A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! Well, this time, you have a horse, but your kingdom does need some gold.
Kingdom is a minimalist 2D strategy/resource-managing game under development from Noio (the Netherlands) and Licorice (Iceland) and published by Raw Fury. It started as a Flash game from Noio before the duo got together and decided to expand their efforts using Unity and to publish the game this fall – with an estimated end of October/early November launch – on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android.
In Kingdom, the player takes the role of a randomly generated king or queen, tasked with starting and defending a little plot of land and turning it into, well, yeah, a Kingdom. With your pouch filled with gold coins, and a little ambition, maybe you’ll be able to survive the wild pixel-art land before you.
When night falls, that’s when shit starts to go down. Little creepy enemies (which look part Mario’s Shy Guy, part Ghibli’s Faceless Man) will attack your village, hoping to rob you of every last coin you have. If you’ve spent all of them during the day, you may have more defenses, but you are more vulnerable to attack. And attack they will, as more and more of the little buggers (the only time the game had any slow down was when mobs of them hit the screen) will raid your village under the cover of darkness. Once you are out of coins, either from being attacked, or because you spent them all during the day, they’ll be able to knock off your crown with the next hit. If they manage to pick up your crown before you can, it’s game over.
A ruler’s nothing without a crown, after all.
And it’s in that balancing act that the game lies. My first playthrough I lasted through almost all of the demo, but my second trip around, I lost my crown in one of the earlier days. You need to balance building, archers, fortifying your town, and also exploring. The forest is procedurally generated (though I did notice one of the secret areas popping up in the same place both times, but that could have just been for the demo), giving you a different experience each time. My first pass I found a bunch of gold wandering in the forest … my second time I was not so lucky. There does seems to be a limit set to how far away from camp you can explore, however, or at least an area that I couldn’t figure out how to pass without dying. Damn those night creatures!
Kingdom doesn’t have a lot of instructions for you — and that’s on purpose. Throughout my demo, I found (and gave lots of coins) to various elements, and it was unclear exactly what they did. I would later see the effects pop up. I kept giving coins to trees, which I think my builders eventually may have used. Another area, some type of secret crumbled down little ruin structure, ate up a ton of my coins before falling apart, then asked for more coins. I, for some reason, gave it some, only to fear that I had been the victim of some ancient ruin’s Red Cross campaign. It appeared to do nothing, but it actually had some secret but useful consequences later on (one I never would have guessed if not told, might I add). The lack of guidance works both ways, though, as it gives players a lot of freedom to discover things on their own. But this also means that players can be wasting resources on results they may never see in any given playthrough.
Kingdom does have a win state, but my hour or so demo with the game brought me nowhere close to finding it. What it did do was give me a taste of a game that has more going on underneath the surface than a player can find at once, and that begs players to lose and learn from their mistakes. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. Kingdom tasks the player with adapting to the shifting needs of defense, managing peasants, exploration, and balancing saving and spending that precious gold.
And in those ways, it’s almost like actually running a kingdom.