Review: A New World: Kingdoms22 Nov 2017 0
Review: A New World: Kingdoms
Released 05 Oct 2017
Though the 4X genre has been around for many decades already, there's always more to come from the big-wigs behind the big titles. So when someone else offers to build off the tried and tested format, how far can they go acting on their own and with an engine known for inspiring many to enter the field? Not all that far, as it turns out.
A New World: Kingdoms has been around for a couple of months already, but hasn't managed to find an audience, if its two Steam user reviews are anything to go by. Likely swallowed whole by the proverbial tsunami of Steam releases with or without the now defunct Greenlight program, this is one that, as cruel as it sounds, shouldn't even be on there in the first place.
At £6.99 at the time of writing, Red Phoenix Studios' latest (and perhaps greatest) isn't asking for much on the surface, but you'll likely come out feeling a little robbed if you take its features, promises and footage at face value. It may charm with its artistic blurs, sharp low-poly looks and minimalistic style, but that's about all there is to it.
Clocking in at under a gigabyte could be a clear giveaway in this day in age of what's to come. Fire it up and you'll be met with a 'Made with Unity' sticker that accompanies much of what we highlight in our free Itch.io roundup every other Friday, leading us to draw a quick conclusion that it would probably fair much better if its creator would admit that this is still very much a work in progress. Instead of asking for some cash, I feel they should work on drawing in a few players generous enough to act as consultants to help turn this half-baked 4X project into something actually worth its single-digit price tag.
Things kick off simple enough. This is a 4X title that evidently borrows from the likes of Civilization and Endless Legend, presenting players with a world split into dozens (or hundreds) of hexagonal 'tiles' ready to be turned and churned into resourceful hubs like quarries, lumber yards and metal refinement plants which is, in turn, spent on more structures, research and units needed to keep the experience flowing. There's a tutorial present for those unfamiliar with the general musings of the 4X strategy genre, but even experienced players will have to rely on their raw intuition to make sense of the game's many resources and values, as hover-over tooltips seem curiously absent from the on-screen UI. You can make do here for the most part by comparing the values of matching icons, but certain other actions confounded us by suggesting we'd lose a set amount of one upon execution, when in actuality we ended up gaining a completely different number in practice.
'Thankfully' may be the wrong word to use here, but one quick way to dodge some of the interface shortcomings would be to simply forget they exist. AI in A New World: Kingdoms is, again, mostly absent. Launching into a match displays a few paragraphs of backstory to the 'events' set to unfold on the game board, but they don't amount to much when the supposed antagonist fights back with one or two units and crumbles to only one more. Just like other 4X strategy games, numerous strategies can be planned and executed to overthrow the driving force of the conflict here. We're not sure why someone so adamant on retaining land would sell out his stake for monetary gain, but to each their own.
Each of the three winning conditions will warn you that they'll take 'a while' to reach, when in actuality swarming your opponent into submission will take little more than 30 minutes or so once you're accustomed to controlling the ludicrously slow camera. Making the map bigger before diving in will only exacerbate things more, so don't go thinking this is a makeshift way of increasing the difficulty curve in a more traditional sense. With there being so little opposition, it's tough to say how much the multiple-choice combat system would come into play. Rather than simply fight with raw numbers on command, attacking presents you with a hand of cards, each offering temporary stat modifiers and a short, nonsensical paragraph of what we can only assume is an attempt at exposition.
From start to finish, I struggled to understand why unit selection required a precise click on the class icon above the head of each model, rather than simply clicking on the unit itself. This icon would frequently meld with other close-by UI elements to cause problems in combat - one of the only 'mechanics' we could actually 'enjoy' during our review.
Menu selection was a nightmare and the only implementation of tooltips were found rapidly strobing in the Graphics screen. With no resolution or window options to speak of, I was almost forced to enjoy the game at a blisteringly fast 17FPS due to its tendency to force my main monitor into its highest resolution (4K) despite it being set to 1080p through Windows itself. If it wasn't for a backup panel on my desk at the time, I would have had no other choice but to fit through this slow-paced strategy sim at an equally slow framerate – and yes, I did look for a manual config file.
Looking at the small amount of user reviews available, other more glaring technical issues have been patched out over time, but this only highlights the kind of state A New World: Kingdoms was launched in just a few short months ago. From what I can gather, this was never released as an 'early access' title despite it being a prime example of what an Early Access release typically looks like. Clicking into the developer's own Steam page shows that this isn't their first rodeo either. Poly Towns - a title that looks strikingly similar to their current - sings the same song; a game rushed into a 1.0 release and later abandoned with little to no core features implemented throughout its brief chance at life.
A New World: Kingdoms can be viewed as a second chance for this supposed one-man game development army, but instead reeks of a mindless cash grab or a slightly more thoughtful attempt at that old Steam Trading Card tomfoolery. I don't want to accuse a lone game developer of shady practices, but at a time where big companies are getting hate for locking content behind cash walls, others need to understand that charging cash for a whole lot of nothing is no better. Even if it costs a little more, use the £6.99 saved from this mishap on a 4X strategy game that's taken even just a little more love to make.