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Simplicity Rules: Kingdom

Ah, nothing like a refreshing morning ride through the Proteus fields.

I’ve heard the term “rule with an iron fist,” but in Kingdom, you don’t even need the whole hand. Technically, you could use just one finger, though two is probably more efficient. The sidescrolling survivor sees you play as a king astride a regal steed constructing a kingdom to match. His awe-inspiring, super amazing videogame powers? Move left or move right. Oh, he can also throw money at his problems, like any good authority figure. But hey, money talks, and random peasants quite like the sound of what it says. Slowly but surely (and also sire-ly), you amass an army of loyal builders, farmers, and archers who merrily go about their business with a coin in their pocket and a song in their hearts. But then day fades to night, and you live anything but happily ever after.

Evil green trollface.jpg monsters creep in and start ransacking your stuff. You’re not one of those rough and tumble combat kings, though. You’d prefer to keep your fingernails gleaming and your throat inside your neck. The hope, then, is that you’ve divided your forces well enough between archers and builders to stave off the assault.

What makes Kingdom unique is that you’re physically present for all of this – no omniscient cursor or anything like that. When trolls come a-knockin’, don’t be surprised if you feel a little sweat start pooling in your palm as they carve a path through your soldiers straight to helpless old you. But, on the flipside, it feels quite nice to admire the fruits of your subjects’ labor firsthand, with ramshackle wooden shacks sprouting into soaring stone triumphs of architecture. You direct where and how frequently construction happens, too, so you can opt to either expand your kingdom far and wide or focus on fortifying a single, small central location.

Eventually, you’ll be overrun. Each passing day sees the trolls get stronger and more determined, and gigantic ones brush off arrows as though they’re toothpicks. Toothpicks thrown by baby mice. Baby mice with worse aim than normal baby mice, who are not usually known to be prodigious aimers. Kingdom is solid, simple fun while it lasts, though.

That said, it’s got a couple niggling issues. Your subjects can verge on idiotic sometimes, failing to notice where you want structures built/upgraded, and again there’s that whole aim thing. Also, they like to pile into your fully upgraded castle, which leaves expanded kingdoms sorely lacking in defenders for their outside reaches.

Minor frustrations aside, Kingdom is worth a whirl or two. It’s elegant in its simplicity, and its approach to ruling is uniquely satisfying. Give it a go here.

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Nathan Grayson

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