We last reported on Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics when it was launched on Kickstarter. A few months have passed, funding was successful, and indeed, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics will hit consoles (Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch) and PC in Q4 this year. You can check out the announcement trailer below:
Developed by Bristol-based Auroch Digital and to be published by Ripstone Games, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics challenges you to save the world from Nazis. But not just Nazis, also the other-worldly monstrosities they’ve uncovered through the occult.
Based on the wildly successful tabletop RPG from Modiphius Entertainment, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is set in an alternate World War II where the Nazis have gained a considerable advantage by summoning Lovecraftian monsters that could enable them to destroy the allies. Players take control of Charlie Company, an elite band of allied forces, sent in to do the impossible: foil the Nazi plans and turn the tide of war.
“We loved Modiphius’ pulp mash-up of World War II Nazis and the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s an incredibly evocative and exciting alternative history which makes for a unique tabletop experience”
said Nina Adams, Producer at Auroch Digital.
“We’re taking that nigh-on faultless foundation and transporting it into the video game medium, via our favourite genre, the turn-based tactics game. With the genre experiencing something of a comeback in recent years, we feel Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics will not only deliver an incredibly compelling theme and world to play in but also offer innovative gameplay possibilities.”
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics utilizes a mix of turn-based strategy and RPG mechanics as players embark on a globe-trotting campaign against the forces of evil. Each hero character features their own backstory, weapon specialisations, and combat abilities to give players an edge in the battlefield. Captain Eric “Badger” Harris is a British Intelligence operative who specializes in experimental weaponry and guerrilla warfare; Ariane Dubois is a French Resistance member who’s bonded with a demonic spirit creature that she can command on the battlefield; Corporal Akhee “The Eye” Singh wields a sentient amulet that can transform him into a whirling cloud of blades; and Sergeant Brandon Carter is a loud-mouthed American soldier with a medallion that imbues his signature Thompson submachine gun, with Mythos-fuelled bullets that can tear through the Nazi’s horrifying creations.
Beyond these four main heroes, Charlie Company is joined by the covert ops of Badger’s Commando Unit, and the Native American tribe The Keijn – or “Pathfinder Demon Hunters” as they’re often known.
In the world of Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics, all Allied forces fight better in the light. Step into the dark, however, and the forces of evil will grow ever more powerful.
Intrigued by rocket building, mission control, space agency management and space in general, then Auroch Digital have you covered with their upcoming strategy game Mars Horizon, due for release in Q4 this year on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Mars Horizon is a strategy game in which players control a government space agency. Picking between the space agencies of either Europe, Russia, or the United States, the players then control the agency to collaborate or compete in a decades-spanning campaign to expand humanity’s reach further into space. With each game an alternate history begins to be shaped and guided by the player’s actions, building iconic rockets, probes, and satellites that transmit crucial scientific data back to your customisable Earth HQ, all the while researching, investing in, and bolstering your space flight capabilities.
During the player’s version of the space race, perhaps Europe work with Russia, sending satellites into orbit? Could it be that the US get this first satellite into space but that Russia achieves the first moon landing? Who will be best poised to venture to Mars because of learnings from earlier missions? Players will research new tech, expand their agency base, build rockets, send satellites into orbit, and launch a variety of missions throughout the Solar System. The game culminates in the first crewed mission to Mars, setting the stage for humanity to become a multiplanetary species.
The UK Space Agency provided support in the form of a grant plus advice and information on space exploration and the running of an actual space agency for Mars Horizon. Auroch Digital are advocates for video games both as entertainment but also as a medium with the power to explore real world issues and ideas. Speaking about the game, Auroch Digital’s Design Director, Dr Tomas Rawlings said…
We wanted to distil the wonder, drama, and the galaxies of possibility that space offers us as a species, into game form. Mars Horizon is our love-letter to the race into space and the challenges and triumphs of humanity on the way to becoming a multiplanetary species.
If the teaser trailer and screenshots aren’t enough to satisfy your curiosity, then you can check out the Auroch Digital podcast detailing the games’ production. You can listen and subscribe to the Auroch Digital podcast HERE – get to know the team, the process, and learn about how space engineering has been translated for the video game medium in Mars Horizon.
