App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Kingdom: New Lands is a strange game in that it's a mish-mash of a few different genres and does very little explain what it is. You play as a king on horseback, and you're led by a ghost to a small plot of land to start your kingdom. From there it's up to figure out how to best move forward and survive. What's waiting for you is a fantastically smart and strategic roguelike kingdom-builder that you'll enjoy unwrapping more of every time you play.
Cash is king
In Kingdom: New Lands, you have to build your kingdom out of nothing, or at least almost nothing. You start the game with a few coins which you'll need to grow into a sustainable economy so that you can recruit townsfolk, hire builders, research new technologies, and build defenses. All of this is done by sliding on the screen to move your horse and tapping to drop coins.
Of course, you don't have to do any of these things, but if you don't your reign will be short lived. Every land in New Lands contains portals that spawn money-grubbing monsters that attack at night. If these monsters steal all of your coins, they can then steal your crown, which results in a game over. Your ultimate goal in a playthrough is to survive long enough to build a boat that can take you to a new land.
If you want your kingdom to last more than a few days in New Lands, you'll need to make some smart investments with the money you have. That said, the game makes it very hard to know what you're investing in until after you've already done so, and even then, the returns on your investment might not be immediately apparent.
As a result, your first few plays of New Lands will likely involve a lot of expermientation and observation while trying to maintain a careful balance of tried-and-true investments and throwing money at unknown upgrades to see what they actually do.
This might sound kind of frustrating, but given how little direct control players have in New Lands, observing and learning about the consequences of your investment strategies becomes its own layer of gameplay that instills a great sense of discovery while remaining manageable.
New lands, new problems
If you manage to finish a playthrough of New Lands by building a boat, your king gets shipped off to a new island complete with land features and challenges. This helps prevent New Lands from feeling like a game you can completely figure out. Even if a new island features a lot of familiar elements from a previous land, their arrangement or event the size of the landmass itself can dramatically affect your approach to surviving there.
That said, the phase of New Lands when you're first building your kingdom presents very few options for creativity or discovery. This could make the prospect of starting new games of New Lands feel a little tedious at first. For me though, the beginning phases of the game present great opportunities to really enjoy the game's retro-inspired visuals and soundtrack, both of which are completely beautiful.
The bottom line
There's always something new to do or discover in Kingdom: New Lands, which makes for a really engaging and entertaining experience. Whether you are creating a completely sustainable and efficient kingdom or just barely scraping by to survive and rebuild, it's extremely satisfying to see the systems you invest in come together. Even when they don't, you get valuable knowledge that makes you want to dive right back in and test it out.