EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Maddison Leeding
previewed on PC
Now I have always had a love for anything fantasy, starting from being a young’un and watching Lord of the Rings for the first time. So when I had the opportunity to check out the Early Access version of a game that looks like Dungeons and Dragons met Cities Skylines and had a beautiful child together, well, I was hyped.
Loading up the game, players get to choose from some classic fantasy races to have as their main base race in the game; Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Orcs. The different races each have different bonuses in game, but I personally didn’t really notice anything major during my playthrough. One thing that I found to be a bit of a pain, though was the fact that certain upgrades are locked for a specific race. One example was that to unlock the ability to brew beer, players needed to have had an encampment of dwarves. So my poor Human encampment had some really boring summer barbecues. As I mentioned, the game has a system where you can unlock further upgrades like schools, more food variations and more amenities for your townsfolk. To unlock these, players must complete certain tasks, such as having a specific amount of residents living in their town.
Gamers complete many of the city building staples, including juggling between keeping everyone happy and earning as much money as possible to keep everything running smoothly - neither of which are easy to accomplish, much less getting both to happen at the same time. Players can zone areas to help with making different buffs and debuffs for residential areas and those productivity-based places. Players also get another important resource to manage; Mana. Mana is used to create portals to link different areas of your village to another and to place totems. Totems can be used for a variety of different functions, from making sure there is less chance of fires or illness, to increasing happiness and productivity within the totem’s radius.
One thing that sets Distant Kingdoms apart from other city builders out there is the dungeon crawling text-based RPG elements. To unlock further areas outside of your starting area, you'll enlist a party of adventurers to scout out locked parts of the map and sometimes they come across some trouble. Each character has different specialisations to deal with each encounter and the more you explore the better the adventurers get. Don’t worry if your party wipes out during an encounter though, just sit them down with a couple brews and they’re ready to go and probably wipe out again if my experience playing World of Warcraft is anything to go by.
The overall art style of the game is really nice, mixing a more painterly style for character designs used in the dungeon crawling and event notifications and a more realistic style for the main gameplay. The music suits the whole vibe of the game but after a long game play session it can start to get a fair bit repetitive. I did like when you zoomed in, the game would come to life with some really detailed model work as you could hear everyone going about their lives. This made the world feel alive and like you were actually making a bustling little fantasy empire. The game has notifications to either warn you something is happening, such as the time my whole coal mine lit on fire, or when an adventurer ends up failing to fight the imps again. But that does then include the problem with turning the repetitive music down to give your ears a rest and missing event notifications. The events appear down in the bottom right corner and are easy to miss without the sound cue to alert you.
Keeping everyone happy
I did run into some problems outside of the bugs I expected. I struggled to keep everyone happy as certain buildings would just stop working with no rhyme or reason. At one point, I noticed nothing was getting built and so went to check and found the lumber mill was just stuck with no progression at all. Reloading the game reset the progress bar on the lumber mill which was fine, but still set my entire village into a tailspin of nothing getting done. I also noticed that sometimes whole areas of my settlement would just stop producing anything which led to my villagers revolting and me suddenly regretting buying that french noble cosplay.
That said, Distant Kingdoms is still in Early Access on Steam so some bugs and such are expected. I would never expect a game that isn’t finished yet to play like a game that was. I truly had an enjoyable time, even when my villagers hated me no matter how hard I worked to make everyone happy. I may have just been missing something but that was a frustrating experience. The game is in the mid priced range in the Steam store which is may not be something a lot of people will pay for an Early Access game. I’d love to see how far this game will go as it has some wonderfully unique elements to make it it’s own and make it stand out from other city builders out there.
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The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.