Published on August 19th, 2016 | by Coppert4nk0
Review – Kingdom: New Lands
Kingdom: New Lands is a tower defense strategy game. Having never played the original Kingdom, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After taking a quick glimpse at the trailer for both games, I was immediately drawn in by the game’s art style and its distinctive side-scrolling view, which I had never seen in any strategy game before.
The game starts out by immediately placing you in a forest as a randomly assigned king or queen (which you can have reassigned if you press the arrow down key at the loading screen prior to). If you choose not to skip the intro, the game will give you some very basic guidance via a spirit that points towards where you need to go and what you need to do to get started on building your very own camp.
Kingdom: New Lands has a very minimalist appeal to it. Once you have built the beginnings of your camp, the spirit that has been guiding you will simply say “Build, expand, defend” and then disappear. From here on out it is entirely up to you to figure out what you need to do in order to survive. The controls are very simple; move left and right, sprint, and drop coins. As you move out East or West from your camp, you will run across a procedurally generated landscape, with various things to help you protect your ruler’s crown. Along the path you’ll find peasants to recruit, traders, statues that temporarily buff your units, and more.
In order to build and expand your base, you’ll need to keep a steady income through various means such as allowing traders their own plot of land and by hiring farmers. Once night time has come, a horde of monsters will come to attack your base for a chance to steal your gold and crown. Your king or queen will take hits without dropping the crown as long as they have coins in their bag, which they will drop instead. If a monster picks your crown up from the ground, the game is over and you will have to start as the leader of a new nation and begin once again on the first island of the game.
This brings me to the entire reason why Kingdom received the reiteration that is New Lands. In the original game your goal was to survive as many days as possible. In New Lands (as the name would suggest), your goal is to repair discovered shipwrecks so that you can use them to spread your monarchy to new islands. With each island comes new features to help you in your quest as well as harder challenges to overcome. However, I found that there is a lack of rewards you receive after starting on each new island. In the trailers, you see all sorts of weapons your units can wield and mounts your ruler can ride that you don’t initially get to use. Other than keeping some of the units from my last island, the only noticeable rewards I received after clearing three islands were statues that were permanently established on the islands I had previously played on, and a dog that follows me everywhere and seemingly does nothing. Overall, this makes the game have a disappointingly slow feel to its progression and makes it hard to stay interested when going up against more enemies from more directions with the same defenses you had before.
Kingdom: New Land’s presentation is beautiful. While some may be tired of the common pixelated retro look of many indie games today, I find it fitting for the style of this game. Given the bare bones nature of the gameplay, the bare bones graphics are a perfect match. The music is incredible. You’ll be captivated by relaxing soundtracks as you traverse the forest and plains, and stressed out when a disturbing track plays as monsters bombard your walls. The entire environment of the game is also reflected on a river that takes up the bottom half of the screen. This makes for a really nice, unique effect especially at night when it reflects the torches spread out along your base. Not to mention that the longer you stay on the same island, the more you’ll see the land dynamically change as each new season comes.
My biggest issue with this game is that there’s almost zero explanation for anything. I can’t exactly hold it against the developers as I’m sure this is what they intended so that players could discover the game mechanics for themselves. However, I found myself constantly restarting from the beginning when I finally understood that I’ve been using a new game mechanic in an inefficient way. Even if I wanted to continue playing at that point in time, there’d be no way to recover the lost coins I could have made, or the defenses I could have built. If you’re the type of gamer that’s up for a masochistic challenge (Dark Souls players), this might be for you. Personally, I didn’t find the game progression rewarding enough for me to constantly figure out how to fix what I did wrong every single time. In a sense, the game is harsh with constant trial and error rather than discovery and adaptation. That being said, the gameplay becomes fun once you have a basic understanding of what your objective is and how to accomplish it.
Summary: Kingdom: New Lands may very well be one of the hardest games I’ve played in 2016, but for the wrong reasons. While addictive once you figure out how the game works, it has a very frustrating learning curve and feels slightly unrewarding due to the pace of its progression.