City Planning – Lion Shield Studios- June 2017 – $9.99
In my usual way I was thumbing through my growing Steam library looking for a game to report on this week. Like flipping the channels on TV I switched from game to game not really getting a strong feeling from any, as I’m sure we all can relate. Not surprisingly this led me to the store to run through my queue on the homepage filled with, you guessed it, more and more indie games. Scrolling through 2D platformers, anime dating sims (*cough Dream Daddy), and other kitschy games Kingdoms and Castles leapt out at me with its colorful demeanor and poppy pixel art. A quick transaction later I was in a beautiful world of my own design providing for a growing population of peasants and warding off dragon and viking attacks.
Kingdoms and Castles casts you in the roll of a King of a fledgling island empire. You begin the game by placing your keep on a randomly generated plot of land with 5 peasants and enough food to get you through a couple winters. From there you must build farms, logging camps, quarries, and housing for your fledgling village as winter sets and closes off the growing season. “Turns” in the game are measured in years and move by fairly quickly, limiting how much food can be grown at a time. You must bank your grown food in a granary before winter concludes or it will go to waste which adds a sense of urgency to the approaching winter.
As your city grows so does its demand for more resources and accommodations. Taverns, libraries, and churches all increase the happiness of your villagers but cost resources to build and maintain. That’s where taxes come in. When you’ve built a substantial population and have provided for their happiness you can build a treasure room that stores your gold and allows you to impose taxes on your subjects. Be warned, though, too high of taxes will displease the masses and may lead unhappy peasants to flee your city. I really enjoyed the challenge of finding a happy medium in building new services, at the cost of your hard earned tax revenue, and hiking up the tax rate in response to the higher happiness rating.
The simulation in the background of Kingdoms and Castles‘ poppy style is more in depth than it would let on at first glance. Build a bunch of housing and, if the happiness in your village is high enough, peasants will flock to your village. With those increased villagers is an increased demand for food. If you don’t act swiftly enough your stores will run dry and so will your support. Without support villagers will leave in droves leaving your facilities abandoned leaving you with few resources to work with. In learning the game I had several moments like this that I had to overcome, the “Great Famine of Year 32” comes to mind. After your challenges are overcome, though, the game feels very rewarding as you begin to steamroll your production and build your hamlet into a bustling city. The little pixel people that populate your town feel alive and give your town a bustling feeling. I had a great time just watching zoomed out as the little dots scamper too and from places of business to their homes and back again. It’s a game that is just as much fun to watch as it is to play.
Defense of your city is another great challenge of Kingdoms and Castles. An onslaught of dragons and vikings will attack your city as you progress adding an additional layer of difficulty to your already complicated situation. I found it easy to neglect my defenses as I progressed leading my peasants to get sideswiped by a random viking invasion. Attacks are usually brief but can be somewhat devastating as they run through starting fires among your hovels and production buildings. Dragons, too, sometimes make an appearance to hover overhead spitting fire down onto your unsuspecting villagers. With a bit of careful planning, and well placed archers or ballista, thwarting these enemies is a rewarding experience that leaves you feeling invincible until your next attack.
This is the first game to be produced by Lion Shield Studios just under a year after their inception. Made up of just two guys, Peter Angstadt and Michael Peddicord, from such games as Abzu, Journey, Boom Blox, and Cannon Brawl it’s clear that they’re passionate about games.
I’m a huge fan of Kingdoms and Castles, it challenges its players in a delightful way while allowing you to create a city that feels alive and uniquely of your design. At only $9.99 on Steam and GOG it feels like a steal considering the depth of the simulation and the challenge of the city design and defense mechanics. As a debut release I’m impressed by Lion Shield Studios and can’t wait to see what’s next from their studio.