Kingdom: Two Crowns Review
Battle For The (Promised) Land Of Shinies .
Read Time 09 minutes
Once every millenia a new king is chosen amongst its peers to reign firm and fair as a true leader. What it takes for one to get there? I don't know–maybe an election of public opinion, so that only the truly capable are chosen? No, no, no, way too conventional. Then how about this: perhaps all it takes for a king to exist is... *drum rolls*... a crown, obviously! How did nobody ever think of that? Smh my head. Alright, enough with the light-hearted jokes, Kingdom Two Crowns, my dearest Kings and Queens, what a splendorous time to be alive. We are finally at the point where pixels can look as good as trillion-poly masterpieces, and all thanks to a couple reflections, some slight variation in color to create the impression of shading, as well as a truly fine art-style.
“ ...Wait... If I am a king, does it also mean I will have my very own queen...? ”
Who'd have thought way back in the PS1 era that in a couple year time we'd be having a conversation about how going back to pixels wouldn't actually be a full-on regression in terms of technology, and that we'd actually be able to pull off so much detail in such a simple, limited plane of view. But oh, well, here we are anyways, and let me tell you something straight from the heart: it feels crazy being able to visualize the journey we've endured, and all of that done in baby steps gone from accidents turned catastrophes turned... beauty. But no more of that, as we're now in a new age of gaming, with even raytracing becoming second-market asset for most developers to use and abuse however they like.
Taking pixel art to the next level, Kingdom Two Crowns feels like a fresh start, and one I surprisingly don't have any strong opinions about. In it you'll spend most of your time moving left and right, dropping coins on the heads of your subjects as any respectable monarch likely would, given the situation. Your main objective in the game is to survive, build, and explore–the three words that play almost like a slogan for a sales pitch for a sandbox game, except in this one case you get all of the box in the world and none of the sand to put inside of it.
At the helm of problem, repetition and lack of variety are some of the biggest gripes anyone approaching the game will ever have with it, but we'll get to those later on. Overall, I'd say that, the game feels honestly alright, but I'll have you know I don't mean this in a bad way, as it is rare to have games as alright as this one is, and even less so alright enough as to have people care about them throughout multiple releases as is the case here. So, with all of that said, hold on to your pitchforks for a hot minute and let's talk about what really matters, shall we?
Beginning Anew In Unexplored Lands: To Raise A True Monarch .
So, here we are, at the edge of making some harsh judgments, as per usual. You people never change, do you? Always jumping to conclusions before I am even able to finish making a single sentenc--. Alright, alright, I get the message. You merely want to know about the damn game already, yes? That is mighty understandable, I say. Let us jump right onto it, then! Kingdom Two Crowns is a hyper creative take on your usual 2D side scroller formula, bringing to the table several hours worth of fun, engaging content, that will casually invite you to dip your toes deep into several other campaigns that mirror the main one with not much changed, except for a few reskins and some extra mechanical differences, such as puzzles and even abilities.
Developed by independent studio Coat Sink, among a couple others, the game is a cozy, laidback experience that sucks you in like a magnet, being fairly easy to get attached to the beautiful lush environments and superb mastery over pixel art and music presented by the group's first ever launch together. With a dear focus on strategy and base-building, failure and success are two things that walk hand to hand, in a hostile setting where one mistake could easily lead you to lose a good thirty minutes worth of progression in a single swipe. At the end of the trail, what we have in hands is a good two-hour worth of content turned fifteen mainly due to repetition, making the game a rather short run, stretched thin as to become lasting only for those who really enjoy the idea of surviving for no reason other than to see the sun rise again–a pretty respectable reason, if I do say so myself.
In terms of novelty, there is little worth noting outside of an unusual approach to the concept of development and expansion, which is where the game really glows as a pocket adventure more than anything else, in my opinion. By putting two fundamentally great ideas together, a town builder in conjunction with a tower defense, in a world where you survive a couple nights and then move on with your life to the next tree, swinging from branch to branch like Tarzan is what makes the game such a similar experience to that frequently found in games targeting a mobile audience.
As much as I love cold weather, beyond being the slowest season, winter also holds far too many dangers for comfort, thanks to a scarcity of resources, as well as a looming threat that doesn't tire nor wait for you to strengthen yourself.
With reflections like this, it almost makes one wish they could walk with a mirror by their side in real life... so long as said reflection wouldn't do more damage for its carrier's soul.
But, as it's been known for a good while now, in life, it's not always rainy weather--not even in the land of endless downpour, I'll have you know! With that said, one thing I feel obliged to share is the fact that, despite us having all of this fine concept I just mentioned not ever being taken anywhere, there is still plenty to do while the "fineness" last, and by that I mean you'll still have enough entertainment in those two hours to get your money's worth of fun, with the possibility of it lasting even longer if you're into challenges and stuff. The game has everything you could ever ask from an indie title, so, to go beyond that would most likely be reaching out to the skies, but without the part where it reaches back to you.
