I love colony sims. The reason why I love them so much is probably this sense of accomplishment you get when you start from nothing and end up building something big. Eventually, you start expanding and you’re facing dangers such as enemies and even threats like plagues, food shortages and resource struggles… But when you overcome it feels just so god damn good. A game that does that really well is Kingdoms and Castles!
Developer: Lion Shield, LLC Publisher: Lion Shield, LLC Genre: Medieval, Colony Sim, City Builder, Strategy Release Date: July 20th, 2017 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was purchased.
In Kingdoms and Castles, you start off with a tiny hamlet and build, expand and grow your tiny colony into a magnificent city. Your playthroughs are empowered through the decisions you make. For starters, in this playthrough I’ve got going on right now, I started on an island with not much stone and iron. Hence, I worked towards building a dock so that foreign merchants could come and visit my island to buy wood and sell us their stone and iron. Sure, it’d be better if I could produce those myself but until I get an outpost going on another island, I won’t be able to, so this is the best solution. Hence, I ended up trading a lot and building more Foresters to keep the wood supply going. I also ended up expanding more into the nearby forests, to build more houses, churches and taverns!
To grow your population and your workforce, you need houses for people to live in. On top of that, you need to keep your food in check and your people fed. Your people also need churches to live free of despair and taverns to be happy. On top of that, you may also need to build a bathhouse and libraries to keep your people clean and smart. There are a lot of different buildings with different functions. Some of them require you to obtain special resources or to build special buildings. The barracks and the archer school, for instance, need you to build the Council of War first.
But in the end, it sounds a bit complicated but it’s all rather well-made and while your first playthrough may look like a mess, you’ll eventually get there. Trial and error. Your first colony may get wiped out by Vikings and Dragons but your next one may survive longer and you may already know how to optimise happiness for your colonists and how the layout may be beneficial later… and eventually, you’ll just go through runs without any issues. The great thing is that this trial and error approach to gameplay is quite fun even it can be frustrating at times. I mean, I didn’t know, for instance, that you still need to train your soldiers manually by clicking on the barracks and then selecting to train a unit or two. Now that I told you, you know, but I was really confused about why exactly my archers weren’t shooting at the dragon that was setting the granaries on flame… Well, guess what? I didn’t have any archers.
The learning curve for Kingdoms and Castles can look steep, especially after my explanations up there, but overall it isn’t that much really. The game does a somewhat good job at explaining buildings and stuff. You have three council members that tell you what to do when you have no clue. Meanwhile, you can click on houses to see what your peasants want, and of course, there’s also the build menu that gives you a rough idea of what buildings do and what you need for them in terms of resources or other buildings. I feel like the learning curve isn’t too steep compared to games like RimWorld for instance. It’s also not as punishing and even when there are dragon attacks or Viking raids, you can often recuperate from it and come back, which is quite nice. What would be a certain death scenario in RimWorld is an opportunity in Kingdoms and Castles, essentially.
What I haven’t talked about yet is the art style btw. The game utilizes a voxel-based art style that looks really cute even if it’s a bit pixel-y. The world looks pretty throughout the seasons and especially when you design your city well, you may find yourself in awe as you zoom in and follow around your little peasants. What also contributes to the lovely atmosphere of this game is the medieval soundtrack, as well as the stylized cloud system and season cycle. Little touches like that on top of the attention to detail in terms of making the world feel dynamic really add to the experience.
What I didn’t like, however, were all the windows that you can’t close down. At least, I didn’t find a way to minimize the pop-ups in the game. There is nothing in the settings to make the UI smaller and it kind of bothers me that the game is designed to always remember you of the next dragon attack or Viking raid. On top of that, you have the statistics with the population, the job priorities, the resources, and so on always up and I’m just wondering: Why? I mean, other games let you minimize those windows and the UI to show you more of the game. At the same time, the game is lacking a progression system of sorts and it feels a bit rough around the edges due to some small Quality of Life things that could be added but overall, I don’t really have too much to complain about. These things aren’t too much of a deal, in my opinion, and since the game has mod support, I’m sure you can add a lot of QoL features into the game as well as new content without any issues, provided that you or someone else developed them.
Overall, Kingdoms and Castles is a nice colony sim/city builder that very much reminded me of Banished, actually. The learning curve isn’t that steep. The soundtrack fits the game. The graphics are simple yet beautiful. I can really recommend this title to you if you’ve been looking for a chill colony sim.
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