LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands

Kingdom: New Lands (Nintendo Switch)

Game: Kingdom: New Lands
Genre: Strategy, Tower Defense, Roguelike
System: Switch (also available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS/Android)
Developers | Publishers: Noio, Licorice|Raw Fury
Price: USD $14.99 | UK £13.49 | EU € 14,99
Age Rating: US E 10+ | UK 7 +
Release Date: 14 September 2017

No review code used; purchased the game.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Welcome to your kingdom. It’s made of wood.

Kingdom: New Lands is my first tower defense game, and it’s rather different from what I expected one to look like. Sure, you do build, recruit, and defend against waves of enemy attacks. But I didn’t know a tower defense game could be played side-scroller style!

Side-Scrolling Tower Defense Roguelike: Acronym Needed

In New Lands, you expand your base sideways, claiming more and more land for your fledgling kingdom. Marooned on a forested island, you survive nightly attacks by a faceless horde called the Greed. They’re both adorable and fearsome, these little gold-grabbing critters who are after coin and Crown. If one of them grabs your Monarch’s Crown, it’s game over.

Ultimately, the only way to fend off the Greed—whose attacks grow stronger each night—is to build greater defenses to survive while rebuilding your ship. Sailing off the island then takes you to the next location . . . a more challenging island. Lose on any island and you’ll have to start from the very beginning.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Look forward to nightly attacks by the Greed.
LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
“Build, expand, defend.” The tutorial ghost is a concise fellow.
LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Now what does this do?

A ghostly figure gives you a few instructions on how to start playing, and that’s all the game will help you with. No further tips, no descriptions, nada.

It’s all about discovery, experimentation. You learn through close observation and fatal mistakes. This is New Lands’ double-edged sword, like many other features which make it simultaneously charming and annoying.

The Joy of New Lands

But let’s start with what was pure joy. First, the beautiful scenery and soundtrack.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Don’t forget to smell the roses. When they return. Oh wait, winter is permanent?
LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Though there’s no time to dilly-dally in this game…

Rather than hovering over a top-down map, you control a horse-riding Monarch (king or queen) who traverses back and forth side-scroller style. For a game in which you’re attacked daily, it’s mostly very serene. I’ve spent much time admiring my galloping reflection in the stream, watching deer run, or gazing at faraway mountains.

The accompanying music is lovely, adding to the game’s relaxing experience. Music fades with sunset, though, as night brings an eerie and foreboding silence that precedes a Greed attack. For any experience to qualify as exciting, you need a little tension after all! It’s worth mentioning that New Lands received a nomination at the Independent Games Festival for “Excellence in Audio”.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Farms are an important source of coin.

Besides the visuals and music, I love New Lands‘ three-button simplicity—born of Kingdom‘s mobile platform origins—and its text-less, menu-less interface.

You only do three things: go left, go right, or use coins. You drop coins on the ground with a soft button press, usually to recruit jobless wanderers. A hard press will pay coins to build structures or turn wanderers into useful units: archers, builders, farmers, or knights.

The only grouse I have about controls is this: it’s tiring to hold down the left/right button to keep your horse running. While the Switch allows a joystick push instead of a button hold, I still have to switch thumbs occasionally to prevent fatigue. So for once, I might rather play on iOS/Android than any other port. I tried this game with different controllers: PC with keyboard, PC with PS4 controller, Switch, and Switch Lite. The Switch Lite was least tiring to use.

Too Punishing, Too Draggy

To be clear, I like this game a lot for its overall experience. But one major flaw keeps it from rising to the ranks of greatness: the myriad of important but hidden rules.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Walls prevent the spread of grass. You need both walls and grass!
LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Blood moons are a bad omen. Prepare for a bad night.

You’re supposed to discover how the game works on your own, which is fun at the outset. Some surprises are great, like finding a new horse or certain developments involving the Greed (I won’t spoil it for you). But other surprises aren’t. For example: If you cut down a tree flanking a wanderers’ camp, the camp will disappear. Say goodbye to your source of new units.

Another example: Building walls prevents grass from spreading. This could mean a slow, inevitable doom because you need enough grass to attract rabbits (your early source of coins) and to nurture farmland (a powerful source of coins).

There are many such “rules” you need to learn to beat the game, and it takes too long to discover them. And when you have learned them, it can be a chore to replay the initial hours. Also, I wouldn’t have figured out some crucial rules without checking a strategy guide online.

Even after knowing the rules, I’ve occasionally made a careless mistake. The consequence is either: (a) victory takes much longer, or (b) failure is inevitable, but it drags out for ages.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
It takes ages to go from one end of the island to another. But the dockside view is worthwhile?

That leads me to my second major grouse: pacing. While I like the unique side-scrolling concept, I’m a little frustrated that more time is spent traveling than on actively building my kingdom.

I hate that my starting horse gets tired so quickly from running. When your horse burns out, it’ll walk at snail’s pace—a great way to be devoured by the Greed if you’re caught outside the base at night. Push your horse too hard, and it’ll buck and resist. Horse fatigue is entirely unnecessary feature. Okay, it adds tension to the game, but it’s more annoying than useful.

