App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Much like the games themselves, it's hard to know where to begin with the Kingdom series. They're beautiful sidescrolling strategy games that use a combination of challenge and mystery to keep you invested in them. Where New Lands placed a lot of weight on brutal difficulty, Two Crowns provides a gentler learning curve while also injecting tons of new things to discover. This makes Kingdom Two Crowns a friendlier game for newcomers, but I'd hesitate to call it more accessible.
Just like in New Lands, Two Crowns has you playing as a displaced monarch that is trying to re-establish their kingdom on an island. You start with little more than a horse and a few coins in your satchel, but you can turn those coins into a small outpost, and that outpost into a small village, and that small village into a castle estate through a combination of careful investing, planning, and exploration.
You do all of this building management from your horseback, which is where some of the challenge comes. You have to physically ride to places and drop coins on the ground recruit new follwers, clear out trees, train soliders, build farms, and upgrade your structures. This creates difficulty because time is of the essence in these games. There's a day/night cycle that moves in real time, and dangerous monsters that want to steal everything from you come out at night.
As you continue to upgrade your kingdom and expand your borders in Two Crowns, there will always come a time where you're ready to move on. Whether that's because you've done all there is to do, or the land has become too dangerous to continue inhabiting it, you can spend coins to build a boat that you can use to venture to a new land full of new, mysterious things to uncover. The biggest difference between Two Crowns and New Lands is that this game seems particularly invested in letting you see as much as possible (let's just forget about the totally impractical, local-only co-op, ok?).
Two Crowns is a far more forgiving game than New Lands, and it has a new progression system that pushes you to keep exploring new islands to see more of what the game has to offer. In these new locations, you can expect to find new mounts, special characters, additional resouces, and more. The game also has three separate modes, all of which have distinct visual styles and gameplay differences.
Stranger in a strange land
The high points of the Kingdom games definitely come from finding new ways to master the land and defeat your alien foes, and Two Crowns does a great job of adding lots of texture and variety to the winning gameplay formula of New Lands. On a single save file, I went from riding a workhorse that could help me cover vast distances as my kingdom expanded to piloting a bear that could generate wealth from keeping the land untamed and full of wildlife to hunt.
As great as this sense of discovery is, though, I do wish Two Crowns made some things a little more explicit. I'm still not entirely sure what certain buildings and other objects do, and the game's overall structure is still a bit hard to parse. Given the shroud of mystery over the game, it's also hard to tell if some of the game's weirder behaviors are intentional or not. For example, if you end up having your crown stolen by the enemy (which ends your run), you restart the game back on your first island with all of your villagers and upgrades, but none of your villagers have jobs and all your walls are gone. This could be because the game wants to punish me for my failure, or it could just be a bug. In either case, I don't like it.
The bottom line
Despite its problems, I still really enjoy Kingdom Two Crowns. Even after dumping hours and hours into it, there's almost always some kind of question or mystery for me to poke and prod at. Sometimes I might not like what I find, or I may leave with more questions than answers, but that's also precisely what makes Two Crowns a special game.