Kingdom: New Lands is a 2D, pixel-art strategy game where you play as a newly christened king or queen in unexplored lands. The game begins by dropping you, your empty purse, and your trusty steed onto the first island where you’ll build your kingdom. The goal is to survive long enough to escape to other, far off isles. By recruiting NPCs to be your loyal subjects, they will help grow your budding kingdom and defend it from mysterious monsters set on stealing your crown.
The first thing that struck me about the game was how gorgeous everything looked. From the backgrounds to the character sprites, it was a feast for the eyes and painstakingly detailed. Even the idle animations of citizens as they toiled the land and hunted for game are worthy of admiration. As the ruler of an unnamed kingdom, your character is no slouch either, gussied up with a sparkly gold crown and a flowing cape.
Kingdom: New Lands has a simple art style and is comforting to look at. Walls, waters mills, plants, and so on are easily discernible despite the intricately detailed environments, and there were zero instances where I’d get confused by the happenings on screen. Even the colour palette is soothing: gentle pastel colours tied together by the ebb and flow of a reflective river.
There isn’t a narrative in Kingdom: New Lands, so it’s up to the player to utilize their imagination. There are five islands in total, and you need to survive through all of them in order to complete the game. Your sole aim is to build a ship and escape into the safety of open waters, and once you get to the next island, rinse and repeat. I grew weary of the formula by the six-hour mark.
My weariness stems from the gameplay, because while the game’s core mechanics are easy to understand and implement, the experience is utterly ruined by the poor AI.
Building and upgrading your Kingdom requires coins, and to earn more, you assign newly recruited Vagrants to different occupations, one example being archers. Archers will hunt for rabbits and deer during the day, and defend your kingdom by night. If there’s an empty defense tower, they will move to occupy it, gaining a height advantage to better aim at the horde of monsters throwing themselves against the kingdom’s walls at night.
There is only one problem. Once the archers hunker down, they are there to stay. Come rain, hail, flying pigs, zombie apocalypse, they will remain rooted in place. As your Kingdom expands its borders and more towers are built, you may find yourself itching to move them, but it is simply unfeasible. So if you find yourself out of archers, good luck, because if a horde comes knocking at your doorstep, you can do nothing but watch in terror as your walls slowly crumble.
I feel like every occupation in this game suffers from horrible AI. There are two sides of your Kingdom to defend: the left and right. If you have an equal number of archers, engineers and so on, they’re split down to the middle. But if one side suffers from a deficit and it’s just your luck the horde chooses to attack that very side, you’d think the rest of your defenders not engaged in battle would act as backup, right? Nope. They will do nothing but stare into the empty night, contemplating their existence, as the other side gets trampled by overzealous monsters. The wave of monsters invade deeper into your kingdom, and if you happen to come across them while patrolling… it's Game Over.
Although enjoyable at first, the difficulty of each night increases as the days pass, and a stupid mistake can unravel hours’ worth of play. It should also be mentioned that Kingdom: New Lands is rarely ever forthcoming with information. There are certain NPCs and locations that aren’t explained at all. I wasn’t even aware an NPC who could keep your coins existed until I went to the wiki and stumbled upon the information!
I had fun for a time, but when the game actively sabotages you, it saps any semblance of enjoyment gained and makes everything feel pointless. If you can overlook the problems with the AI and don’t mind going out of your way to read the wiki for some unexplained, vague mechanics, Kingdom: New Lands might be worth a look. At its core, the game is a decent strategy survival game, but there are other games I’d rather spend my time on.