Kingdom of Thrones is a new Facebook game from Kano/Apps. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and has been enjoying increased visibility through both a feature spot in the App Center’s “New Games” section as well as frequently-appearing sidebar ads.
The game is a midcore strategy offering somewhat in the vein of recent offerings from Kabam, Plarium and Digital Chocolate, but immediately distinguishes itself with its colorful pixel-art style. It’s not immediately apparent if the rather simplistic aesthetic is a deliberate stylistic choice or simply a matter of budgetary constraints, but it actually works surprisingly well once the initial “culture shock” has worn off: everything is extremely clear, and there is absolutely no ambiguity as to what each graphical element represents. While titles such as Plarium’s Stormfall: Age of War may look objectively “better” in terms of detail, this improved detail can sometimes come at the expense of clarity.
Gameplay in Kingdom of Thrones is fairly conventional for the genre. Players have a stronghold in which they construct various buildings, raise their armies and research new technologies. They can also switch their view to the persistent world map that they share with other players. Most of the map is obscured by a “fog of war” and must be explored by the player’s worker units in order to expand further, but in the meantime there are resources to harvest, outposts to construct and enemy players to attack. Most activities take time to perform, and as usual these wait times may be bypassed with special items that can be purchased using the game’s hard currency.
Rather unusually for the genre, which tends to favor “hands-off” combat, Kingdom of Thrones features the option for fully-interactive combat. Players can manually assign their armies to a battle when attacking computer-controlled opponents or other players’ castles, and can direct them to attack specific targets during a battle. They may also trigger special items that will given them an advantage in battle and optionally retreat between each round if all they wanted to do was soften up their target prior to a later assault. The option is also present for battles to unfold instantly and automatically if the player prefers. As the game progresses, the player gains access to hero units which can be customized with equipment and skills, adding a touch of RPG-style mechanics to the mix for added depth.
Social features include the persistent world in which players compete against each other for control of the same world map. Other players’ castles may be spied upon to estimate military strength, raided for resources or attacked directly, and opponents’ outposts can be attacked in an attempt to wrest control of a region away from them. Players who pose a consistent threat in PvP can also have ambushes set up for them, too. There’s also a real-time chat facility and the ability to add other players as “allies” without having to be Facebook friends with them, since the game uses its own proprietary system of player names.
The game monetizes through sales of its hard currency, known as Favor Points. These may be expended on a variety of purposes, including stamina (required to perform various activities on the world map such as exploring or attacking other players) and premium items such as the various degrees of speed-up available or equipment for their hero characters.
On the whole, Kingdom of Thrones is actually a pretty good game — assuming players can get past the rather distinctive aesthetic, which is an acquired taste for sure. Rather than being a straight-up copy of more well-established midcore strategy games, Kingdom of Thrones clearly has its own identity and way of doing things, and actually ends up being a better game as a result. The player is encouraged to participate in a wide variety of different activities from the start of play, rather than taking the approach of many other games in the genre, which is to spend the first few hours doing nothing but upgrading the same buildings over and over for no discernible reason. Here, players are building, exploring, assaulting other players’ castles, attacking bandit encampments and powering up their hero; the variety and pacing makes it a much more interesting and exciting game to play, and nice little touches like the facility to ambush persistent pests help distinguish it further.
It remains to be seen whether Kingdom of Thrones will be able to build and maintain a strong audience — currently the game has as many one-star ratings as it does for five, suggesting that it is polarizing opinions somewhat, likely because of its aesthetic. The gameplay is certainly solid and worthy of praise for not following the usual midcore strategy game formula to the letter, but the game will live or die depending on whether or not it can attract enough players to remain viable — and that is something that won’t become clear for a while yet.
We don’t yet have detailed user information on Kingdom of Thrones’ ranking on Facebook, but the social network reports the game occupies the 50,000+ MAU tier. Check back shortly to follow its progress in the long term using AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
A solid midcore strategy game with a divisive aesthetic; one to watch and observe how it performs in the next few weeks and months.