Also, should I mention that not only are you able to play the game daily, doing challenge runs for as long as you feel necessary, but you can also do it with friends? Now, hear me out, and this is something to which I cannot attest to its effectiveness, but it seems to me that the ability to share tasks with your partner is like the dream scenario, as not only do you get to play with someone you care about, but you can also find out if they'd be good at managing your finances. I mean, better learn about it sooner rather than later, no? You never know who is the right person to be the father/mother of your children until you see their skills put to the test in-game, is what I always say.
And as if things couldn't get any crazier, wait until you find out that you can have your nights together last forever. That's right! I mean, did someone call for a honeymoon phase at the lakeside, inside of a cozy, warm castle? How much more romantic can it get? But, of course, all you gotta hope is that the big white way up above doesn't just randomly decide to turn red out of nowhere, because if it does, you better start praying.
To Strike Down An Entire Mountain: Not A Chance For Regret .
Based around the idea that one cannot evolve without first washing people's hands with gold, Kingdom Two Crowns makes it so you are only entitled to your own advancement when you have your pockets overflowing with cash. Thankfully, though, getting money in the game is as easy as it gets, with pretty much every action of our subordinates always resulting in us banking in on their efforts. Also, do be aware that there will be times where you'll have to spend first (ugh) in order to get paid–a sour investment that will at the very least get you some sweet profit in return. A self-sustainable economy that is either feast or famine for its players, as there will be seasons you'll have an excess of money, with nothing to spend on, as well as the contrary, with only a light purse to get by.
What's more, should the adversities of having to survive stranded in an unknown land without a single shiny to our name, we also have to worry about some other problems: the greed, a nasty group of shameless bastards whose only objective in life is to steal our precious valuables while trying their hardest to get away with it. Composed mainly of what's worse in humanity, they'll take just about anything they can get their dirty little hands on, including weapons, tools, gold and even our own crown, which if they do end up taking it, it is pretty much game over for us. Oozing out malevolence, they are separated into tiers, with each member of the greed family having unique abilities that help boost their chances of acquiring something for the night.
Representing two sides of the same coin (ha, get it?), each and every night a wave of greedlings will try to breach our walls, and depending on how our efforts to prepare during the day went, hopefully the faction to reign supreme will be ours. It is a never-ending cycle of cat chases mouse, where one slip will turn us into the mouse to be chased away. On the other hand, steel seems to be a good enough countermeasure to keep others away from what's really worth, but at the expense of having to maintain a healthy division of archers, knights and spearheads to keep the inner sections of the kingdom in a safe, working condition.
To end our trials once and for all, we take the leap to venture into the heart of enemy forces. If we'll get out alive? It's only up to us to find out. A fight that only the bravest and richest can afford to battle.
Despite the calm looks, Kingdom Two Crowns is actually a rather nerve-racking game, with its superb control of atmosphere and ambiance setting place for the stuff of nightmares.
And what else could possibly be in store for such fine, civilized folk such as ourselves, you ask? Well, about that, since we're already on a spending spree anyways, I think it's only fair I mention where the end of our kart race to save our own pompous ass will likely end. Now think of this for a bit–when it comes to strategizing against an enemy we know so little about, for our attack to be effective, first we need to somehow understand where hurts more, right? But when that enemy in question have no human anatomy that we can talk about, while looking like blobs of goo with arms coming straight out of an evil factory from a cartoon, then you better believe that for them to respawn on a daily basis at such fast rates, you'd think that their place of birth is definitely somewhere real close.
So, being the smart creatures that we know we are, to strike down such fantastic foes is better we cut the evil by its root, and what better place to launch a retaliatory strike than at the place where it hurts more: their own nest. And since it is a somewhat explosive finale, I'll just leave it for you to paint the picture, alright? To help you with the imagining part of things, just think of purple jelly being sprayed all over the place at mach speed, squashed back into cosmic petroil like peas thrown out of a plane... alright, alright, guess that should be enough material for you to figure how the actual scene plays out.
Once we're finished with our old neighbors, the next step in our trip to attain world domination should be pretty much obvious at this point. We start over like nothing ever happened! Since we are an insatiable force, always thirsting for more, there really isn't anything else better to do other than to dismantle another ecosystem, for the pure satisfaction of it! After our many crusades, we are finally ready to pack up–ready to move on, and re-assemble our dominion elsewhere, so to exploit the workforce of some place distant, as it is only logical.
Humble Beginnings Of A Conqueror: As Far As The Money Goes .
As previously discussed, one of the main objectives in the Two Crowns universe is to gather as many resources as possible and depart on a new adventure. Needless to say, preparations are to be taken to ensure calm sailings, should we wish to not have our new beginnings spell the end of our trip to a world of possibilities. Whenever going for new horizons, players have the ability to call for their troops to join them, as a way to ensure our excess of power on a now peaceful plot of land doesn't end up going to waste. Now, this is awesome for a multitude of reasons, one such being that the progress we make isn't simply lost, with it being usable in a way to greatly increase our chances of survival at the founding place of our next home.
