by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
The biggest surprise for me at this year's Gamescom was Kingdom. This indie game from developers Noio and Licorice is marketed as ‘Easy to play, difficult to master’ and that definitely seems to be the case. At first glance Kingdom looks like a free-to-play browser game, and the truth is that it started out as one. Together with Licorice, Noio is creating a multi-platform version of Kingdom which will be updated, expanded and rebuilt in Unity.
After winning a development support grant from The Nordic Game Program and being signed on by Raw Fury Games, the team is well on their way to creating a time consuming and entertaining side-scrolling base defense game.
In Kingdom, you play a king or queen of a budding nation besieged by some really dark creatures. Your character is randomly generated from a set of elements that includes mantles and both dark and light skin tones as well as a horse. Ultimately it doesn't much matter who you ride as, as the gameplay and objectives are the same: stay alive for as long as possible by building and beefing up your kingdom. Or should I say, strip of land, because that's all you have to work with.
Moving only left or right and dropping coins as you go along, the game seems simple enough at first. It is the amazing pixel art that makes it all look easy, but then night falls and the trolls come out of the woods. If you haven't paid attention to the hints the game has given you during the day and did not build walls and hired defenders, the trolls will grab your crown and the “Game Over” text will be flashing on your screen: No Crown, No King or Queen.
That teaches you to keep an eyes out for hints on the second try. Ride left or right slow enough and coin slots will appear at various places where you can interact with your castle and its inhabitants. The slots signal you to drop coins that you have collected when you ventured out into the world. With them, you recruit some drifters to become citizens which you can then turn into bowmen by dropping some coins at a marketplace. These bowmen will now defend your camp at night and hunt by day. Hunting cute rabbits may sound cruel, but between them and the deer wandering through the forest, your hunters will keep a steady stream of desperately needed coins coming in. With these, you recruit more men that are put to work as builders that build walls and structures, farmers that work the fields or soldiers who can fight the trolls.
Coins are also used to build and expand your castle. Starting out as a campfire with some tents around it, your makeshift camp slowly changes into an awe inspiring keep sporting a randomly generated banner with community inspired emblems.
The longer you play, the more options you have to spend your coins on. Cut down trees to strengthen your walls, work your fields. In time you’ll build a buzzing economy. Of course that is until the attacking trolls break through your walls and defenses and kill you and you’ll have to start all over again. There is no real end in Kingdom, only time is used to calculate a score - the longer you survive, the higher your score.
Kingdom looks absolutely beautiful and it’s no surprise it won ‘Best of Indie Arena 2015’ at Gamescom. The pixel art is brimming with detail, showing reflections of what happens on land in the water, the day and night cycle and the fog that sometimes drifts in… Your character, your horse, all the environments shift colours in the light of the sun or the torchlight you carry at night, making it all come alive.
I for one can’t wait to get my hands on this one. I look forward to punishing myself, dying over and over again and having the game surprise me each time.