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Bless this fantasy city builder for its orc positivity

Something need doing?

Readers will know that I love city building games, dating back to spending a lot of time as a child playing titans of the genre Zeus and Pharaoh. But because these were my introductions to the genre, I don't really go in for the big town-planning-paloozas like SimCity, because I find having to efficiently place sewage systems a bit stressful. I like chill things that e.g. definitely involve having to build a bakery supply line (see: Foundation).

Distant Kingdoms is an early access city builder - a little feature-light in some places right now, but with an imaginative angle I am enjoying a lot. It's a fantasy setting where you can choose from four standard fantasy races (human, dwarf, elf or orc) and, eventually, will have a bustling city where they all mingle together. And my favourite thing about it so far is that there isn't some tortured allegory for real life racism. All the races are basically described as, like, "a great bunch of best pals! :D" but with different hobbies. And my most favourite thing is that also applies to the orcs. They are chill hippies who like meditation and farming and I love them.

I haven't got to the stage where everyone is living together in perfect harmony yet, because to do that you need to explore new hexagons of the world map, and for that you need to hire and send out a team of adventurers from a tavern, sometimes encountering D&D-ish events and everything. This sounds like a fun idea, but in practise it's my least favourite bit of the game. I kind of wish it was simplified to something like "you have a tavern and can now spend money to get access to new areas" but whatever. Back to the orcs. I just met some humans and am excited for them to move into my awesome orc-ville.

The other different thing about Distant Kingdoms is that you can unlock magic tech. Most interesting are the portals, which you can place in pairs for couriers to use transporting goods. They're really efficient - but they use a unit of magic each time someone passes through.

I am delighted to see some orc positivity out here, because they're usually depicted as lumbering oafs who really like hitting things and have abilities called stuff like "Blood Frenzy!". But there is literally no reason for adhering to this apart from the tropes already associated with orcs. Here is a secret: orcs aren't real, so they can be like whatever you want. You could make your orcs really tiny if you wanted, the size of little froglets. Just, orcs an inch tall pinging everywhere, whooping in little high-pitched voices. Your missing keys? They were stolen by the orcs that live under your sofa. I'm not saying there wouldn't be some pushback to this, but there's also nothing stopping you.

Distant Kingdoms is a bit more sensible. Orcs are still big and strong, and have green skin and so on, but they are extremely gentle. They are nature lovers who give passive benefits to farming and beekeeping. THEY LOVE BEES. They stroll the streets of my nice town and have flavour text about being "in two minds about weeds" because they like all plants but they do want their garden to be tidy as well.

Each race has a slightly different camp for their starting town centre. The orc one looks like a giant swede or fennel surrounded by tents (the humans have a hot air balloon, as if their mayor is about to sell you something called Doc Marvellous Patetented Cure-All - Guaranteed To Treat Hysteria And Rabies!!!; the dwarves have a big ol' drill that's just come out of the ground).

The only thing is that, as far as I can see, the camp is the only building that looks different depending on the race. It'd be a big ask given how the housing works, but I'd really love the races to have their own architecture that meets and melds when the humans move in. And having an orc town where the houses are made out of big lettuces and stuff would be well cool.

As it is, I love my nice orc gang and I'm really motivated to make them the best gosh darn city I can. This is a slow process of unlocking technologies, but I'm really hyped for my impending egg farm. My citizens are keen on getting eggs, so eggs they shall have.

About the Author

Alice Bell avatar

Alice Bell

Deputy Editor

RPS's dep ed. Small person powered by tea and enthusiasm for video game romances. Send me interesting etymological facts and cool horror games.

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