December 22, 2012 12:00 PM | Staff
[Guest editor Colin Brown profiles the games currently offered in the Xmas Bundle 2.0 from IndieGames' co-created site Indie Royale.]
Civilization it isn't, but there is something oddly compelling about Little Kingdom, the ultra-lite 4X strategy title from AndreilGame. Built around a simple economy and using combat entirely resolved through towers and influence, the game does a great job of providing a very tiny, bite sized variant on that "one more turn" feeling, while remaining quick and easy to set up and resolve a match within half an hour or less. But perhaps you need more specifics on how this happens.
Little Kingdoms is built on an economy that revolves around trading up. Every tower you build generates food, food builds sawmills, wood constructs quarries, stone constructs mines and so on. With each new resource, you get access to a more powerful tower that can influence more of the surrounding tiles, and perhaps even convert some of your opponent's buildings to your own side. Also in play is a simple trading aspect, which lets you trade lower resources and generate extra upper resources automatically based on the markets you construct, and a diplomacy system that hinges on gigantic bribes to buy your way to a shared victory. Thanks to the real time progression, this game of economic back and forth all plays out rather quickly, but the aforementioned elements and the careful task of placing towers to maximize your gains ensures that it's never dull.
The presentation is nice and clean, but occasionally a bit wonky; the soundtrack is pretty catchy and great, but there are a few quirks in the graphics and campaign. It's clear that AndreilGame prioritized clarity over complexity, which means the graphics work perfectly well but lack a certain amount of pop and also scale somewhat poorly when zooming. I also found that the obligatory plot line of the campaign comes across as a late addition; it works as an extended tutorial, but random maps proved to make for more exciting matches. Obviously none of this sinks the game, and I still found Little Kingdom to be a quick and amusing diversion thanks to the well designed strategy elements.
Making a game using only a handful of strategic elements isn't particularly challenging. Making a game that is easy to pick up, contains enough strategic complexity and is fun to replay again and again, on the other hand, is not. For this accomplishment AndreilGame certainly deserves to be commended, and strategy hounds would do well to give the game a shot. It may lack the flash and polish of the other games in the Indie Royale, but the nice little take on 4X strategy is a spiffy cornerstone to the overall package.
[Colour Bind, Offspring Fling, Namiko, Little Kingdom, and three other games are available now in Indie Royale's Xmas Bundle 2.0.]