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Backlog Review | Kingdom: New Lands

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New Year, New You! Even though we are still pretty early into the new year, I’m sure most of us are already tired of hearing that phrase ghost whisper through our brains every time we indulge in a donut or skip our daily workout. But imagine with me, if you will, a new year, new you not because of some self-imposed, unachievable resolutions, but because a greedy pack of squashy dudes roll in outta nowhere, steal all your money, and leave you to die in an untamed wilderness until your descendant can swoop in and take the reins! That would be super weird right?

Heck yeah it’s weird, except if you are playing Kingdom: New Lands that is! This medieval themed rogue-like from Noio starts you out, fresh off the boat, as some disestablished monarch in need of a new kingdom to rule. You’re given a few paltry gold and some ready and willing vagrants to start out, but after that you’re on your own. And those squashy little crown stealers will be on the hunt for you every night so you need to decide where those few coins are going, tout suite! I tried on the title of royal highness for myself and I’m not gonna lie, those blue cloaked b-holes got the better of me more than once. So gather ’round friends and let me tell you the tale.

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I’d been flirting with the Kingdom series from across the room for quite some time now and I can’t really say what it was that made me never make a move. It was on Gamepass, I saw sales left and right, we even got a copy in one of our Limited Run blind boxes last year, I dunno what my deal was to be honest. But at any rate I decided to take the plunge recently and I’m really glad I did.

I guess what drew me to it in the first place was a few different things. I really liked the super simple, pixelated art style. I think a lot of skill goes into being able to make unique and distinguishable characters with only a handful of pixels. The gameplay seemed really simple and straightforward as well, though I had heard stories of it’s unforgiving difficulty. So I was definitely intrigued at the very least.

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I can’t say it’s quite like anything I’ve ever played before, so I can’t really speak of any comparable experiences, however I have played many rogue-likes and many management sims so we’ll go with that for background.

Kingdom: New Lands is like any other rogue-like in that you will absolutely fail and failure is necessary in order to learn how to do better on your next run. What makes it a little different though is that aside from unlocking the different levels, you carry absolutely nothing over from run to run. You start from scratch each time you retry. Also each playthrough can last a pretty significant amount of time so losing after all that can be completely devastating. But you live and you learn, and then you die and learn some more, and then you die again. That’s how rogue-likes just go sometimes ya know?

In terms of a management sim, good decision making is the name of the game and in the end, the key to survival. You are given very limited resources and boy oh boy can it all go downhill really fast if you don’t use them wisely. Also, timing is really important too. If you set your builders to upgrade your walls at sunset you can say bye bye to those builders, and probably any archers you have stationed there along with them. Or if it’s winter you won’t need to pump coins into the farmer kiosk thingy because the farmers you currently have are aimlessly wandering around your town square with nothing to do ‘cuz of, you know, winter. So, lots of things to keep in mind.

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This game does not hold your hand at all. In the beginning your past  self in all their royal ghostly form will show you the absolute basics of gameplay, like how to buy helpers and upgrade structures, but swiftly thereafter they’ll disappear into the aether and you are on your own. I don’t really mind that kind of approach honestly, but in a game where every coin is precious it’d be nice to know what the heck some of the things are that I’m spending them on. Sure, you eventually figure it out but it can also be to your detriment while you are trying. Like the wood/stone monument. No clue what the heck that did until I decided one run not to put coins in it. Then I couldn’t upgrade my useless wooden fences to the fancy stone ones and it clicked into place for me. This isn’t really a complaint I guess just a minor frustration I felt worth mentioning.

A real complaint would be the fact that you have little to no control over your troops and workers. You can click on something you want upgraded or a tree chopped down but you don’t get to choose which builders respond to the call. This could potentially leave a catapult unmanned, or every dumbass with a hammer will run to the same spot to try and complete that one task. Also, the knights are an expensive pain in the butt. I already paid through the nose to get you dinguses and not only do you cost more coins to get you to do anything other than run away, but you steal any nearby dropped coins? They’re a good last defense, and those “stolen” coins go towards their defense stats but they are huge money sinks. I only wish I could at least choose to send them out to help when the Greed are busting through my walls.

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For me Kingdom: New Lands is, and I suspect always will be, one of those games I’m just not good at, but I enjoy playing nonetheless. Finding those small things to change that will make this run more, or less, successful then the last is half the fun. With that in mind, I definitely won’t take as long this time to jump into the other games of this series, especially with all that fancy DLC I see they have now as well. 

Overall, I give this game a full recommendation. It’s well worth sticking it out and mastering that steep learning curve, and well worth sinking more than a few hours into it even at the MRSP of $15.

If you are interested in ruling a hard earned kingdom of your own you can find Kingdom: New Lands on Nintendo Switch, Xbox Store, PlayStation Store, and Steam.