really interesting concept, but I ultimately found it somewhat frustrating. It ramps up in difficulty rather quickly if you’re not on top of things, and there are a number of mistakes you can make that will cripple you while seeming like sound decisions. I’ve talked about degenerative strategies before, and Kingdom suffers hugely from them– a lot of the things you can do or build are simply bad choices that you should never make, and since there’s no way to destroy buildings or manually command your units, you can find yourself stuck without realizing it.
As an example of this, one of the structures you can build is the archer tower. If conveniently located, archers in an archer tower can shoot down at enemies over walls easily and more accurately, helping hold the line. Sounds great, except that your line is always moving, and archer towers don’t. Furthermore, archers won’t leave archer towers. As a result, you can easily get into a situation where your entire defensive force is spread thin, and a concentrated attack will cut a swathe through your entire kingdom where a focused defense would have kept everything safe. I rarely make more than two or three archer towers total in a winning game, usually just to hold against particularly nasty waves. Otherwise, massed archers handle themselves just fine.
In a similar vein, there’s a wandering merchant who, for four gold, will fill up one of your tools (to four); tools being bows to make archers, hammers to make builders, or scythes to make farmers. Considering that putting tools in costs 2-5 gold each, this seems like a good deal, up until you realize that you want a very tight control over the number of builders and farmers you have, and since both of those are likely to get picked up before bows, and you usually want more archers than anything else, that merchant is doing you no favors unless he randomly gives you bows. Again, in games I win, I basically never use the merchant.
I understand that Kingdom is trying to be an iterative game, where you play it over and over and make better decisions each time. I theoretically like that about it, except that as I’ve gotten better at the game, I’ve mostly realized that the best strategy is the least interesting one and uses as few of the game’s mechanics as possible. I find this frustrating, because it’s already a fairly shallow game as far as complexity– having winning strategies use even fewer of the game’s limited mechanics is somewhat irritating.
That all having been said, it’s a game I had a good bit of fun with until “solving” it, and it’s a game I’m glad I picked up. It’s honestly probably worth it just for the pixel-art style and the music, which are both rather nice.