The point-and-click hidden object adventures from the veteran publishers in the genre, Artifex Mundi, often provide relaxed experiences full of intellectual puzzle games, creative stories and hand-drawn artwork that may leave you in a state of wonderment. That’s why I’m always ready to find out what they’ve got in store for us next and with Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne now available on Xbox One, it’s time to find out if this medieval looking escapade can reach for the heights of those that have come before it. Or whether it’s just a pretender to the throne!
As we are whisked off to Griffinvale, we learn of the King who had something of a falling out with his son, the Prince, for marrying a poor girl. After this, the Prince was sent on a crusade where he died and his pregnant wife, ousted from the castle by the King, failed to survive childbirth. The child itself became embroiled in a cover-up, which is where the story begins as many years later, the Ulmer brothers, who are knights, make it their mission to find the last remaining heir to the throne, whilst they are being set-up for a crime they didn’t commit.
It’s possibly one of the most straightforward tales from the Artifex catalogue, with no weird magical creatures or anything demonic to be found here, just a good old conspiracy to try and stop the rightful heir from taking the crown. Simply put, Kingmaker has a slightly interesting story to tell without ever really benefitting from introducing anything overly exciting to the narrative. The voiceovers for the rather ordinary characters are decent enough to convey what’s going on reasonably well. You won’t ever be on the edge of your seat though, which is fine as long as other aspects of the game excel.
There’s the usual point-and-click activity of collecting items for your inventory that are spread throughout numerous locations within Griffinvale, which can then be used to overcome some kind of obstacle or lead to a mini-game of sorts. Almost all of the items and their usages are logical, with very little need for trial and error, and so the mini-games become the main source for testing the mind.
In Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne, the mini-games can be split up into the conventional ones and those that are akin to a boss fight. The latter occur fairly frequently, seeing you battling other knights by completing a reoccurring puzzle theme that tasks you with tracing lines between all of the dots on screen, but only using each line once within the design. Gosh, these are a real chore when it ramps up the total amount of lines needing to be traversed. The other mini-games have a certain freshness to them at least, with reworked designs of puzzles that have been seen in other Artifex Mundi games as well as new ideas; one in particular involves finding the correct sequence of removing interlocking rods in a lock picking scenario. The enjoyment outside of the boss encounters is definitely there, however I do think it’s lacking in the quantity of mini-games.
Fortunately, the hidden object scenes step up to ensure there’s an abundance of variety when scouring those specific sections. Whether it’s a list of words pertaining to the items needed, a shadowy outline of what to find or multiple fragments that must be located, these activities are great for bringing out your inner detective. Throw in the hidden collectables, with one phasing in and out of sight to grasp your attention in many of the locations you’ll visit, and a keen eye is required for sure.
After all is said and done in the main story, a bonus chapter will open up and serves to prolong the adventure by less than an hour at most. Without spoiling too much it’s about delivering justice to other folk that were involved in the conspiracy. Even with this added on, I’m still quite surprised at how quick the whole thing is over compared to many other games of this ilk, coming in at around three hours of gameplay. And apart from attempting to go through it on Expert difficulty, without the quickly recharging hints and the map indicators, there’s no replay value.
The artwork is hard to judge, mainly because most of the locations in the struggling Griffinvale are naturally drab. When venturing into the forest though, the greenery is lovely and when in the streets after dark, there’s a feeling of warmth from the lighting that’s being emitted from the houses. Whilst it’s not the most beautiful world visually, the hand-drawn efforts are suitable to represent the vibe the developers, Cordelia Games, are going for.
Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne manages to ensure the voiceovers are decent and don’t detract from the story being told like in other Artifex Mundi titles, and even though it’s a simple narrative, there’s an interesting enough premise to build upon with the gameplay elements. That’s why it’s a bit of a shame that the boss encounter puzzles are so annoying and the other mini-games are sparse. The wonderful assortment of hidden object activities makes up for that, but nothing can cover-up the swiftness of the experience being over.
As far as point-and-click adventures go, Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne only really excels on Xbox One in the hidden object area, so don’t rush to get it immediately. It’s good, but not great.