Kingdoms and Castles Review
As of writing this blog I am only a few of hours into the game. That said, a lot can happen in a few hours. There's not a story to progress through or mechanics to unlock. There's simply learning the game and seeing the big picture. I feel like I have done that in Kingdoms and Castles.
Town Management / City Building Game
In Kingdoms and Castles your goal will be to take your tiny little hamlet and grow it into a ginormous city with a ruling castle.
As you go along your merry way feeding your villagers and raising your walls, you'll be faced with a few challenges.
Vikings may storm your city. Brutal winters may destroy your crops. Pesky dragons may light the whole place on fire. Life won't be easy, but I can promise you it will be worth it.
Cute Pixel-y Graphics Mask Depth
Kingdoms and Castles just looks cute. It's so simple -- not overly so, but balancing on the edge. Much strength is drawn from that simplicity in how the game mechanics can be embraced to fill in so many gaps in design.
You know what I mean? When the graphics and animations of a game are better, we almost expect so much more from them in the gameplay department. The less real and complicated something looks, the more we're like "wow this game is so simple and amazing!"
But not everything is simple here.
Kingdoms and Castles has a layer of depth to it. There is indeed city management. There's happiness, citizen roles, economy, and an maddening need for planning.
Managing a Happy City
I won't go into incredible details here about all of the management systems in Kingdoms and Castles. Instead I'm going to touch on a few that have already proven to be difficult for me to manage well.
I tend to task everyone meaning that I am always growing my city at a rate equal to the number of citizens I gain. What I should be doing is letting my population grow so that I have idle workers. Only idle workers can build. In my first few games I found myself without workers, so I was constantly having to wait a really, really long time for anything to happen.
Your layout will make or break a great kingdom. I totally fail at forethought. I tend to tuck all of farms away in one corner and clump all my residents in another. I like my things in neat little piles.
Newsflash: That's now how a kingdom lives. Housing districts should each have their own farmland. This allows you to utilize markets, storage yards, and product facilities for effectively.
And although we're building a medieval city here, peasants still have their preferences. Like building your coal products next to a public library and a few mansions might be a bad idea. Cough.
Build Up a Castle
Building up the castle itself is my favorite part of the game. As long as you don't fail at city planning like me (hint: leave room around your castle for expansion) then you'll be able to add things like a treasure room, chamber of war, barracks, etc. These make your castle start to look bigger and more castle-ish.
Castle expansions are also where you'll find most of the depth in the game like combat, taxation, feasts, etc.
Vikings and Dragons and Death, OH MY!
Unless you're playing on the easiest difficulty, you're going to have harsh winters, vikings, and dragons paying you a visit.
Winders are pretty easy to overcome, but man those dragons and vikings.
My second game (pictured throughout this post) was all about learning how to successfully grow a kingdom. I wasn't giving much focus to anything else.
That proved to be a bit of a mistake.
All game long I was plagued by dragons flying overhead and burning down my farms. Pro Tip: Build wells throughout your kingdom. It's probably a good idea to build ballistae and arrow towers.
When I had just started to really find my rhythm, suddenly I look out into the sea and there's half a dozen viking ships coming right at me. CRAP!
Soooo yeah... they made off with like half my villagers and I spent another hour trying to recover but it was futile. Once those vikings hit my food supply and took my good villagers, I was done for.
Pro Tip: Build walls and have lots of towers.
What's Missing from Kingdoms and Castles
I found myself wishing for a bit more in Kingdoms and Castles. I don't want too much more. The game's simplicity should be maintained. I just feel like there are several ways the game could be taken up a notch.
- Livestock - Cows or pigs or something to enhance the agriculture
- Forestry enhancements - I felt like the forestry was never good enough and I was constantly having to micro my villagers to chop. Contrast that with mining which is way more consistent and automated.
- Ships and Ports - Maybe some kind of ocean trading or reason to set sale places
- More building variety in towns and industry
- More than just random 'viking attacks' from the sea. I'd like there to be other kingdoms actually on the map.
Kingdoms and Castles is a somewhat relaxing, cute, and deceptively not-so-simple city builder. You can get your feng shui on, or make a super efficient kingdom.
After about 2-3 hours, if you play efficiently, you can probably see everything there is to do. That's not a negative -- especially for a $10 game -- but you have to want or be willing to want to play again.
My biggest gripe will be that once you commit to a course of action (layout, for example) you're pretty much compelled to stick with it. Restarting a game and facing the prospect of hours to rebuild is daunting. If you take the challenge as a good thing, then Kingdoms and Castles is for you.
In its early access state, I give Kingdoms and Castles a solid 7.5/10.