Funzio’s Kingdom Age is a hardcore strategy game that challenges its Google+ players to build up a kingdom, defend it from attacks by other players, loot and pillage rival fiefdoms, kill monsters, complete quests and, of course, find treasure. There are a lot of different aspects to the game, but this breadth of experience is what sets Kingdom Age apart from offerings by competitors Kabam and Kixeye rather than being a simple clone.
After designing a custom avatar — which the player may choose the gender but not the name of — players are thrown straight into the action with a tutorial which introduces PvE combat against monsters, PvP combat against rival kingdoms and the basics of the citybuilding gameplay. This tutorial moves at a brisk pace and sacrifices any sense of narrative to get players acquainted with the game systems as quickly as possible — for example, the PvE tutorial sees players rescuing a monk from monsters, but upon his liberation, said monk then immediately suggests that the player goes and attacks a rival kingdom with no explanation whatsoever. It’s a small yet noticeable issue, but the decision was presumably taken to provide a balance offering new players the chance to learn the basic mechanics while keeping the tutorial short enough for experienced strategy players to charge onward into the meat of the game as soon as possible.
Following the tutorial, gameplay is guided by a series of quests at the side of the screen. There are generally several quests at any given time, concentrating on each of the game’s three main areas: PvE combat against monsters; PvP combat against rival kingdoms; and building up the player’s own kingdom. This helps keep downtime to a minimum, as players can focus on another aspect of quests while waiting for their energy (used to battle monsters) or stamina (used to battle rival players) to refill.
PvE combat superficially resembles popular computer RPGs such as Diablo, but mechanics are kept very simple. Players simply click on a monster to attack them, an amount of energy according to the toughness of the monster is deducted from the player’s stock, the player character automatically chooses the best weapon available to use, damage is inflicted on the monster and then, finally, the monster usually inflicts a small amount of damage directly onto the player’s energy with their own attack. Certain monsters require prerequisite items in order to battle (antivenom for spiders, skinning knives for rats and so on) but otherwise there’s little depth to the combat, and while exploring PvE areas the player is safe from attack by creatures unless they are specifically clicking on one to battle it, meaning there’s little sense of “danger” during these adventures.
The kingdom building component requires players to manage their food stocks by building farms and silos to produce and store food; train troops (who consume food) and build structures that generate income. There’s also a research component which allows players to unlock various new buildings and troop types, and structures may be upgraded to increase their output. Unlike many of Kabam’s recent offerings, which see players spending several hours building and upgrading buildings before getting to any action whatsoever, Kingdom Age spreads its “build this, upgrade this” quests over a longer period of time, offering a welcome variety to the gameplay. As is usual for this type of game, buildings take varying amounts of real time to build and upgrade, though this wait can be negated by spending hard currency.
PvP combat uses the troops which players have trained to attack rival players, who are chosen from a list. Players see a map of their rival’s kingdom and must then choose a small area which they would like to attack. The rival’s defending troops then line up in this area and the player’s attackers charge through. The attackers’ strength is compared to the defenders’. The amount of units by which the attackers’ strength is greater than the defenders’ will then “break through” and attack randomly-chosen buildings in the area, potentially destroying them if enough damage is inflicted. It usually takes several battles to destroy a single building early in the game, more powerful units take the field later on — and paying players have the option of purchasing premium equipment using the game’s hard currency to give them a significant advantage. It’s a simple but effective system, though quests that require the player to destroy a specific building can prove infuriating at times, as attacking troops blindly charge forward and attack a cottage instead of the adjacent farm which they were supposed to be razing — and there’s no means of giving direct orders.
Kingdom Age’s three gameplay components work well together to produce a game with depth and variety. It still needs a little work, however. Art assets load slowly, for example, meaning the screen visibly redraws whenever transitioning to a different area — worse, the visuals are created using several “layers,” each of which refresh one at a time in a rather disconcerting manner. PvE combat lacks depth and a sense of danger; PvP combat lacks control. Sometimes health bars for buildings in PvP combat display inaccurate values. And full-screen mode occasionally refuses to register mouse clicks.
There’s a good game underneath, however, and some strong social and monetization features are already in place. Should Funzio be able to iron these issues out, it will have a strong offering for fantasy, RPG and strategy game fans on its hands. It’s just not quite there yet.
A deep, varied strategy game which needs a few gameplay tweaks and technical fixes before being ready for the primetime.