Starpoint Gemini Warlords suffers a bit of an identity crisis. It wants to be a 4X strategy game and a space combat/trading sim at the same time. When it commits to one, or when you choose to commit to one yourself, it can prove a compelling experience built on the adventure of emergent gameplay, however, switching between the two presents some difficulties.
Largely these difficulties stem from a lack of understanding about what you’re supposed to do and how to go about it. With some patience you can overcome this and enjoy what’s on offer. New comers to the series, however, are unlikely to invest the time needed. A lack of an engaging storyline as well as the confusing clashes in mechanics makes this an initially off-putting experience, as you decide between controlling your ships personally or commanding them remotely. Indeed, it’s a tricky sell when both styles of play are catered to in this fashion; where both are adequate in order to achieve the objectives but neither feel special or entirely appropriate. It’s an unfortunate side effect of its design, where developer Little Green Men Games took community feedback from Starpoint Gemini 2 and created this spinoff.
As such, fans of the series are likely going to enjoy this unique adventure in the universe they’re already acquainted with, with a new story about a splintered faction of humanity looking to survive and dominate the Gemini system. Your task of direct control of ships, options to trade, explore and fight within the open structure of the scenario-based sandbox mode is similar enough to the previous, numbered, titles for fans to feel comfortable with, meanwhile, building up a fleet of ships and a powerful home base to conquer the system offers some new experiences.
Unfortunately, the story’s lacklustre tale and use of copious, dull fetch quests makes a terrible first impression. However, this largely acts as the tutorial rather than the primary experience. Once things open up, Starpoint Gemini Warlord’s Elite-esque freedom to trade, fight and explore, along with the real-time strategy elements of commanding a fleet and upgrading your home base, is compelling enough to keep you engaged for countless hours. We did, however, encounter some technical issues, with framerate dips frequently breaking immersion, but overall the presentation was strong, with some excellent looking ships, weapons fire and explosion making combat a pleasant spectacle and exploring the Gemini system’s many different regions a treat.
The combination of 4X strategy and space sim means Starpoint Gemini Warlords is full of content to sink your teeth into, and offers a huge variety of different tasks to engage in. Meanwhile, RPG elements allows you to choose a class of ship and abilities to suit your playstyle. However, it’s complex, and with a tutorial marred by a boring story and set of initial quests, it fails to teach you enough early on to keep you engaged. Stick with it and focus on the free-roaming mode, however, and you’ll be in for a deep and satisfying experience, one you’ll enjoy even more if you’re already invested in the series.
Thanks to Xbox and Iceberg Interactive for supporting TiX
You know what World War II strategy role playing games need? Other-worldly monsters. And it seems our nightmares may come true, the recently announced Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics releases later this year.
Developer Auroch Digital and publisher Ripstone have collaborated with the table top team at Modiphius to create Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics – The Forest of Fear, which is set for release on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch later this year.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics is a World War II themed strategic role-playing game in which the player controls an army of Allied heroes trapped behind enemy lines trying to uncover and foil a Nazi plot of terrifying evil. The game draws from the award-winning Achtung! Cthulhu roleplaying universe developed by Modiphius, which sees the Nazis turn to other-worldly mythical beings to bolster their war effort.
The game encompasses an array of unique gameplay features, including an innovative combat system constructed around the theme of light vs darkness. Representing the battle of ‘good vs evil’, Allied characters find solace in the light whilst the opposing Nazi army hide in the shadows awaiting their moment to strike. A skilled player can use this light and dark feature to provide an edge to their gameplay strategy.
Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics also includes an intricate Momentum system, which encourages the player to think strategically about their long-term plan to overthrow the Nazi reign of terror. Each successful action builds Momentum for the player, which in turn opens up new lines of tactical attack. Each playable character has a tailored Momentum Action, ranging from a rake of machine gun fire to a fast snap-shot with a pistol. When layered with basic commands and attacks, this system allows the player to build ingenious combinations of tactical brilliance.
Tomas Rawlings, Design Director at Auroch Digital, enthuses:
It’s a real honour to work alongside Modiphius and Ripstone on what will be a premium Cthulhu-mashup. Having worked with the Ripstone team before back in the PlayStation 3 days, together we made amazing strategy games, and I’m confident history will repeat itself!
