Kingdom: New Lands PC to iOS Game Conversion

Kingdom: New Lands PC to iOS Game Conversion

At its foundation, Kingdom: New Lands ($9.99) is a tower-defense-style game. Build up your kingdom's defenses in order to fend off attacking monsters. If you survive to the next level, you will continue to expand your kingdom and strengthen your defenses while exploring the 2D pixelated lands for the required resources to succeed. You start the game with a queen, a crown, and a horse. Moving your mounted horse left or right reveals landscape that may contain characters to recruit and structures to build. You need to recruit and build to shore up your kingdom's defenses against the night-time raids of demons, ghosts, and other nasty surprises. As you progress and survive, you will level up to even more challenging and enchanting environments. If you die, you start over at the last level reached. Does this mobile port retain the wide appeal it achieved with its PC game fan base? Read on to find out.

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While I was aware of the buzz surrounding this game for a while, I never played or even watched any gameplay prior to installing it on my iPhone. Without having any preconceived notions of what to expect, I was simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the experience during my first few attempts with the game.  I'm not much of a game nostalgia fan, so the retro-pixelated art style that has seen a resurgence in a lot of games these days isn't something I gravitate towards. But as long as it doesn't impact the core gameplay, I can accept the faux low resolution characters and scenery for what the designers intended them to represent.  

What I am even less of a fan of, though, are 'roguelike' games, those that penalize your failures by erasing your progress and starting you from the beginning. Time is valuable and while I get the motivation behind the roguelike genre, it's negative consequences can turn a pleasant gaming experience into a waste of time.  Kingdom softens this roguelike sting by allowing players to begin at the last level they completed before dying. So imagine my surprise on how much I kept playing this game, even after I cursed at it upon my many defeats.

Besides the pixelated art style, the overall mesmerizing, moody atmosphere is a central hook that keeps players interested. Scrolling a screen left or right might not sound particularly compelling, but couple this with exploration along with a apprehension of what might be just beyond the edge of the screen makes Kingdom: New Lands a captivating gaming experience. The innovative way resource harvesting and assigning works in the game is by locating or producing gold coins that sprinkle the ground. Sweep up the coins from treasure or your resource gathering characters by riding your steed over the coins, and dole them out by tapping on structures, weapons or other items dependent on their coin cost. The required amount hovers over the build location and is satisfied by tapping the number of coins required.

When night time arrives (eerily animated via a fast-traveling full moon along the horizon) the baddies come out to attack you and your kingdom. Depending on how well you built and fortified your structures and subjects, you either repel the marauders or take damage. Take too much damage and these ethereal creatures will come after you. If they knock your crown from your brow and reach it before you do, it's game over.

An aspect I didn't particularly like about the pixelated style and dark foreboding atmosphere is how dark and small the game elements appeared. On a big monitor playing the PC version, these items can be more easily discerned and perhaps appreciated more. But on a small iPhone screen, I found myself squinting frequently, straining my eyes to pick out minute details. Couple this with the already dark atmosphere, and the game gets to be a chore on the eyes after several minutes of play.  The iPad alleviates this strain but amplifies the pixels to classic Nintendo-sized blocks. A zoom feature appears in the options menu, but it didn't seem to allow me to change the scale. I would have preferred a pinch to zoom feature to address this issue for the small screen.

Kingdom: New Lands PC to iOS Game Conversion

Overall, the game play is compelling and enjoyable, but not an entirely problem-free experience. The pixel art will be appreciated mostly by those who prefer the retro-style game art while others will no doubt be annoyed with this design choice. There are enough surprises and challenges to keep dedicated players frequently returning to the game; but those seeking a less stressful casual experience might find Kingdom: New Lands to be an exercise in frustration, especially as they advance toward the higher levels of difficulty. But my biggest criticism with the game is its high price. If the game were half the current price, Kingdom would be a sleeper hit. For now, it's mainly for fans of the PC version seeking to carry the game in their pocket, or for those who have disposable income to spend on gaming obsessions regardless of the cost or time investment required.

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Mike Riley's picture

Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.