New Lands is an expansion to 2015’s Kingdom, a rouge-like 2D side-scrolling strategy game. You play as a princess from atop a horse, ruling a land draped in mystery. Your main goal is to locate a wrecked ship in the woods, rebuild it, and get it to the ocean to discover new lands. This seemingly simple objective is made delightfully challenging in its moment to moment gameplay.
Let’s first talk about the art-direction. It’s gorgeous. The 2D pixel-art aesthetic is very minimalist, yet subtly detailed. In fact, there is an overarching theme of minimalism that envelops all aspects of the game. The music is elegantly restrained. I didn’t take much notice of it during my first hour or so playing, but when I finally took a moment to sit back and listen I was shocked at how good it is. It ranges from charming piano tracks, to a Minecraft-like floaty ambient medley of bells and synths; it’s extremely well composed and thought out.
The minimalism expands into the gameplay as well. As the princess you’ll need to build up your base in the center of the world – delegating builders to reinforce walls, build archer platforms, farms, and catapults. You’ll also assign followers as archers, knights, and farmers. The game starts off simple enough: You build during the day and expand territory, or recruit more followers, and at night you wait for monsters to attack. If your walls are built up enough and if you have plenty of archers it’s a simple enough task to fend off the ghastly invaders, but if they manage to get to the princess and take your crown – Game Over. Restart.
There are maybe 3 buttons as interaction elements in the whole game. You move (WASD), you press Down to drop coins that’ll gain the loyalty of the vagrants camped out in the woods, and you hold Down to build at certain points and spend coins. That’s about it really. This is fine during most of the game, but there’s no real way to tell your troops exactly what you want them to do. This minimalist approach works against itself later in the game.
In my experience, I finally built up my ship, and had archers and builders prepped to push it to sea, but we were attacked by monsters and I lost all of my men very close to the end of the level – where the monsters were coming from. Once my men died my existing soldiers back at base would come out to replace them automatically. One of two things happened in this scenario: They were killed by what few monsters were still out there before they even made it to the ship, or they got to the ship just as more monsters were starting to appear (due to how long it took them to get there) and I gained no ground yet lost even more men and wasted the resources that went into recruiting them..
The lack of direct control over your units is charming in that it gives your recruits somewhat of a personality, but it makes the game frustrating and boring at times. Kingdom has also begun to lose its appeal maybe 5-6 hours of gameplay later. I thoroughly enjoy this game, and I’m sure I’ll be back to it in the future, but it doesn’t have very much replay-ability despite its rouge-like tendencies. Once you progress to New Lands there are too few gameplay variations to keep it feeling fresh, and the new lands you work so hard to discover feel like more of the same.
In conclusion, Kingdom: New Lands is a good game. It has its flaws, but it’s an easy game to jump into for 30 minutes here or an hour there. The music is fabulous, the artwork is flawless, but there is not much longevity to the experience. I played on PC via Steam, but it’s also available on Xbox One – it’s a game worth your time.