Kingdoms and Castles Review

Kingdoms and Castles by developer and publisher Lion Shield,LLCMicrosoft Xbox Series X review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes


Kingdoms and Castles is one of those titles I hadn’t heard much about but has turned out to be a very pleasant surprise as what I can only describe as a sort of laid-back city building simulation experience. It took me a bit of time to wrap my head around a few of the mechanics, but once I got going with it, Kingdoms and Castles was a smooth, enjoyable experience.

Right off of the bat, it’s clear that the devs give you a decent amount of control over your experience. You can choose how big your map is, how many opponents you want and even if you want aggressive opponents or not. While it’s somewhat standard stuff in a lot of games like this, it’s still handled well and frankly I appreciated having the opportunity to learn the game’s mechanics without the stressors of competition right out of the gates.

That was probably the right call for me as well, as initially I didn’t really know what I was doing. There’s brief bits of tutorial that pop up here and there, but Kingdoms and Castles didn’t go holding my hand through the early rounds of gameplay. I chose where to create my castle and then highlighted a big chunk of woods and watched my people go about chopping it down. Once I had lumber, I started to lay out buildings that I wanted and grew at least a little puzzled as one process began and the other seemed to halt. I then found the menu that allowed me to prioritize which kinds of work my people were doing, and to control how many of them went into a particular area of focus. For example, I can send the entirety of my kingdom off to chop down trees, but then who is going to build the homes, tend the orchards and perform other tasks as needed?

Kingdoms and Castles is similar to other city builders in that resource management is key, but there’s an additional layer of resource management in your people management as well. It felt a bit finicky early on as I had a handful of bad experiences: flooding took out some farming plots, a fire ruined some buildings off at one end of the land and I couldn’t seem to get my people focused on the things I wanted to prioritize – at first.

Because I had chosen the enemy-less route right off of the bat, I learned how to balance things pretty well… or so I thought. Admittedly though, things began to run a bit stale as my only real obstacle seemed to be citizens who were never really content. Give them a home, and then they want food. Feed them and then they want churches and festival grounds and a variety of other things that I gained access to as I steadily ramped up the number of people I had doing different things, unlocking new types of technology and structures along the way. I then decided it was time to spin this up again, with some proper antagonists. I won’t go into great detail, but I’ll say that the gist of it is: I had plenty more to learn.

The thing is, I kept playing. I wanted to learn how to do more. Kingdoms and Castles is nowhere near as densely designed and complicated as some of the city builders out there like Civilization 5, and that’s okay. There’s a simplicity to the visuals, music and interface that compliments the gameplay and creates a sort of pleasant harmony throughout the experience. It doesn’t have the tactical depth of a lot of other titles in the genre, but in a way, this was perfect for me during my vacation time because it was easier to learn without some of the frustrations that can come with the genre during the earlier learning periods. I screwed up early on, but seldom felt frustrated or that the experience was cheap and unfair.

Kingdoms and Castles does have some room to grow. The AI is very artificial but seldom very intelligent. Over a handful of different games, it felt like the same patterns emerged both in how they interacted with me and how they went about building up their own kingdoms. There’s a behind the scenes script at play here that the computer generally sticks to. That’s not a bad thing necessarily as it seems well-balanced and makes the gameplay experience enjoyable, but it does tease into that concern that long-term, Kingdoms and Castles might feel somewhat shallow compared to its contemporaries and the shelf life of the title could be shorter than them.

If I had to sum this title up in a word, I'd go with: Charming. Kingdoms and Castles is a fun experience that works surprisingly well with a controller on a console. There’s plenty to do and learn, and while the depth of systems and presentation didn’t blow me away, the key here was that I by and large enjoyed my time with the title. There’s a somewhat more relaxed pace to be had here, and that suited me just fine as I found hours melting away rather effortlessly.

Score: 7 / 10

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