When it comes to music, I’m a very open-minded individual. I’m willing to experience any genre and give each song a shot on its own merits. For example, I despise country for the most part, but I still very much enjoy Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.
In the same vein, casual games really aren’t my bag. That doesn’t mean I won’t give them a fair shake. Over the past year I’ve definitely fallen in love with a number of casual games, such as Plants vs. Zombies and Bookworm Adventures (1&2). I try very hard not to judge a game before I’ve played it.
Now that I’ve spent some quality time with Royal Envoy on my PC, I’m ready to render judgment. There’s a marked difference between a game that’s weak because it’s casual, and a weak casual game.
Royal Envoy starts off well enough. The story begins with the destruction of Islandshire by a massive storm. The ruler of Islandshire initially ignores the crisis, until he is informed that the residents of the islands will no longer be able to supply him with the fancy shoes he so loves to wear.
Springing immediately into action, he appoints the player as his envoy in charge of rebuilding the towns and villages of the 9 islands.
The presentation in this game is to be commended. The graphics are clean, bright, and appealing to look at. The user interface is friendly, easy to both navigate and find information on. The character models are very well done, if a bit childish in their appeal. This game is definitely easy on the eyes.
It’s obvious that Playrix has studied the visual style of other successful casual games; Royal Envoy‘s art and UI just smack of PopCap influence, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the similarities to PopCap games end with the graphics.
The problem I had with Royal Envoy is not that it was a bad game; it is attractive, polished, and the game functions flawlessly. The problem is that it was an extremely boring game. At its core, Royal Envoy is a resource management and city building game. Each level gives the player a different set of objectives; mostly you will be asked to build x amount of y structures, accumulate x gold, or generate x level of happiness from the people.
Objectives recycle and repeat quite often, and the proper way to beat a level is pretty much spelled out for you at the get-go. There’s no reason for the player to experiment with different structures or strategies; the game is all execution, turning a genre of game that usually challenges the player into a session of click-by-numbers.
There are only two resources to manage (gold and wood), only two types of units (workers and tax collectors), and the different building options you gain access to as the game progresses are mostly better versions of stuff you already had. All building is restricted to predetermined lots on the screen. The level of variety in the game is fairly abysmal.
I really get the impression that this game was targeted at a 12-and-under audience, so I recognize that it’s probably “not for me”. However, just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean that they need a game of this type over-simplified to the point where repetition sucks the fun out of it. Fun is pretty much the be all and end all for someone that age.
The fact that the game is sold at a $19.95 premium is a major point of contention for me. If you’re looking for a casual, child-friendly, resource/building sim type game, there are much better options.
I highly recommend A Kingdom for Keflings on XBLA, which offers more depth & variety, and even has avatar support – all for a $5 price tag.
Gamer Limit gives Royal Envoy a 6/10.