Kingdom for Keflings really confused me when I first heard about it. Is it a strategy game? Is it a manic action game? Come to find out, it’s a God game. Similar to Black and White, or Spore, you guide your Kingdom to victory as a God on Earth. The difference between Keflings and the previously mentioned titles is your progression is one-hundred percent peaceful. What’s the result? A digital Zen garden.
You start off in a vast countryside; natural resources scattered about, and are told “build a castle”. “Where in the world do I start?!” you’ll be thinking. While Kingdom for Keflings will intimidate you at first, it will quickly hold your hand when getting you started up. To sum up how the game operates, your population (called Keflings) work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; just for you. You, being the God that you are, have chosen a gigantic form, towering over your minions. If you wish to force them into a different task, simply grab them with your huge hands and place them elsewhere. Progression in the game is simple: harvest resources, make a building out of said resources, unlock more buildings, unlock more items to get more buildings, and then repeat. The thing is, you won’t finally build your castle until around 5 hours into the game, if you rush it. If you’re ever confused on what to do next, simply press the left button, and an on-screen prompt will educate you on your next move. It might not always be explicit, but at least it’s there.
The graphics in Kingdom for Keflings work very well. They’re extremely charming and colorful. I wish you could zoom in closer to your subjects and get an in-depth look, as some of their outfits are hilarious. You are also free to decorate your kingdom with topiary creations, and paint your entire town whatever color you wish. As you progress through the game, you’ll really feel a connection to your town based off of all the work you put into it, and your own personal touch.
There are some extras found in the gameplay that prevent it from going completely stale. Items can be found to upgrade resource gathering speed for both yourself and your minions. You can also find personal upgrades like running shoes. Each Kingdom has a Mayor, who will give you (mostly required) quests in order to increase the population of your creation. A few times you will find yourself hunting for a specific tool needed to evolve your Kingdom to the next phase. It’s a nice little break from manual labor and “supervising”; it gives you a reason to just go out and explore the wilderness. Another extra is online play. Even though it’s the same game as single player, it’s much more fun to have someone else help you when tediousness kicks in. These extras are really fun, but sometimes you’ll find yourself wanting to take a break from the game.
Despite its grand charm, Keflings can be frustrating at times. If you build a structure in an inopportune location, be prepared to destroy it and build another one. You’re a giant right? Can’t you just lift up some of the smaller houses and move them? Another frustrating point is spending an hour building towards a specific structure plan, only to find out you’re missing a vast amount of one specific resource needed to complete it; why did this happen? One kefling, who was in charge of “resources conversion” (ie: stone to brick) decided to skip out, and now you have to do all the work manually if you intend on it being done in the next 30 minutes.
To further add to the frustration, each individual building has its own resource count. If you have 3 lumber mills, each mill must have wood dropped off at it separately, and you must also build separately from them. You are allowed to create “stockpiles”, and transport them between the silos, but it takes an unnecessary amount of time. A shared resource collective not only makes more sense, it would have made the game more fun.
One other aspect of Kingdom for Keflings that can get in the way is its simplicity. There’s no story to be found; not even a bare-bones version, so it’s hard to connect with the little slave-fellows if you don’t know why you’re doing all this work for them. There are also no alternate modes to be found. It would have been nice to mix things up, like Sim City, and have a “disaster” option. Maybe every once in a while a dam breaks, and you have to hold it up using your gigantic strength? Something “extra” would have definitely given Keflings a little bit more “oomph” in terms of the brevity of its gameplay.
Kingdom for Keflings is a very rare game that just grabs you with it’s charm and doesn’t let go. Despite having to take breaks, it’s one of those games that you can always come back to. You’ll find yourself humming the music frequently, and wishing you could get back to your minions (erm royal subjects).
Keflings has a very unique art style, and let’s you use your avatar in-game. While the buildings look very similar at first, you can customize them with your own paint jobs.
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The game is very relaxing to play, and is simplistic enough for anyone to pick up. It’s definitely a “stop and go” game, however, as you’ll get bored within a few hours of gathering and building.
The music serves its purpose and is very relaxing. The acoustic rhythms remind me of classic Clapton.
Kingdom for Keflings is the definition of replay value. While most elements remain static your subsequent playthroughs, you can change the way you build every single time. Online multiplayer is also an added bonus.
It’s definitely worth taking a look at. Imagine Warcraft III, or your favorite RTS with tons more resources to gather, and no combat.