Ripstone have fully funded the core game, for release later this year; however new and existing fans of Achtung! Cthulhu can sign up to fight the good fight by donating additional funds on Kickstarter for extra characters and content to be included within the game.The Kickstarter broke through its initial goal in under 3 days, and is now battling stretch goals until 4th March 2018.
So if you’re tantalised by this announcement. be sure to head on over to Kickstarter and show your support: https://bitly.com/achtungcthulhuks
2K and Firaxis Games announced at the E3 2017 PC Gaming Show that XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, a expansion pack to the terrific XCOM 2, will be coming to Xbox One on August 29 this year.
XCOM 2 Creative Director, Jake Solomon, revealed XCOM 2: War of the Chosen on stage at the PC Gaming Show, with the following trailer:
War of the Chosen focuses on ADVENT’s bid to recapture the Commander, with deadly alien heroes being deployed called the ‘Chosen’. XCOM must approach and win over three new resistance factions, each with their own Hero class, to help combat this new threat and liberate Earth.
Firaxis continues to redefine the award-winning XCOM franchise with XCOM 2: War of the Chosen,
said Matt Gorman, VP of Marketing at 2K.
XCOM 2 fans are going to love the all-new narrative and features, enhancing the XCOM experience and providing endless reasons to re-play through the campaign.
We’re thrilled to offer our fans an unprecedented amount of cool new toys and features in XCOM 2: War of the Chosen, challenging and empowering players in exciting new ways never seen before in the franchise,
added Jake Solomon, creative director of XCOM 2 at Firaxis Games.
The expansion also includes a bunch of new enemies, missions, environments and increased depth to the strategic gameplay. Your soldiers now bond with their teammates, adding new abilities and perks as that bond grows and they’re deployed together. Meanwhile, regular community challenges with a global leaderboard extend the replayability beyond the new story content.
The Kalypso Media published and Daedelic Entertainment developed strategy title, Valhalla Hills – Definitive Edition, is now available digitally on Xbox.
Valhalla Hills – Definitive Edition is brought to you by the people behind classic strategy titles such as The Settlers II and Cultures. Life is difficult when your dad is the ruler of Asgard, especially when he banishes you from Valhalla! Join forces with a crew of outcast Vikings and lead them to the summit of Valhalla by building and fighting your way there! This new console version release also includes the official DLC – ‘Sand of the Damned’ and ‘Fire Mountains’ – as well as a new exclusive map type – ‘The Dwarf Cave’. Build, battle, earn honour and lead your crew to eternal Viking paradise!
You can check out the launch trailer below:
In Valhalla Hills – Definitive Edition, you are Leko – youngest son of Odin, exiled to Midgard by your father for failing to meet his expectations. More interested in building villages than pillaging them, you now find yourself far from home with a disgruntled band of recently-deceased muscleheads. Odin has turned his back on his people, and it’s your fault. There’s only one thing for it – you’ll have to guide your newfound companions to heavenly glory the only way you know how.
Now, you must lead your band of outcast Viking warriors through the varied landscapes of Valhalla Hills – Definitive Edition, where a magical portal awaits to take you to your rightful place in the realm of the gods. But the journey is a hazardous one, and the Vikings will need to do one thing first…survive!
To do that, you’ll have to take good care of your Vikings by putting your building and management skills to the ultimate test. Your band of heroes may be tough but you’ll still need to protect, equip and feed them as well as help them to fend off ghostly residents and wild beasts. Control of the Vikings is indirect – these bearded citizens have minds of their own, so you will influence their actions with general commands rather than controlling any one specific unit at a time. Guide your mighty followers into gathering food, wood and other resources, all while defending their fledgling camp.
Featuring crisp, bold and beautiful 3D graphics (powered by Unreal Engine 4) with full day and night cycles, Valhalla Hills – Definitive Edition sees you playing across randomly-generated maps in varying mountain terrains, as you master a balanced economy system to ensure endless gameplay challenges and variety.
Perfect World Entertainment and Motiga’s Gigantic is now in Open Beta as part of the Xbox Game Preview Program. The free-to-play competitive action MOBA is available on the Windows Store (Windows 10 PC’s and Xbox One) across North America and Western Europe and features cross-play between the two platforms.
