I’ve never been a huge fan of city building sims. Though many can see their allure, I’ve always found the time spent sifting through menus boring and frustrating. Kingdom subverts typical expectations of the genre by providing a stripped back city building sim devoid of menus, UI and even tutorials. With the first game releasing in 2015 and expanding with New Lands in 2016, Kingdom Two Crowns builds on these foundations by adding a number of improvements, quality of life changes and new content.
The premise of Kingdom is simple: build, expand and defend your kingdom. Each game starts the same way as your ruler rides into a basic settlement and you start hiring local vagrants and put them work as archers, builders, and eventually farmers. At the beginning of each game day, you receive money from a trader who lives just outside of your kingdom. Archers will also collect money for each animal they kill, and there are sometimes chests outside your kingdom that provide income.
Balance is vital in Kingdom, as you must expand while ensuring you have also fortified your defences enough to withstand the evil forces present in game. Greed, as they are referred to, will attack your kingdom during the night. They will rob your citizens of their tools and revert them back to being vagrants, and should they attack the you, the greed will steal gold and ultimately the crowd on your head. At that point it’s game over. Dealing with the Greed can be tense, especially when you meet the stronger units later in the game.
Though the original played as a roguelite that always reset you back to the very beginning, Kingdom Two Crowns instead sees players traversing a number of islands. Death no longer completely resets progress, as you are now able to continue from the previous island should you have made it past the first, with your next reign seeing you rebuilding from a kingdom that has decayed for a period of time in your absence. This is a welcome addition that provides players with a clearer motivation for progressing, while limiting some of the frustration of the previous Kingdom games and some of the chore of working through the early game.
Loneliness was often a key theme of the previous titles. Even with a large number of subjects and an expansive Kingdom, the player was always alone in their decision making, leading a large pack from the front. Two Crowns changes this with the addition of cooperative multiplayer. Two friends can now work together locally or online via Steam to expand their kingdom and defeat the ever approaching Greed.
While I was initially worried that cooperative play would ruin the game’s sense of isolation, it actually adds an entirely different dynamic to the game. Where you would initially have to consider every element of your kingdom, the addition of coop allows you and a buddy to micromanage the various aspects of it instead. One person can focus on expanding the kingdom while the other explores and searches for treasure. It’s also opens the game up to those who may have been intimidated by the difficulty, providing a less daunting and mechanically easier experience.
Another new addition to Kingdom Two Crowns are the different biomes. They are not as substantial as some of the other updates in the game, but the biomes do provide returning players with a slightly different visual experience. There are currently two biomes in the game, the original Kingdom experience and the Shogun biome, with more planned for the future. However, nothing has been stated around when they’ll be coming and if they will be paid additions.
It’s worth mentioning just how excellent Kingdom Two Crowns looks. The developer’s commitment to using minimal UI meant that the visual design was kept incredibly simple, but this simplicity results in some stunning environmental imagery. My favourite example of this is the sun rise at the beginning of each in-game day, which serves as a visual delight as well as a providing the relief that you’ve managed to survive another night.
Even with a number of refinements and the inclusion of cooperative multiplayer, Kingdom Two Crowns is still a crushingly difficult game. While some of the difficulty has been curbed by the reduced death penalty, it’s a game that you have to spend a lot of time playing before you really feel a sense of achievement. I do worry this could be too much of an investment for some players, but I do think the experience warrants the invested time.
Kingdom Two Crowns feels more like an extensive update than a new entry to the series, but the base game is still so immensely enjoyable that it doesn’t really matter. This is the perfect starting point for new players, and those who are returning might still be surprised by some of the secrets to be found.
Version tested: Nintendo Switch – Also available for PS4, Xbox One & PC