My kingdom for a crown.

Title: Kingdom Two Crowns
Platform:  PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC (Mac and Windows) via Steam.
Developer: Nolo, Coatsink
Publishers: Raw Fury
Release Date: Out now
PS4: Â£15.50/$20
PC: Â£15.50/$20
Nintendo Switch: Â£18/$20
Xbox One: 
TL;DR: Base building and pixel art.
Family Focus:Click here for more information

Kingdom: Two Crowns – the story of monarchs, base building, and evil little goblin things that rugby tackle your horse to steal your mystical glowing crown. It’s a resource management sim that has already had two wildly successful predecessors (Kingdom and Kingdom: New Lands) and combines the simplicity of pixel art, beautiful music, and the grind of collecting materials to expand your kingdom. If I had to call it one thing, I’d call it deceptively simple – while the controls and UI are totally minimalist, the gameplay itself has a lot of layers to unpack (the comparison that springs to mind is Stardew Valley), but unfortunately, isn’t particularly newbie friendly.

The gameplay consists of several different side scrolling stages, where the player (controlling a nameless, faceless monarch) canters left or right aboard their trusty steed, pushing on to explore this strange new land. Along the way, you’ll find various resources to tap into, and different places you can set up shop, slowly improving and upgrading various buildings and defences with the islanders that you recruit. There’s only two controls in the entire game – hold down R2 to spur your horse on faster, and X to toss a coin at someone (holding it down to use coins to build structures, too). That’s it – no complicated menus to click through or skill trees to navigate, and this is both the game’s strength, and its ultimate weakness.

Let’s face it: this game is the epitome of niche. While simulation games are a dime a dozen, with the Sims 4 still chugging along and Farming Simulator apparently getting its own e-sports league, a game about building your own kingdom is certainly a fresh take on the genre, so you’d surely think that it would have some widespread appeal, considering how popular high fantasy titles tend to be. However, trial and error seems to be the bulk of the way forward in Kingdom Two Crowns, because if you try and push on into the land too quickly (or at night), strange little hooded creatures will try rushing you for the crown, and they’re pretty difficult to outrun.

There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of rhyme or reason in their attack pattern, either, considering they have a weird jumping attack that can easily beat out your horse’s pace, killing your character and thus ending your reign, letting you respawn as an heir. Weirdly, dying doesn’t seem to do much, just booting you back a few days without disassembling your camp or getting rid of the workers you’ve hired.

So, if your game is niche and the third title in the series (and no, I’m not going to make a Kingdom Hearts joke), to give it more appeal, you might want to give it something to ease new players into things, and unfortunately, this game doesn’t. You’re a king, you’re dumped on an island, and…? Figure it out, go collect some coins and start throwing money at random mooks. While the gameplay isn’t complicated per se, it’s tricky to know what you’re meant to be doing – are you meant to be pushing forever forwards?

Are you meant to be building a towering monstrosity in the woods? Are you meant to be doing something with the little hooded creatures (which I think are called The Greed?) and the purple, ominous portals they keep spawning? Who knows! The most I managed to definitely figure out was that to get to the next island, you had to build a boat, but according to the stats menu, I didn’t manage to complete some of the islands before I left them. So am I missing something? Most definitely.

The game also runs into the same problem that Jurassic World Evolution did, where a lot of the time, you’re sitting around waiting for something to happen because you’ve run out of money. As I mentioned before, you use coins to build and upgrade structures, and there’s only a handful of ways to get coins – your hunters will bring them back if they’ve gathered prey, and the merchant will give you some every morning, provided you’ve given him one that morning, are two such examples. The trouble is, during the day, when you’ve run out of coins and you don’t want to risk venturing out deeper into the woods (because of course The Greed go straight for your crown if they catch you without any coins, especially if it’s dark) there’s nothing to do. As a result, the game becomes tedious, and there’s only a certain amount of trial and error you can take before it gets frustrating.

Overall? I think if you’re patient, have a lot of time, and are willing to search through a lot of guides, I think you’ll be able to enjoy Kingdom Two Crowns. It’s a beautiful game with a lot to unpack, with a dreamy, ethereal soundtrack to accompany it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do enough to get newbies on board – a tutorial would have done it wonders.

The Good

  • A peaceful, enchanting atmosphere.

The Bad

  • Too much showing and nowhere near enough telling for the newbies.
  • A lot of waiting around for things to happen.
  • A lot of trial and error involved.

Family Focus

Kingdom Two Crowns is rated PEGI 7 for “violence that lacks any apparent harm or injury to fantasy or mythical beings and creatures and non-realistic looking violence towards characters which although human are not very detailed,” and ESRB E10+ for fantasy violence. If kids are patient enough, I’d say it’s fine for them.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by the developer for the purposes of this review.

[Disclosure: Viki Taylor (Review Editor) is friends with the PR Manager at Coatsink. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into this story.]