Before reviewing a game, some might say it’s wise to have a butchers at its Steam page. It’s a great way to see how the game markets itself. When I opened the page for new RTS/grand strategy title “Medieval Kingdom Wars”, you can imagine my shock when it claims to be “redefining” the medieval grand strategy genre – a bold claim to make when you’re going toe-to-toe with the likes of Crusader Kings and Total War.
Scroll down past the flashy screenshots and the “very positive” user review rating, and you might be shocked to hear that the game is made by Reverie World Studios. “Why would I be shocked?” you ask. Well they’ve got a bit of a reputation for putting out games that are somewhat substandard. I purchased “Dawn Of Fantasy” in 2011 for £29.99, only to find that the game was a buggy, unpolished mess – trying to be both medieval and fantasy RTS rolled into one.
It seems that their next few titles (Kingdom Wars 1 & 2) followed in the same vein. In fact, I seem to recall that Kingdom Wars was a rehash Dawn of Fantasy, which had a dire rating on Steam. I was therefore flabbergasted to find out that they had released a third, very similar looking game in June of this year. Shall we take a look at how it fares in a tough-to-enter RTS/grand strategy market?
Let’s start with the good – of which there is a fair amount. The overall theme is the most coherent of any Reverie World Studios production thus far. The grand strategy map and large battlefields of Europe are seemingly etched out by hand – with a littering of props and nuances in the terrain that add to the game’s atmosphere. The game also has a fairly comprehensive tutorial that provides a loosely story-based approach to teaching you the ropes.
Medieval Kingdom Wars’ graphics are ok; not amazing, but neither are they terrible. They have a kind of gritty feel that is in-keeping with the time period – devoid of any bright colours as you may expect from war-torn medieval Europe.
This is all linked together by a fantastic soundtrack that makes you feel as though you’re in a medieval town. The rhythmic dialogue is generally acted well, further adding to the immersion in a medieval setting. Battle sounds are clear and well-selected for the period – ensuring the player knows what’s going on without confusion.
My final good point would be the interesting way that the developers present icons over buildings. When selected, the building’s construction options are displayed in a lancet window styling above – a nice touch to keep in with the theme of the game. This kind of attention to detail is sadly overlooked by many developers these days, who tend to opt for a clinically clean and personality-less style; but not here!
Unfortunately for all the good in Medieval Kingdom Wars, there is quite a lot of bad to balance it out. My biggest, overarching criticism of the game is that it’s far too similar to its predecessors. Reverie World Studios appear to have re-skinned their already existing games and given it a slightly different title – that to me screams lazy developer, and perhaps one to not be trusted so easily.
It can take the player up to an hour to perform a siege – rendering the game a non-starter for the casual player. Once in battle you’ll have to put up with clunky unit animations and to be honest, some very bland strategic gameplay. Tactics in Medieval Kingdom Wars comes down to hurling projectiles at a wall or gatehouse until it crumbles, before flooding the area with as many units as you can. For a game that claims to rival the likes of the Total War series, this is quite a poor effort at RTS battlefield tactics.
The game also purports to let the player “create” sprawling cities, where the choices you make when building will affect the entire game world, on a strategic map level. This is somewhat untrue however, as the player doesn’t have total freedom to place buildings – rather they’re built upon pre-determined locations. This eliminates strategy from city defence building, especially in siege-play where building placement could be crucial – thinking of classic RTS’s such as Age of Empires.
The grand strategy element of Medieval Kingdom Wars is also somewhat lacking. There is little direction in the story, although it must be said that the level of freedom afforded to the player here, suggests a kind of sandbox vibe for the grand strategy portion of the game. This area of Medieval Kingdom Wars is quite overbearing and can come across as brutal – especially due to the fact it just throws you in and hopes for the best.
When I was offered review of this game, I was excited to see if Reverie World Studios had turned over a new leaf – if they’d cast off their slapdash game design ways of the past and really gone hammer and tongs to create a fun and engaging medieval RTS. Sadly, it appears that they’ve stuck to the same concepts and low quality of previous titles. This said, the game does garner some merits, such as the fantastic soundtrack and audio design, as well as the atmosphere created by level design.
In defence of the developers though, the price of the game is modest at £14.99. I also noticed that Kingdom Wars 2 was quite cheap, with the first instalment being free-to-play. It seems that they’ve thought about what their games are worth and decided to give something back to the community – perhaps a developer to watch for the future.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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