Role-playing games and citybuilding games are both prolific on Facebook, though there are relatively few that combine the two play styles. That’s exactly what Vostu’s latest title Flying Kingdoms is trying to do, merging the monster-hunting, treasure-looting and quest-completing gameplay of an RPG with the crop-growing, business-supplying and money-hoarding gameplay of a citybuilder. It’s currently showing up as the No. 16 top gainer in Facebook games by MAU in the last week, suggesting that people are at least curious about the potential such a blend offers.
Flying Kingdoms casts players in the role of an anonymous, non-customizable male or female avatar. Shortly after beginning the game, they come across a ruined old castle containing what appears to be the statue of a king. It transpires that this is the actual King of the Air Kingdom, turned to stone. Not only that, but the mountain on which the player found the castle is actually a floating island. From this point on, it’s up to the player to restore the floating kingdom and bring peace to the land.
This is achieved in two distinct strata of gameplay, the first of which sees the player travelling to various different zones using their flying kingdom, and exploring the lands beneath. These are initially obscured by a black “fog of war,” but the terrain and its features are revealed as the player explores. As they proceed through the ground-level lands, they’ll receive a number of quests, most of which are of the “kill [x] number of things” or “collect [x] number of items” variety. Occasionally the player will also be called upon to put out fires or perform other tasks that require a small degree of object manipulation, but for the most part, quests are very simple. The need for too much exploration is negated by the inclusion of a “Show Me” button in the quest log which automatically pans the screen to the location of the quest objective, then back to the player. Occasionally, there are obstacles in the way which the player will have to traverse in order to reach the objective. These take the form of broken bridges, gates and switch puzzles.
Traversing some of these obstacles requires the use of resources and special objects, some of which may be harvested in the “adventure” area, while others must be produced using appropriate buildings in the “kingdom” area. This brings us on to the second strata of gameplay, which sees players constructing buildings and decorations in order to restore glory to the petrified flying kingdom. Gameplay here takes the form of a by-the-book citybuilder, with buildings requiring supplies in order to provide income or resources, and supplies coming from farming. The completion of certain buildings is friend-gated, though this may be bypassed by spending hard currency. The game encourages players to play socially, however, with several early quests encouraging players to invite at least 5 friends and visit their respective kingdoms.
Gameplay in both halves of Flying Kingdoms is relatively simple — the role-playing side of things is particularly straightforward, with little in the way of tension or “risk” for the player. Combat with monsters and other enemies is resolved almost identically to harvesting resources, with the minor exception that enemies occasionally do additional damage to the player’s stock of energy needed for adventure-related tasks. Monsters do not chase the player and the player cannot die, either, so there is little feeling of achievement following the defeat of a particularly tough opponent — it might as well just be a really big tree. Meanwhile, the simple supply-and-collect gameplay of the citybuilding side of the game is very predictable and conventional, meaning that fans of the genre will feel immediately at home.
It’s the combination of these two aspects which makes Flying Kingdoms an interesting game, however. While neither side particularly innovates in its respective genre, the fact that both are present in a single title allows for a pleasingly varied experience where it’s rare for players to find themselves with nothing to do. The fact that the RPG and citybuilding aspects each have their own separate energy systems (known as “mana” in the RPG areas and “energy” in the kingdom) means that the player may focus on one at a time, then switch to the other while waiting to “refill.” Both energy bars also refill completely upon leveling up, so players who manage their time and resources effectively can enjoy long play sessions without spending a cent.
This said, the game also monetizes well, with a variety of premium “kingdom” items on offer in exchange for hard currency as well as the facility to restore mana and energy. Certain quest goals may also be skipped through the expenditure of hard currency. It’s unobtrusive monetization that provides the facility for players to show their appreciation to the developers if they so desire, but doesn’t constantly nag the player about purchasing premium items.
While Flying Kingdoms’ two different components would be relatively unremarkable games if released separately, the combination of both makes it greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a fun, engaging little adventure that deserves some attention for trying something a little different.
A fun combination of RPG and citybuilder that manages to be greater than the sum of its parts.