There is a saying that money makes the world go around, and that rule can certainly be applied to Kingdom, the 2D fiefdom building game where coin is everything. It’s your tool, your HP, your sword and shield.
After you’ve done exactly that to build the basis of a fortress, the first order of business is filling it with bodies to toil under you. Other humans can be found by exploring and their employment bought for the low price of one gold piece; once in your employ, you can assign them certain roles depending on what tools you have constructed at the time. Buy a bow for two coins for example, and any worker without a specific role will march over and pick it up, becoming an archer. The same goes for hammers and builders, scythes and farmers.
There is a game winning scenario in there somewhere, but the onus is on your royal shoulders to go and find it
All are key to your success as a kingdom. Archers, once armed, will immediately set about decimating the local wildlife, which are oddly wealthy, rabbits and deer dropping gold coins once they’ve popped their clogs. Archers will do this automatically and you needn’t worry about any unseen coins blinking away before you can get them, any coin earned off screen by archers is chucked your way as you pass them by like a medieval cash point on the fritz. This coin is integral to accommodating your objective - ‘build, expand, survive’.
Farms and farmers are available once you’ve upgraded your home base to the appropriate level, and are quite expensive at first. The increased outlay is worth it in the long run, as having a few farms on the go will greatly increase your prosperity as they harvest coins from the land at an alarming rate.
Builders do just that, build. Certain areas of the ground near your fort are able to be built upon and once somewhere has been selected by buying it with (you guessed it) coin, a builder will turn up and start fortifying your surroundings and any gold earned from the felling of trees and completed structures is passed onto you much the same way as an archer would. Rudimentary spiked fences are available at the cheapest end of the spectrum, but they can be upgraded upon completion to thicker walls made from stone and to watch towers that house archers, a necessity in order to survive the dark and dangerous nights.
The nights are one of the hardest parts of Kingdom, not just because ravenous trolls turn up with the twilight intent of destroying your town, but because you are helpless to stop it. If monsters attack (which they inevitably will, despite the quiet nights at first), all you can do is sit upon your high horse, watching and hoping that the defences you’ve built are strong enough to withstand the repeated onslaughts and that the archers’ aim is true enough to hit the damn things. It can be an incredibly frustrating experience watching your hard work being torn to bits while your archers wildly lob arrows around like medieval Stormtroopers. The only intervention you can offer is giving up your lifeblood, your wealth.
Smaller enemies will leave once they collect something important, whether it’s a bow or a tool or your crown (which ends the game). They're also partial to coins, so by dropping and sacrificing them you can prevent enemies from breaking further into your fort and wreaking more havok, albeit at a cost. It’s a basic tactic, and more of a last resort than a consistent strategy as coins will act as your HP too, a buffer to stop enemies claiming your crown instantly and ending the game to the rather chilling words, ‘No crown, No King’ (or Queen).
If the walls do fail (and they will at some point), then you’ll most likely have to start again. Luckily the day/night cycle does not last that long, each taking only a matter of minutes, meaning there’s no lengthy grind in order to rebuild your castle up to the same point it fell from and the procedurally generated lands help to avoid any repetitiveness.
This easy replay value means that it’s possible to take any lessons learned in a failed play through into your next one and it’s here the greatest enjoyment can be found. There's a real satisfaction to be had when the game clicks and you manage to reach the point where income is steady, walls are thick and archers teem over your lands, ready to rain down destruction.
Once you’ve reached this balance, pushing the boundaries of your kingdom is one of your main priorities. The limited stamina of your horse and fleet footedness of enemies means you can’t just go gallivanting into the forest searching for adventure, not unless you want to be dethroned prematurely. Expansion takes time and walls need to be built further and further outwards, a little bit each day. It’s a slow burn expansion process, but a necessary one if you want to survive to see what’s over the horizon, or the edge of the screen in Kingdom's case.
A sprawling and successful kingdom can have its downsides, however, as it can become impossible to know what’s happening way on the other side of your land once night falls. Many times we found ourselves observing a still and silent night at the far reaches of our empire, only to gallop over to the other end and find a monster mash in full swing.
If you’re the sort of person who needs a defining objective in their games, a natural goal to work towards, then Kingdom is not the game for you. The game leaves it up to you how to expand your lands and spend your wealth after you have laid the foundations of a home base. Expanding from your base is the only obvious objective, there are no mission’s, no persons of interest to follow, it’s up to you to build and explore, to last as many days as possible.
The Roman numerals that appear at the top of the screen after every sunrise are the only indicator that there is a goal of sorts to achieve, and it adds the ‘just one more try’ element of Kingdom, as you set about trying to beat your previous record number of days survived. There is a game winning scenario in there somewhere, but the onus is on your royal shoulders to go and find it.
With its easy to learn control scheme, charming looks, music and replay value, Kingdom will appeal to both casual and core gamers. The former enjoying the accessibility the game offers, and the latter appreciating the tangible sense of satisfactory discovery gleaned whilst independently unraveling the game's mechanics and penning strategies needed in order to beat the game.
Just don’t get to attached to all your hard work, as Kingdom’s tag line suggests, ‘Nothing lasts...’.