A Queen without a Crown

I never played Kingdom, from what I'm told - it's hard, very hard. I have however sunk time into Kingdom: New Lands and from what I've been able to play and unlock, it's pretty good so far. It will take you a few hours to get used to, because whilst on the surface it's a pretty simple game, presented in 2D Pixelart, it's incredibly nuanced and difficult to master.

I lost the crown, a lot to begin with.

But I kept on trying again and again, and eventually after some experimentation on the first island at least - I worked out what you need to do. That, in a nutshell, is what keeps me coming back to the game and what makes it really interesting for me. It takes me back to the old days of gaming where games like this didn't hold your hand, they threw you in at the deep end (Lords of Midnight anyone?) and expected you to pick your skills up as you went along.

2D Kingdom Management

I'm pretty impressed with the way the whole thing works when you're basically in charge of your fledgling kingdom, riding from left to right on horseback, collecting coins to spend on the various upgrades and recruiting the local populace to do your bidding. Throw a single coin to someone from one of the many camps and you'll recruit them, it's simple, it's effective, and it's the key to survival.

I can't stress this enough too: recruit archers, lots of archers.

At first you'll have nothing, a handful of coins, and you'll quickly be taught to light a fire, buy a bow, buy a hammer and build a wall. From that point on, its hands off and you've got to learn how to expand, survive, and reach the objective (build a boat and escape to a new island). Of course it might sound easy, find boat (left or right) and get it up and running...

Yeah, easy...

See, there's the Greed and they want your stuff. All of it, your money, your tools, your CROWN. Lose that crown? GAME OVER, restart.

On the first island they'll spawn from a cave portal either left or right of the settlement, and you'll have to discover this for yourself. Riding out from the relative safety of your new settlement, finding various things to spend money on. Like peasant camps, or mysterious monuments. The game isn't going to tell you what they do either, you'll have to work that one out from the wiki, Reddit, or even experimenting yourself.

That's half the fun!

You only have a short amount of time before day turns into night, and night is when the Greed come rollin' out looking for your loot!

If you built a wall, upgraded it, and have at least one or two archers you'll be fine on the first night. There's only a tiny smattering of Greed, then things ramp up from there as time rolls on. You'll be accumulating coins to upgrade your settlement, build walls, fortify, and increase your defences. Because the moment you have a crack in your defences the Greed will storm in, storm your people, nick their stuff and come after you. Your horse can't run forever and you know what happens if you get caught?

No more Crown, no more Kingdom!

You can do various things with your coins though, clearing trees will open up land and cause long grass to sprout. This attracts rabbits and deer, got some archers, the coin will come rolling in. Though be wary, winter is coming, and that time of year is dangerous unless you have farms - farms will bring in a small amount of coin, until the dead of winter, when all coin that comes in is low.

There is of course a merchant, and here's a tip, invest in 1 coin per day with that guy and he'll help you early on. BUT, don't clear the trees from around his hut, or the camps in the forest unless you want to lose that merchant or the fresh supply of archers and builders.

Like I said, easy to play, bloody difficult to master. Especially on later islands, where there's 2 Greed portals and you get nastier waves.

Archers, remember those, they'll save your crown.

There's a lot to unlock as you travel between the islands, building your boat, getting it to the dock, escaping as the Greed come rocking toward you at the last moment as night crawls in. You'll get new mounts, new options, and those things are permanent unlocks too - you'll need at least 2 coins to grab bits of map you see on small signposts to the left and right of you.

Pixelart Glory

I've fallen in love with Kingdom: New Lands. Don't be put off by the Pixelart style, because it's a really beautifully made game. A lot of love, care and attention has been put into the graphics side and animations, you might not notice it to begin with, but like the gameplay itself - it's pretty nuanced stuff.

The sense of depth for a 2D side-scrolling game is pretty impressive too.

And the Pixel water, well, you have to see that to believe it!

Atmospheric

Kingdom: New Lands is also an atmospheric game, with a great use of simple sound and music to add to the overall aesthetic of the game. It's not going to win awards for what it does, but it handles musical cues and tension building really well.

Hard, but Rewarding

It really is a gem of a game, hard, rewarding and oddly fun. There's something voyeuristic about being only able to watch your people as they struggle to survive. See them grow as a community, see the archers at work, the builders repair the walls after the Greed come for you. You have very little direct control, yet you have all the power, spending their wealth to keep them safe.

With the plethora of unlockable things, and secrets to discover, it's a refreshing take on kingdom management. One that I'd love to see grow from strength to strength.

Now, I hear the Greed coming, so back to the walls!

Prepare the catapults!

TIP: You can customise your character by re-rolling it, press down when the game's loading and you see the character on the horse riding on the screen. That should do it!