Gigantic is a free-to-play competitive action MOBA developed by Motiga, offering a light-hearted and charming MOBA experience aimed at all types of gamers. players are pitted against each other in two teams of five heroes, and with the aid of their massive Guardians compete to dominate a variety of maps. The game combines combat with fast-paced teamwork, strategy, and skill, as players are required to work together and fight relentlessly to defeat opposing Guardians with spells, guns and swords.
Gigantic will always be free-to-play and its entire roster of heroes and creatures are unlockable through in-game currencies earned by completing matches and fulfilling Fortune Cards. Purchasing the Founder’s Pack grants players instant access to 16 Open Beta heroes (plus four future heroes) ready to battle for supremacy. Finally, Founders will receive two limited additional “Imperial” skins and two exclusive Founder’s profile icons. Gigantic and the Founder’s Pack is available now on Windows 10 and Xbox One via the Xbox Game Preview Program, but will follow on Arc (PC Windows) at a later date.
In its free-to-play version, Gigantic will feature weekly rotations of six heroes, from a roster of 16, and three maps: Siren’s Stand, Ghost Reef and Sanctum Falls. Each hero features a unique playstyle that can be further customized through skill trees during each match. You’ll need to work together as a teams to attack enemies while claiming points on the map to summon powerful Creatures. Players will power up their team’s Guardian by controlling the battlefield and defeating enemies. Victory is awarded to the team who can overpower their opponents’ Guardian.
Players looking to unlock more for their Gigantic experience can also purchase the Founder’s Pack ($39.99) to gain access to all 16 current heroes, four upcoming heroes and additional unique rewards. Valued at over $150, the Founder’s Pack offers a substantial savings to players looking to establish themselves right away.
Gigantic is an entirely new action MOBA experience that combines high twitch skills and deep strategic choices. Paired with innovated design that includes giant Guardians (to fight with and against), and creatures that you can summon, Gigantic is way beyond Overwatch or Paladins,
said Chris Chung, CEO of Motiga.
We’re carving our own destiny.
We’re certainly looking forward to checking it out. See you on the battlefield.
Over the years, I’ve played a few Games Workshop’s offerings. They’re based in my home town of Nottingham, so it sort of makes sense. From Warhammer to Space Hulk, the table-top nights of years past were always a little fun. I never got so much into it that I played the Mordheim series and in some respects that’s sad. The digital offerings have varied. Space Hulk on the Amiga was amazing fun, taking top-down, turn based gaming to another level at the time. Can we place Mordheim: City of the Damned in the same bracket for today’s consoles?
Mordheim is a tactical RPG based on the tabletop game of the same name. A twin-tailed comet has smashed into the Empire city of Mordheim, scattering magical Wyrdstone all over the ruins. Fight as one of four main Warbands, battling to control key neighbourhoods in this shattered city. The story is set during the intro of the game, which repeats every time you load the game up, irritatingly.
If you’re going to invest in Mordheim: City of the Damned, than I’d highly recommend running through the Training sections right from the off. This simply isn’t a game that you can launch yourself into. To put it in simple terms, you’ll get mullared from the off and from there it’s a downward spiral into frustration and misery. That being said, you sort of sleepwalk through the tutorials. There are so many elements to the game it’s a miracle if you don’t get overwhelmed by the number of things that you have available as turn choices.
Turn choices. There’s the biggest gripe I have with the game, right there. To get to the action, you first have to select a Warband to create. There’s four to choose from, being, Skaven clan Eshin, Human Mercs, Sisters of Sigmar and Cult of the Possessed. At the time of this review, the Cult was paid DLC only, which was a huge disappointment. Once you’re banded, you need to buy your members with your limited funds. There are several classes of warrior to pick and each one has different attributes, such as ranged attack, heavy attack, leadership etc. Its fairly standard for RPGs.
When you’re finally ready to start your campaign, you sort of sit there, waiting for something to happen. The campaign launches a Map screen and from there you get to pick a mission that will lead you, eventually, to the streets of the beleaguered city. Here’s where it gets a bit sketchy. You get the opportunity to add warriors to your Warband here, but its not explained how you manage this, nor if you’ve been successful in adding them. This can result in you fielding a vastly under-strength group of warriors. Not that this would seem to matter. No matter where you start on the difficulty scale, your warriors will be axe-fodder.