Also, the game feels like too much time investment for too little progress. Yes, roguelikes are tough and losing is the norm in this genre—but I’m feeling it takes too long to accumulate the player knowledge needed to beat the whole game.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
The victory screen you’re working hard to see on each island.
LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Fuzzy rabbits graze beyond the walls, oblivious to impending attack.
LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Rebuilding destroyed structures when morn comes.

There are six islands in New Lands. I haven’t made it past the third island. Losing on any island means starting the game all over, albeit with a few features unlocked. So far, I’ve spent between 30 minutes and 2 hours per island. Based on my progress, I’d probably take more than 30 hours to beat the six islands, even if I knew all the game’s mechanics.

Once your kingdom is severely weakened by a crippling attack, it takes ages to rebuild. At such junctures, I wonder if it’s better to restart the game from scratch than to let it drag on and lose anyway.

LadiesGamers Kingdom New Lands
Those stone walls won’t hold forever.


I love how Kingdom: New Lands looks, sounds, and feels. But as a busy parent I wish progress wasn’t so slow. I wish the trial-and-error approach it requires wasn’t so punishing of mistakes. “Hand-holding” is often a negative term in gaming, but this is one game that could use a little hand-holding. Or a quicker pace. I’m doubtful of beating the game without a strategy guide or investing more time than it’s worth.

This is what mars an otherwise unique and relaxing strategy game with great pixel animation and sound, plus a minimalist interface to be proud of.

So while I can firmly say I like this game, I’ve decided to move on from it. Not out of boredom, as I do enjoy it, but because I want to see if New Lands‘ sequel (Kingdom: Two Crowns) offers a better experience.

Verdict: I Like It


  1. I would have to respectfully disagree with most of this, even the part where you call it a tower defense game! This is far more like Minecraft, where you have to hide and survive the night. Play a real tower defense game, like Pixeljunk Monsters 2, and you’ll see. Tower defense is more like baking a layer cake that plays rock-paper-scissors on your behalf. The Kingdom games are about knowing when and how to expand or not expand, and getting on your boat while the getting is good.

    I never had any complaints with the cryptic, occasionally opaque nature of the game. It maybe helped that I discovered the games in the wrong order; I started with the second one, and then went back to play the first one. Now I’ve got hundreds of hours in each of them. But it was an advantage that I understood what I was supposed to be doing by the time I played the first one, which is slightly more difficult. Or at least slightly less forgiving.

    It’s easy to be fooled into thinking you’re supposed to do the islands in order. I made that same mistake the first couple of times I wore the crown. But don’t do that. It’s really about unlocking the upgrades as quickly as possible. Go wherever you have to go to get the stone mine, the iron mine, and the arrow upgrade statue, and then go to work on portals. Build arrow towers on the cavern side and set up a good hunting field over there, so you can be aggressive on the weak side and get the dock portal closed as soon as you can. Then you only have to worry about the Greed showing up from the cavern side of the island. The other good thing about bopping around is that it’s helpful to have the first two smaller islands to retreat to if you need to cycle the seasons.

    Never gamble with your next day’s income. Cut down trees way ahead of your building plans, so you don’t end up annexing all your rabbit pastures. Fill up the banker as soon as possible so you can live on his interest if winter hits. (Winter is actually much easier in New Lands than it used to be, thanks to the winter patch they released last year.) You may have to personally chase (or lure) deer back to your archers. If you switch islands, the seasons will restart, so winter is only permanent if you’ve gotten yourself trapped in one place. If you do that keep cutting down trees, eventually you should make enough profit to sail away.

    It is challenging, but I managed to figure it all out without looking anything up (If it had occurred to me, I probably would have, but I never even thought of it, since my two main games don’t really have that kind of thing going on.), and I was a very casual gamer when I decided to try Kingdom Two Crowns because I saw a picture on twitter and thought the art looked cool. If I can do it coming in from Second Life and the Sims, I’m sure you can master it all! And lastly, don’t always try and rebuild. If it’s a minor incursion, by all means, patch that up and move forward, but sometimes things go horribly wrong because a red moon shows up at exactly the wrong time, or the Greed upgrades a little faster than you do and things get out of hand. If your kingdom is truly devastated, especially if they get all the way to your central castle, surrender your crown and start over. Sometimes it’s a mortal wound and all you’ll do by trying to rebuild is waste hours playing a game of catch up you’re inevitably going to lose.

    1. Hello Queen Celeste! 🙂 Thank you for your instructive comments. I’m glad to hear from someone who put many hours into the game and enjoyed the Kingdom series. Being unfamiliar with tower defense games, I appreciate being corrected if I have mislabeled the Kingdom games. You make a good point that a lot of player agency is involved here. Would you say then that tower defense games are largely more luck-dependent?

      Thank you for the great tips and the encouragement that progress on New Lands is achievable without looking up a guide.

  2. Brilliant and well written as always Elena. I played this on your recommendation and love it. I also have been lucky to be able to play the sequel CO OP with a friend in a America which really makes the game so much more fun. We can chat about our days which enjoying some casual play time.

    What I love about this review is you speak from a perspective of a working parent. I myself am very busy and have very little time for ‘grind’ in games. So speaking from this voice means a lot. Keep up the great work as always.

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