One thing that can't be dismissed is that, even though you can always hire more people to do your biddings, making the system rather malleable in favor of the player, something that isn't ever mentioned is that we won't always be in a position where we can spare the coin to make those necessary "purchases", so to speak. At the start of the game, we are like a baby, in the sense that there isn't much that we can do, just like when we're born-butt-naked, with nothing to our name but an empty sack for peanuts and a dumbass horse.
During our first day on our newfound home, not only are we limited by how much we can do in terms of throwing money down the gutter, but we also have to worry about other factors, such as the stamina and running speed of our mounts, as well as time constraints, seeing as moving on to a new island means that we also have to yet again deal with the dangers of being a lone sheep in a world ravaged by anti-luxury imps.
In games like this, to me, nothing comes close to beating the feeling of accomplishment more than just being able to stand still, simply watching the "waters" flow entirely by itself.
A true commander remains watchful even in the safest of times. It is a mistake to set your cards and lay back when not even the skies seems to be having a great time, else things can turn grim faster than you can probably react.
The good news is that, due to the added necessity of having to recycle our trash, we at least have plenty of reasons to once more work towards improving our interpersonal skills, so to not fall victim of the many poor colonization choices we make on our first attempts, such as giving workers the command to work on walls when it isn't time, and immediately regretting the decision instants later. As we re-establish ourselves, set our goals straight and settle for a less than optimal income, what comes next should be a repetition of the same old tasks until we grow a sufficient living wage to finally retire.
From that point onwards, the game basically becomes a cakewalk, as in the rest of our life will now basically become a politician simulator, where we just trot around, collecting taxes from our poor citizens like there is no tomorrow. Even if a job of little honor, at the end of the day, we still have enough gold to build a pile big enough to hide our shameless face behind, so, who cares about others think of us, amirite or amirite?
"To savor every moment is to live a true, fine life where you have lived every moment", said someone who may or may not have existed, but hey, if it's in quotes then it must be pretty important, so, heck, who am I to object against such a fabulous statement? No one, that's who I am. And after all of this wandering left and right for twelve hours, we are now finally set to conquer the entire world, Columbus style, with no regrets to carry on our voyage to dominate every bit of land known to men.
Final Thoughts: The Taller We Grow, The Worse We Will Fall .
Giving you a run for the senses, even if there is not an excess of redeemable features to a game that loves looping around itself more than I love seeing the world burn, the sole fact that it does it so boldly, without a single bit of shame nor hesitation, that, right there, is what wins it my respect. Although upsetting for some, granted it relies on pressing the deja-vu button a tad too many times, this is still a fairly niche game that gets the job done for the people who are into, well, niche games just like this one. Truth be told, the game has a few problems, but, without trying to further embellish my opinion more than I need to, I honestly believe it to be ultimately worth engaging with, unless you are one to get bored easily.
A good pass time that sadly doesn't go too far, giving players even less reason to care for what's in their plate, as going for a different island only to see the background change isn't exactly a goal to work towards, I feel. It doesn't have that something "extra" that makes people want to push forward, seeing as all they'll find when they cross to the other side is maybe an extra inch of terrain for them to work on, and that is if we're being generous. Even the piers, the mountains, everything plays out so perfectly the same on both ends of the map that if I criticize the head, I might as well be criticizing the tail with the same veracity.
It feels underwhelming, and I don't think I could ever be convinced that someone is able to genuinely find themselves enjoying this head-spinning monotony. There is never something new that is happening, no random events, nothing that make you think "glad I stuck to it this long" just to see something you never expected happen in the distance. Every other day is just like the previous, and this, to me, is a major flaw that can't simply be overlooked, because if I did, it would quite literally be sweeping the dirt under the carpet.
And, believe it or not, my intention with this isn't to throw a bucket of cold water at those who happen to enjoy the game as is, for, at the end of the day, it was still a massive success, and I am sure that, for those who created it, it is something to be truly proud of. Either way, what saddens me most is that it was this close to being a much more memorable game than it currently is, and if not for its limited gameplay, then maybe I wouldn't have anything else to hoist as a complaint hostage, which, mind you, is saying more than you can imagine.
Superb art style that makes great use of bright, vibrant colors to get us hooked right from the very start.
A soundtrack that could impress me of all people, someone who isn't usually very attentive to this kind of relatively minor detail.
Game seems fluid, movement is clean, menu navigation is brilliant and you can feel each line of code vibrate at each step.
Intuitive, self-explanatory design that doesn't require half a stick to get the drums rolling.
Immensely repetitive gameplay loop with very little variation between each turn of the wheel.
Flat and potentially boring for those who aren't accustomed with slower-paced progression.
A lack of objective make our actions feel empty and meaningless, even when there is a bunch of stuff to see and explore.
Terrifyingly unrewarding, as going for different islands only to see the background change isn't exactly something to look forward to.
Kingdom: Two Crowns
An 'alright' game from top to bottom. Though of great potential, unfortunately nothing about it stood out too much, for me, at least. A combination of flawless art, plus a masterful soundtrack are mostly what keeps me from giving it an 'average at best' score.
08/01/2022 - Caius, The Coward King