My kingdom, my kingdom for a hearse! Seriously, there are a lot of dead guys that need to be carried to the graveyard, and I don’t have the plague carts from Monty Python.
Kingdom: New Lands is a strategy simulation game full of repetition. It follows the philosophy that if you don’t succeed, try again. And again. And yet again, as you battle your way against the hordes of greedy… Greed. These creatures will smack you like a poor piggy bank as they drain you of your coin, getting you closer to the point that they knock the crown off of your head and leave you with a game over screen.
The mechanic of using money as your health is a really cool concept because the only way you can progress through the game is through spending your currency for upgrades and repairing the shipwreck that takes you to the next level. This makes every choice worth contemplation, but it ends up losing some contemplation once you get into a groove of design. Upgrade walls and push for catapults as fast as you can. Towers are useless because your archers are impossibly inept. They can’t lead a target, and they tend to shoot the walls whenever they can. Instead, make sure the catapults have a tier 4 wall in front of them and let them go wild. Hire some farmers instead so you can get tons of coins each day and voila, you have a formula that works for the whole game.
That’s one of the issues with this game, how shallow it is. You have coins to buy things with, but it’s the same linear path every time. There could have been a small menu that popped up when you hit a fork in a building’s path and let you pick something that would attack enemies or be further reinforced. That would have been a nice little upgrade which would make planning your kingdom have a little bit of spice to it. But this game doesn’t have that, and the only branching upgrades are from an unlock that you might not get until your final playthrough.
One of the cool things this game has is the rogue-lite aspect of unlocking new items with every playthrough. This allows for an interesting set of playthroughs as you search for each map fragment, juggling the kingdom through each day. It’s also cool that you can leave the fragment behind and not unlock anything if you need to bail. This stops the game from hand holding and really does allow you to abandon ship if things are going downhill faster than you can back pedal.
An issue with the upgrade system resides in Kingdom: New Lands’ long burn. This game is slow paced, but it has a mechanic for fast paced games inside of it, making for an odd combination that doesn’t work. It could take you an hour to get through an island, and you could end up with a statue that helps your farmers gather more crops. It isn’t really helpful if what you were struggling with was the difficulty of hordes of Greed and their flying fiends. This upgrade system has the caveat that you can replay through islands to unlock new loot that may be just as useless to you as a dog that barks to indicate the location of the enemy wave. Thing is, they also lock the better islands away on other islands, which makes absolute sense. Some people might not be able to make it to the other islands, no matter how hard they try, and that kind of takes some of the wind out of the sails.
I was part of the group that couldn’t even get past the first island before I looked up a guide. This is from the lack of the game explaining anything. They tell you what walls are and what towers are, and that’s the end of the tutorial. They don’t tell you that destroying the outer tree of a camp will destroy the camp, including the merchant’s camp. The merchant is an essential, and can be removed because the game didn’t specify the termination of his caravan contract. This can kill your early game, and even kill you as you struggle to make up for the lost income because you wanted to place a wall a few feet inside the forest.
Another thing they don’t tell you is how to command knights. I had read on several guides that you should take knights with you on your boat, but I could never figure out how they intended for me to do that when there was no way to make them follow me to the boat. They just stood there and looked at me with confusion as I threw coins at them. This buffed their health, but they still didn’t follow me on my horse.
The final issue I have is the difficulty being extremely too hard. Everything starts out alright and nice with just a few Greed attacking, but when you get to night ten and further you’ll start being massacred by hordes of Greed. Maybe the addition of a difficulty setting would help make the game worth replaying, and just lock the most powerful unlocks behind higher difficulty. This would allow people to make it through the game a few times as they unlock new items and allow them to complete higher difficulties for even better loot.
One thing I can give credit to this game for is the graphics. They are absolutely stunning pixel graphics that leave me with a smile on my face. The only thing that isn’t animated well belongs to the flags, but that is a very small thing compared to the grand design of the game. The horse and hair and everything in between is crafted with a lovely artistic notion, and don’t even get me started on the water! The reflection and general appearance of the river that runs along the screen is absolutely awesome, and it certainly made the game more likeable as I looked at all the pretty things.
But in the end, Kingdom: New Lands is just that: a pretty thing without much substance. Think of whatever metaphor or analogy you like, but you will notice that the game is on repeat and may lead to you losing your will to play. I wish it was better, or at least wasn’t as shallow as a puddle on my cobblestone streets. It has absolute potential, but just needs more than pretty touch ups to make it worth everyone’s time. In the end, it isn’t a bad game by any stretch, but it needs to have more content and be more accessible for everyday consumers that don’t want to be smashed over the head as they play a seemingly casual game.