Game Review #324: Kingdom: New Lands (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Allan Jenks
Publisher: Raw Fury
Category: Strategy, Adventure, Simulation
Release Date: 9.14.2017
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy Kingdom: New Lands from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
I Never Knew I Needed This
One of the really great things about reviewing games—especially of the indie variety—is the fact that I end up getting to play a lot of games I probably wouldn’t have ever played otherwise if I were hand-picking them for myself, and while there have been a few duds, I’ve found myself quite impressed with the majority of the miscellanea of games I have gotten to experience. A few have even opened up entirely new genres of gaming for me that I would never have thought I would like. One of those games is the title we’ll be discussing today, Kingdom: New Lands.
It All Started In a Flash...
Kingdom: New Lands started out back in 2015 as simply Kingdom, a flash game created by Thomas van den Berg and Marco Bancale—a.k.a. Noio and Licorice, respectively—with the help of publisher Raw Fury. Kingdom is a 2-D side-scrolling simulation game where you play the part of a king or queen trying to build and expand their kingdom. You explore your 2-D landscape, building up guard towers and base camps, as well as watermills and crops, all while recruiting wandering settlers into your kingdom to help you build, defend, and expand.
In 2017, a re-worked version of Kingdom was released for the Switch under the name Kingdom: New Lands, and it included additional lands to explore and expand upon, different seasonal conditions, and some fixes to some of the more repetitive aspects of the game.
Speaking of repetitive, even with whatever they fixed—I have not played the original for comparison—the gameplay can find itself matching that definition, but there are a lot of steps involved in this rinse-and-repeat cycle, so once you get the hang of it, the cycles will be repetitive, but fun and addicting at the same time.
Basically all you do the entire time is go back and forth, end to end across your 2-D frontier lands, riding atop your horse and collecting coins from the citizens you have recruited. These coins are collected by the citizens when they complete tasks relative to the tools they carry, from completing the building of a structure for the builder, harvesting of crops from the field workers, to hunting of animals for the archers and bowmen.
To Expand, or Not To Expand?
As you collect coins, you can use them to either build and upgrade the walls, barriers, and structures of your kingdom's defenses, commission more weapons and tools from the smiths for use in building and defending the kingdom, build up infrastructure for crops and food, or build and restore an old ship you find—and a few other random options throughout at which to throw coins.
The real trick is finding a good balance between all of these options that will help you grow and expand at a healthy rate, while at the same time keeping your kingdom well-defended against the inevitable onslaught of attacks you will be facing from the Shy Guys and the Sand People who appear from the portals at the edge of your land to bust up your structures, loot your gold, and ultimately, steal your crown—and with it, your kingdom and the game.
The game does not waste time explaining things to you other than to direct you through your first couple of purchases and then leaving you to your own devices. Hell, there’s not even a title screen, it’s just straight to it. Turns out, half the fun of the game is figuring it out for yourself without any instruction. It certainly adds to the gameplay value for me, as I do like a good thinker.
I dropped somewhere around 9 or 10 hours into this game before I managed to beat the first level and move on, and I honestly thought I beat the game at first, given the challenge it took to get to that point, but it was only just the beginning! The next stage was even more difficult than the first, as the enemies were coming at me even sooner in day count—the game has a day and night cycle, night being the more common time you see the Sand People, and the higher the day count, the higher the likelihood of an attack—and they were now coming from both sides of the map, as there was now a portal on each end, rather than just the one. By this point though, you’re already invested, so you have to keep trucking along and deal with it!
Audio & Video
The visual style is pixel art of the 8- and 16-bit variety, and it is very well done. It truly has an old NES nostalgic feel to it, and the pixelated kingdom looks great! The enemies look like a cross between the Shy Guys from Super Mario Bros. 2, Papa Shango, and the Sand People from Star Wars. They appear from the sides of the screen out of nowhere, and even though it’s just pixels, they are just creepy-looking enough to provide a few high-anxiety jump-scare moments when they decide to attack.
The music doesn’t help, as it is just basically ambient background music until the Sand People jump out, then, it gets hectic and nerve-wracking. The sound effects for the various tasks and coin-collecting are also well-done and appropriately fitting for the overall feel and experience of the game.
Kingdom: New Lands took some time to grow on me, but I am glad I gave it a fair shot, because once I got the hang of it a little, it got really fun and addictive. I have not really ever played this type of simulation/strategy game before, but I like it. And there is a follow-up to New Lands called Kingdom: Two Crowns that was also just released on the Switch, and I am definitely going to have to try that one out now, as I hear it has co-op as well! If you are a simulation fan, a fan of resource management strategy games, or just want to try something new, you really should give this game a try.
Buy Kingdom: New Lands from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Raw Fury