While the concept of city building on Facebook has been a growing genre, warring against other users has been one of the all time standards, and is perenially popular in role-playing games like Mafia Wars. A title that’s been out for half a year combines both battle and basic city building: Kingdoms of Camelot, developed by Watercooler.
Kingdoms of Camelot is similar in respect to the more lascivious browser-based fantasy title, Evony. Essentially, players are given a single, walled-in city and a fairly generous amount of land. Outside the city gates, players are tasked with the production of various structures needed to produce food, wood, stone, and ore (farm, sawmill, etc.). Like in a strategy game, these become the resources needed to build new buildings and train new units (more on that later). While it is some ways reminiscent of real-time strategy games like Age of Empires or early Warcraft titles, the play is asynchronous, like farming and mafia RPGs on Facebook. Perhaps we’ll see Civilization Network use similar elements when it launches later this year?
Inside the walls, the game is more like a city builder app. Players must manage everything from taxes and happiness to defenses and might. It is hardly simple. Each building has a unique feature. If you build and upgrade cottages, then you get more population. If you build more taverns, you get happiness (which negates unhappiness caused by taxes – your source of gold). From here, it starts to get more into strategic and social features.
Feudal times are all about alliances, conquest, and invaders. However, in order to do anything in Kingdoms pertaining to these, one has to have the proper buildings. For example, without a market, you cannot trade resources with other users. Without an embassy, you can not form alliances, nor can you house friendly troops that come to aid you when under siege.
This actually becomes very important, as beyond the boundaries of your budding kingdom is a whole heap of wilderness. Mountains, hillsides, forests, barbarian camps, and rival cities. Broken up into a grid, each part of the world you conquer will add to the strength of your own lands. If you conquer a mountain, you earn a percentage boost to your ore production; a lake, food.
This is where structures like a Knights Hall, barracks, and watch towers (defenses) come into play. What good is a kingdom without an army, anyway? Well, following tech trees similar to a real time strategy game, more powerful units require more highly upgraded buildings and range from simple militia and scouts to armored ballistas and supply wagons. This is where the game starts to slow down and gets a bit more complex.
It’s hard to know what one should build and how many, as most of the explanations on units are very general. All you really know is what is required to make them, which is generally upgraded buildings (and occasionally researched technology). Of course, as these get stronger, they take longer and longer to build. Now, there are items one can buy to make building faster, and when they start to take an hour or more, you can post to your Facebook feed and have friends click a link to “help” you build faster. Unfortunately, this only affects the speed, and doesn’t help too much in the instruction department.
Kingdoms of Camelot has a metric ton of features going on and it is a bit overwhelming at first. Luckily, this is mitigated, slightly, by a Quests feature that has a list of things to do next, but even that is saturated with tasks.
Thankfully, this is an app that is truly heavy on the social elements. If ever you get confused, you can access the global chat (which is very active) and talk to everyone currently on the server. Also, even if they can’t clear up your questions, and you can’t build that epic army yet, you can recruit friends to your ranks as Knights to fight for you, who actually earn experience and grow stronger.
Beyond this, it is also worth mentioning that actually seeing your allies and enemies on the map is a wonderfully immersive element. It seems so insignificant when you think about it, but with them right there, where you can see them require aid or watch them burn… it adds something personal to the mix.
Truth be told, Kingdom of Camelot is a fantastically deep game that combines simple city-building elements with strategic combat, and frankly, contains far more features to it than this review can do justice for. Between long term alliances, all out wars between players, upcoming tournaments, and even a small, 2D virtual space (your “Court”) one can decorate using virtual currency, this is a game that may have a quick and confusing start, but has an extremely long term and in-depth finish. We expect good things from the future of Kingdoms and its 1.5 million monthly active users, and we can’t wait to grow just a little bit stronger.