A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kingdom is a downloadable action-strategy title that's about managing your resources -- time and money -- effectively and tactically. Though it does feature cartoon bow-and-arrow attacks and looks like a action game where you ride around on horseback striking down goblins, there's no blood or gore. Instead, you spend your time patrolling around, sinking coins into the projects you think are best for your people. It's easy to learn how to play, but it's not very easy to master, which could frustrate some players. Though exciting, it's not a conventional action title.
What's it about?
In KINGDOM, you play as either a young prince or princess who must patrol the countryside and prepare for an oncoming invasion of dark forces. Rather than picking up a sword, though, you pick up a coin satchel and must decide what to sink your money into, all while keeping an eye on the clock (an ever-rising and -falling sun and moon) as the days pass and the invasion comes closer. Coins are hard to come by, but choices to spend them on are in high supply: Do you build walls around your fortress? Invest in archers? Do you spend money on mysterious shrines outside the castle walls, hoping they might save you? You can't do it all, as you'll run out of money, but how and why is up to you -- as is whether you'll survive.
Is it any good?
The game's simple though elegant pixel art and side-scroller visual hides an intriguing amount of complexity. Expect to play three or four rounds before feeling prepared for the onslaught that awaits you. As a result, you'll go from thinking the game is very, very easy to knowing what it really is: very, very hard. When you dial into how to play more conservatively and with more purpose, that's when the game gets truly fun and captivating. You'll second-guess yourself constantly, being unsure whether you should patrol around your castle, bolstering your defenses and scooping up coins being offered to you in tribute, or whether you should be out looking for new recruits and scouting out how far away the monsters are lurking.
You'll end up doing a mix of both, alternating and eventually cultivating your own style and ability to manage your patience (or impatience). The biggest issue, apart from balancing your frustration, may seem like a minor issue, but it can have a serious consequences if you don't respond properly. Your horse tires out quickly and must rest, forcing you to make faster decisions about where you need to go and what you need to do. If you explore with an exhausted horse, you may accidentally run into a monster that might bump you, knocking your crown loose. If your crown falls into another's hands, it's game over for you. But it's not possible to wall yourself off to prevent this issue, because you won't know what threats you should be preparing for. All this adds up to make Kingdom a twitchy, tense, but also beautiful strategy game that's straightforward and difficult at the same time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about spending money. If you had unlimited money, what would you spend it on, and why? What would you spend nothing on?
Talk about making decisions. If you didn't have to make any decisions in the course of your life, would you? Do you think you'd be happy if decisions were made for you?
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