Build, Expand And Defend Your Domain In Kingdom

When you get right down to it, what did it truly take to run a medieval kingdom? Was it divine holiness or an inherent wisdom? Or was it simply that they had the most money and the biggest army? In Kingdom, it all boils down to just that.

Emerging from the woods astride a horse, your budding king or queen – which is decided at random – has just a few gold coins to their name. However, that’s more than enough to raise a small settlement around a campfire and recruit a few workers to your cause, as they take the King’s Shilling, as it were. However, without tools, they’re helpless, so you have to ride over and give a few coins at a bow maker and a smith to make bows and axes for your underlings.

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With weapons and tools in hand, their jobs are defined, and they will wander off to hunt rabbits and deer (which drop coins as they are shot) or turn their hand to carpentry and construct the buildings and defences as you desire. Building isn’t freeform, but sees you wander over to specific locations with certain features, whether it’s a rock, a small spring or trees, and put the money in that will bring the men with axes ambling over to build it for you.

It takes a while to learn what everything will be turned into though, with the game forcing you to try things out to see what works. The spring is turned into farm land, which then needs you to go and buy some scythes for freshly recruited workers to become farmers, while other natural features will be turned into towers for an archer to stand in and putting a few coins into the fire at the centre will transform from humble beginnings as a simple fire first to a tented encampment and onward to ever more regal and imposing buildings

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The 2D presentation and pixel art won’t appeal to everyone, even with the lush woodland, the rather lovely reflections in the water at the lower third of the screen and the soundtrack that’s quaintly reminiscent of Swords & Sworcery or Fez. Yet the side-on view is key to how to the game plays, so that you quite literally only need three buttons to play the game, as you ride your horse left and right and dispense coins. The entire experience of managing your kingdom has been distilled down to the barest of concepts, making it eminently suitable for its planned release on mobile as well as PC and Mac.

Yet this is not as idyllic a land as it initially seems, and as the sun falls below the horizon, beasts emerge from the trees to besiege your settlement in force. Stoutly built with huge gaping maws for mouths, they shuffle towards your defences and butt up against anything of value, to tear them down and steal away the gold that you had invested in them. They have little interest in taking lives, and so if they happen upon some unfortunate builders that you had tasked with construction work too close to sunset, you’ll find those peasants roaming the land come morning. Getting a hold of you, on the other hand, is another matter…

Initially, these monsters aren’t too difficult to fend off with just a handful of archers, but as the days progress, they come in ever greater numbers. Knowing this threat emerges every night alters your perspective on what to buy, as a lurking danger that you can’t dispel by simply throwing money at the problem. It tears you between deciding to build and upgrade farms and other core building and building more barricades, towers and even catapults to defend yourself and protect all that you’ve built up so far.

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Though the aim of the game is to survive for as long as possible, the Gamescom demo was quite cunningly limited to five days and nights by sending a truly overwhelming group of monsters at my burgeoning settlement, with even larger beasts added into the mix that I simply could not defeat. Instead, I turned tail and I ran past them and into the forrest, alongside the enemies who were running off with gold clutched in their hands. I kept going past the red glowing crystalline structure from which they had emerged, that I wonder if I’d be able to destroy given more time and resources, and further until I came across a statue in a state of disrepair.

I slowed, and looked at it for a second, taking in the way that vines had crawled all over it and the missing head and limbs after years of neglect before spending my last two coins to repair it and allowing the game to be reset for the next prospective ruler.

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