Game: Kingdom: Eighties
Genre: Action, Strategy
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) (Also coming to Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Fury Studios | Raw Fury
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £9.99 | US $12.99 | EU € 12,99
Release Date: June 26th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Johnny Atom.
I have become a huge fan of the Kingdom series over the last few years, especially Kingdom: Two Crowns. It was my buddy’s fault. He said one game night, let’s play ‘Kingdom: Two Crowns,’ co-op, and so began a longstanding addiction to the series spanning multiple platforms. It still remains a go-to game for the two of us. Especially if we have had one of those stressful long weeks at work.
The series is classed as strategy light, where the goal is to build up your kingdom with walls and workers by day and then defend it from waves of monsters by night. It incorporates a very simple but effective control scheme that is accessible to all audiences. But don’t let the simplicity fool you; the game incorporates a lot of depth into its mechanics. But if that doesn’t draw you in, the beautifully detailed pixel art and calming soundtrack might.
Over the years, Two Crowns has received multiple updates and expansions, many of which were free. Kingdom: Eighties is its own standalone game that doesn’t require Two Crowns to play but does share a lot of the DNA. I have to say I walked into this game with optimistic caution. Caution, because I read this, was a single-player-only version of the game but optimism because its Kingdom and the idea of the series having a modern spin sounded intriguing. In short, I liked it, but its lack of co-op did leave me disappointed. However, if this is your first time with the series and you are going solo, this is a good entry point.
Gameplay and Eighties References
If you’re familiar with the series’ gameplay, you’ll quickly settle into the rhythm of Eighties. If you’re new, I’ll give you a quick rundown. The game is essentially about collecting coins and then investing these coins into your defences or kingdom. You start by establishing your base, you can then use coins to recruit peasants and assign them specific tasks as archers, builders or knights. Archers and knights will defend your kingdom, whilst builders will help build your walls and defences. Both are essential for success. But you need to obtain more coins too. This can be done by archers attacking the local wildlife, builders destroying trees, or handily stumbling on chests containing coins.
Building up your kingdom is all done during the day. When night comes, a wave of enemies, Greed, attacks either side of your kingdom, which you must defend against. If the enemies do attack you directly, you will lose coins. But if you have nothing left, you lose your crown, and if that goes, it’s game over and back to the start of the level. The game’s overall goal is to fight back against the monsters and ultimately eliminate them. You don’t want to dilly-dally. As the days pass, the monsters grow stronger, so there is small pressure to press forward.
The controls are very simple, requiring only the use of a D-pad on the keyboard or controller. Left and right to move, double tap to sprint and tap down to drop a coin. It’s simple but incredibly addictive, making this an easy pick-up-and-play game for players of all skill levels. Kingdom Eighties takes this template, strips it back a bit and adds a few small tricks of its own. The protagonist now rides a bike instead of a horse. The game’s most amusing change is swapping recruited peasants with children.
Gorgeous Pixel Art Style
The obvious new feature is the eighties setting. It’s clear the developers have quite the love for this era and everything pop culture encompassing it. Presented in the game’s gorgeous pixel art style, you won’t be able to ride too far from a tree to see some form of reference from film and music. Posters on the walls, a familiar dancing NPC, heck, even the Greed will wear masks of familiar villains from the decade. Though I will say, I did smile seeing a Predator mask. It’s all fine, but in terms of gaming as a whole, the eighties look is starting to feel a bit overdone. Most of the game felt like it just wanted to remind me of things I may know rather than creating its own identity. But I feel this is something that won’t bother all players. The soundtrack is still great. Blending eighties synth beats with the familiar Kingdom relaxation music.
Save The Town The Eighties Way
The Eighties features a fully fleshed-out plot which includes cutscenes, a first for the series. You play as a hooded teenager who has avoided pursuit from creepy creatures known as the ‘Greed’. Taking refuge in a summer camp, your first objective is to find your way home. You call home on a local pay phone, and no one is there. So your only hope is to retrieve your canoe from the greed who decided to make off with it into their creepy dark cave. From there, you team up with fellow teenagers after running each of them a quick errand, build up your camp and get your canoe back.
You soon learn that the Greed problem is far greater than you expected as you travel across multiple locations around the town in an attempt to fight them back for good. For me, the plot was fine, but it’s honestly not something I felt the Kingdom series ever needed. Cutscenes are these still images with text, which are better than anything I could draw, but don’t stand out as much as the striking pixel graphics in-game. I was always fine with the simple concept that you’re just fighting a mysterious force and creating my own little fantasy in my head about what the plot is.
Going its Own Way
Unlike the previous games, Kingdom Eighties has you run through four story chapters. You no longer travel between islands and can’t return to previous levels. Each level requires you to fulfil a specific objective, such as finding an item and placing it in a specific spot. You don’t have to focus on eliminating Greed except for the final level. This felt like it oversimplified the experience by focusing on the goal. It didn’t take long to finish a level and move on.
The game took me no longer than five hours to finish making it a pretty short experience by Kingdom standards. The game offers five difficulty modes, and if you are experienced at the game, you’ll probably want to bump it up to the harder settings. If you’re new to the series, this will make a nice entry point since it does a good job of easing you into the game’s mechanics. Another big change is you will recruit three AI friends to follow you around the map, each of which will assist you in fighting Greed. One will push a large dumpster acting as a barrier, one will build a giant robot to shoot Greed from a distance, and the other can build shooting turrets near walls and help attack the greed. It’s nice to have friends, but I would have preferred a co-op mode where my friend could control one of these characters.
No Co-op Play
Kingdom Eighties is generally an easier game that may disappoint experienced series fans. Money is easier to generate, and lots of the mechanics from Two Crowns are stripped back in favour of the new changes made above. For example, you can’t upgrade archers or builders. You can’t bank your coins and no co-op play. You can unlock new bikes and a pretty cool hidden vehicle, but they aren’t as interesting as the unique animal mounts from Two Crowns. A few new enemies feature in this, leading me to wonder if they will be patched into Two Crowns since they could easily fit in there.
Conclusion: Bonus Track
Overall, I liked Kingdom: Eighties, but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Kingdom: Two Crowns. Kingdom Eighties feels like an experimental entry that tries new things and mostly succeeds without diverging too far from the core formula. If you are new to the series, this is a great place to start and then if it sticks definitely pick up Two Crowns.
If you’re a series fan and don’t mind the solo experience, this is another addictive entry to keep you busy for a few game nights. Probably the only reason not to jump on is if you are all about the co-op. While I respect its absence, I still wish it was included. Still, if you need a short Summer project, Kingdom: Eighties is not a bad way to deal with those warm evenings.
Final Verdict: I Like it