Thursday, September 14

Review: Kingdom: New Lands [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]

Kingdom: New lands is a game quite unlike anything I’ve ever played before and if it were just described for me I’m not sure it would sound all that impressive. The proof is in the playing, though, and while the level of what you can directly control is minimal that doesn’t detract from the compelling challenge the game offers. In it you take the role of either a king or queen who will need to slowly work to build their Kingdom while fighting off the threat of darkness. If you’re able to manage your people and resources well enough you’ll be able to destroy the dark portal that spawns the creatures that attack you at night, rebuild your boat, and move to a new land to try to continue building your empire.

The look of the game, with its pixel art style, is actually quite impressive in terms of how well it conveys everything you need to know and there’s even a bit of flair thrown in. Citizens of different types are clearly distinct from one another and that will be important as you ride by on your steed to be able to get an idea of how many of each you have. Your available funds are also visually displayed with your bag of money represented up in the corner of the screen. It will slowly fill with coins as you collect them and deplete as you use them, even overflowing at some point when you’ve collected too much. As with many things in the game it is sometimes the small details like this that are the most pleasing when you encounter them.

These aesthetics match well with the very limited control you have in the game as you move through your kingdom. You’re only able to move left or right, press a button to compel your horse to gallop a little faster (though you’d need to be careful to keep it from getting tired or you’ll be stuck moving slowly for a while), or press another button to drop coins that are used to either recruit commoners or instruct your people to take some action. Though you’re the ruler of this land you have very limited ability to directly do much of anything beyond making preparations and trying to prompt some very specific behaviors. You’re unable to directly do work, defend yourself, or pretty well anything. Your fate very much lies with the people you’re trying to direct and their fate is dependent upon your ability to make the right strategic decisions in the right amounts at the right times.

If you notice I’m being a bit vague on the details that’s doing you a favor if you have an interest in the game. In some ways it is best to think of the kingdom and your people as somewhat of a puzzle that’s a little different every time you play, though the base elements are the same. To solve this puzzle you’ll need to be efficient, not needlessly wasting your moves, and like most puzzles there are tricks to becoming really good at it. The joy in Kingdom is this process of discovery. Every small step you take in understanding what a certain element in the landscape does, or what effect doing some combination of things will have on your people and your chances of succeeding is a thrill. Unfortunately, as you get to the point that you’re not only sure of what you need to do but are confident in implementing an effective strategy you’ll have pretty much burned the game out and it probably won’t be very much fun to play anymore aside from simply trying to find success faster.

While the game can feel a bit too slow at times there are also moments where you’ll feel like the days are never long enough. If you find yourself getting stuck be cautious with guides and tips as they may give away more than you needed to know and rob you of some of that delicious feeling of discovery. While Kingdom: New Lands is hardly a perfect game the experience you get to undertake playing it is fresh and new, blending elements of tower defense with real-time strategy and resource management. As long as you understand the limits of what you can do and you’re willing to explore, experiment, and initially fail quite a lot it offers something unique and challenging to the Switch lineup.

Score: 8

  • A combination of genres I’ve never encountered before
  • As you go through discovery most elements of the game make intuitive sense once you reveal their nature and use
  • Until you work out the formula the game can be quite challenging

  • Your abilities are sometimes too stripped down. For instance the ability to cancel an action that hasn’t yet begun to be implemented would be greatly useful
  • Patrolling the breadth of your kingdom as it expands can get a bit tedious
  • Once you’ve watched the magic trick enough times to learn its secrets it likely will no longer be of much interest

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