I’ll explain. As you attempt missions, you’ll gain XP which can lead to skill upgrades, even if you were defeated, or as the game calls it, routed. During the course of the battles, if your warriors are debilitated or killed, you’ll get a report on their injuries and their chances of survival at the end of each mission. In one battle, my Hero received significant nerve damage, rendering him pretty much useless for the remainder of his warrior life. Despite this, you still have to pay the warrior upkeep, despite running very short on gold. Thus the downward spiral of Mordheim: City of the Damned begins.
Start a mission then, and you will start your ‘turn’. These are performed in rounds and I still struggle to follow the logic behind how they are playing out. Your Hero or Leader seems to go, thus exposing him as you’re never sure when the enemy will be moving, then the enemy start to move. After this, the rest of your Warband move. I still don’t understand why it happens like this. As with some classic games, like Laser Squad, Mordheim makes you think about the trade-off between moving great distance and attacking. The options that you have use some form of Action Points, but as I seemed to go through the Tutorial in something of a malaise, I couldn’t for the life of me tell you where these are on the display.
These turns allow you to choose a finishing ‘stance’ from your warrior. Choose from Hold Ground, Ambush, Dodge or Parry depending on whether you’re engaged with an enemy. The combat mechanic is, if truth be told, a massive disappointment in this game. I get that Developer, Rogue Factor, want to try to capture the essence of the tabletop game and the way that they inevitably run in turns, but this serves to make the digital version confusing and frankly tedious.
Once you’re engaged with your enemy it’s a case of tap A then A again. There’s no feeling that what you’re doing after that isn’t down to anything other than luck. If luck is all that the game uses to score hits, misses, dodges or parries, then I must have completely lucked out in life. There’s no connection to the gamer, not like other tactical RPGs on the market.
Make no mistake, Mordheim: City of the Damned is, right from the outset, tough. I tried to stick with it, but I’ve not won a mission yet. I’ve been soundly routed every single time. After five or six of these and with you having run out of gold to pay for your warrior’s upkeep and medical needs, it’s pretty much capitulation each time, with no chance of completing missions. It’s like real life but more brutal.
The city itself is beautifully rendered and the characters are nicely drawn and well animated. There was something that didn’t really ring true with the city streets though, and it took me a few days to realise what it was. There are no citizens left in the ruins. No dregs of humanity or the remnants of occupation. No wildlife or mutants hiding in the rubble to try to catch you out. It’s simply unrealistic.
Mordheim: City of the Damned is a missed opportunity. The decision to make this a turn based RPG doesn’t really work as the turn order in each round doesn’t make any sense at all. There’s permadeath in the game as well as debilitating injuries suffered in battle. This adds to the atmosphere but makes the difficulty ramp more of a 50-foot wall than a gradual incline and the over-complicated, plodding tutorial does nothing to inspire the player to remember what you’re supposed to be doing and in what order. The game is over-complicated and far too challenging to be enjoyable. The Campaign is sectioned into days for example. Nowhere does it mention this. I flipped around the Campaign menus, looking to start another inevitable rout only to find that I needed to end the day and recover injuries before I could try again. It’s an awful decision from the developers. The game would have fared much better by being a traditional Hack ‘n’ Slash RPG. It’s not a game-changer in it’s field. It’s simply a frustrating, difficult, confusing mess.
Remember that alien invasion in 2012 and the creation of the XCOM organisation to fight back under your command? Well, as it turns out, you lost. However, this feels thematically spot on. Based on your average playthrough of XCOM Enemy Unknown, with the countless soldiers you lost and retires required to win, losing the war overall makes sense and sets up this sequel rather nicely.
Now with XCOM 2, the enemy is no longer unknown and 20 years have passed since Earth was conquered. Humanity now lives alongside the aliens, seemingly benefiting from their advanced technology, but of course the aliens have their own agenda. XCOM has been reduced to a small resistance force, but once they rescue you and place you back in command, as well as secure a power core, they have the means to fight back. This time around your resources are even more limited and engagements take up a guerrilla war style; flying all over the world in a modified alien ship to search out support and aid pockets of resistance, whilst gathering the evidence needed to prove to the rest of the world that the aliens are not as benevolent as they seem.
It feel pleasantly familiar. Your home base – the modified alien ship – acts very much like it did in the previous instalment, allowing you to research new technology, upgrade and promote your troops, and build new rooms to accommodate and fulfil the advancements you need to step up your fight against the aliens. Moreover, thanks to the passing 20 years, there’s now more history involved. It’s a more personal story this time around. In fact there’s a great deal more storytelling. There’s been logical improvements to base-technologies that are easier to accept. Meanwhile, the reason for your capture by the aliens makes the fight more emotional, enhanced further by any knowledge you have from the previous title.
Your engagements with the aliens are much different as well. You’re fighting a more tactical war this time. Rather than taking the alien menace straight on, you’re attacking strategically important targets and locations, striking from the shadows. This manifests itself in a new stealth mechanic. The majority of you missions start you concealed from the enemy, strongly encouraging you to sneak up on your targets, scope out the area as much as possible, and place your troops in the best position to attack. This is further driven home by just how effective the alien forces are.
Enemy AI is excellent. They’ll look for opportunities to flank you, they call in or wait for reinforcements so to face you with superior numbers, and their weaponry can decimate your troops in a shot or two. It’s staggeringly difficult at first, however, once you figure out all the mechanics and how to best use each class of soldier you have, things get a little easier.
Using the terrain to protect yourself and draw the enemy to you is a big part of the strategy, with elevation playing an even bigger part than in Enemy Unknown. Setting a Sharpshooter up on overwatch a fair distance from the battlefield whist your Grenadier flushes enemies out of cover can be a recipe for success. Meanwhile, Staying hidden but allowing your Ranger to get in close and slit some throats whilst your Specialist is flying a drone around to scope the area and complete the primary objective, is another sound strategy. However, XCOM 2 uses procedural map and objective generation to provide a different mission each time you leave the dropship, meaning no campaign playthrough is the same, extending XCOM 2’s longevity a great deal and putting the ownness on you to devise the best strategies. The terrain, your available units and their upgrades, your mission object, how long you can stay concealed, and the countless choices you make each turn can all add up to very different encounters with your enemy; figuring out how to deal with the hand your draw is part of the fun.
And it is fun, hugely so. Much like its predecessor it’s tactically compelling and rewarding to figure out the puzzle that is the battlefield. This is also the case for upgrading your soldiers. Each class has two upgrade paths that benefit different styles of play, and developing enough soldiers with a diverse set of skills to help in different missions is a criticle and involved consideration. It involves you sending rookies out to gain experience, giving you the risk/reward consideration for mission success verses soldier experience. And of course, XCOM 2 is hugely challenging and your will lose countless troops, but often this is an inevitable cost to complete the objective, making the story even more personal and gripping and gives the risk/reward even more weight.
Fortunately, you can opt to retreat if an objective is too risky or difficult to complete, saving your precious squad. You can also save anywhere and reload to your heart’s content, but with no checkpoints in-mission you better remember to do so. Unfortunately, however, loading times when reloading a save are a little on the long side, which isn’t much of a surprise when you see how beautiful XCOM 2 looks.
A varied colour palette and densely packed environments makes each mission a visual treat. Meanwhile, cinematic camera angles during the action phase of a turn builds the tension whilst superb sound effects from the weapons makes a critical shot all the more exciting and rewarding, if it hits. Of course actually hitting a target is sometimes unfair, with occasions where point blank shots on enemies miss and unobstructed lines of fire have an entirely arbitrary percentage to hit. Incidentally the aliens will also sometimes shoot straight through walls and nail impossible shots on your soldiers. Further bugs also hamper the experience slightly, with characters sometimes freezing in place and not executing commands for 10-15 seconds, and cutscenes occasionally hit frame rate problems.
Fortunately, the fun outweighs the occasional frustration; no matter how often you fail a mission there’s always plenty of alternative actions you can take to try and find success, and exploring them is joyous. Despite its steep difficulty this is a turn-based strategy masterpiece with a wonderfully engaging story to compliment it, although it is a shame that the DLC from the PC version isn’t bundled with it as standard and is instead available separately.
Kingdom: New Lands is purposely obtuse, providing a mere slither of context in the beginning and nothing more. As such, it can get frustrating figuring out what you need to do and how to go about doing it. Moreover, this often turns into a trial and error learning curve, inevitably ending in your character’s death. However, this is part of Kingdom: New Land’s narrative: the struggle to keep the crown and conquer each island.
It’s a compelling experience; however many times you die you’ll find yourself quickly yearning to try again, fresh with the knowledge you gleaned from your last attempt. A single mistake, such as building the wrong kind of unit or expanding your kingdom too early, can be extremely difficult and often impossible to come back from, but there’s joy in the discovery and challenge that keeps you playing. Despite the lack of clarity and punishing difficulty, Kingdom: New Lands is also hugely satisfying and fun.
You are tasked, as the new king or queen, in building a kingdom. On each of the islands of the world you must build a settlement, repair your ship, then sail to another land to do it all over again. It’s a cross between a management title and a tower defence game; you recruit citizens to your settlement by giving nomads a gold coin, then you can turn them into engineers to build things, archers to shoot things, farmers to farm things, or knights to lead armies of archers against the things that come out at night. Once the sun has set you’ll be beset by demons, coming from a portal – or set of portals – deep in the forest. These foal things mean to take gold from your citizens, as well as their weapons and tools, and most importantly your crown. It’s imperative that you defend against these raids whilst you complete repairs to your ship.
Turning your citizens into useful members of your kingdom requires you to purchase their tools or weapons. In the early game this is limited to engineers and archers, with you buying hammers and bows respectively, however, as the game progresses, farmers require scythes and knights require shields. Your settlement adds these new features and stalls as your upgrade the centre, and things get expensive fast. Fortunately, your archers can hunt rabbits and deer to provide cash, a trader visits town daily and generates more gold, and farmers bring in a healthy income after a few days of tending to their crops. Your engineers can get you a little bit of extra spending money from cutting down trees, and deep in the forest lies a couple of chests full of gold, but managing your income and your settlement’s growth is a tricky challenge.
The Nomads for recruiting into your kingdom are found in campsites in the forest. Cut down the trees surrounding them and that campsite disappears. The same goes for the traders hut. And whilst the raiding demons never kill your people, when they do attack them they strip them of their gold, turning them back into nomads. Furthermore, upgrading your settlement costs a pretty penny, as do the walls and archer towers needed to defend your settlement. Controlling your expenditure whilst maintaining a well defended and prosperous settlement proves very difficult.
With every passing night, the raiding demons become more numerous and introduce variants, putting a strain on your defences, so ensuring you upgrade your defences swiftly is important. However, in order to efficiently and effectively upgrade and manage your settlement you need to understand the layout of the island you’re on, encouraging you to explore from end to end. Here is where Kingdom: New Lands aesthetic really impresses.
The whole game is on a 2D plain, with tremendously detailed and animated pixel art bringing the people of your kingdom and you, upon your trusty steed, to life. What starts off as a set of lush green forests and plains becomes dull and lifeless in autumn, snow covered in winter, before being reborn in spring and back to glory in summer. It’s wonderfully complex and beautiful. Furthermore, the canopy of trees in the forest blocks the light from the sun and forces you to light a torch as you explore. The torches are once again branded at night by characters and buildings. Meanwhile, the action from the middle of the screen is superbly reflected in the flowing water of the bottom third of the screen. It’s a remarkably well-designed and thought-out, showing a level of visual complexity and beauty seldom seen in pixel art. It’s outstanding.
Despite the stiff challenge, Kingdom: New Lands can easily get its hooks into you, and this is largely because the challenge is fair. The procedural generation is limited to certain features to prevent unwinnable scenarios, and once you crack the mechanics, it’s a matter of planning the most efficient repair of your ship and/or defence of your settlement to claim victory. However, The AI can occasionally make things a little more difficult than they should be. Even when the demons only attack from one side, your forces will split themselves to defend each side of your settlement evenly. Moreover, occasionally a citizen will run off into the wild for no reason at all, only to return a little while later – assuming they aren’t attacked – empty handed and looking foolish. Additionally, archers sometimes won’t mount empty defence towers, hurting your defensive strategy somewhat, and your engineers have a nasty habit of wandering outside your walls and getting ganked by demons.
Indeed, Kingdom: New Lands is a challenging game that withholds the information you need to survive and prosper, forcing you to explore and experiment to figure it all out. And as frustrating as this can be, it’s also a big part of the fun and works to keep you engaged, and the satisfaction you receive for conquering one of the six islands is rewarding enough to keep you coming back for more time and time again.
Thanks to Xbox and The Fun Pimps and Iron Galaxy for supporting TiX