King of the World by Contec Games
Initially, King of the World was built to be a multiplayer-only RTS experience. Alas, there are no available servers and the single-player campaign – which Danish developers Contec Games admit was designed and constructed as an afterthought – struggles on every level to be worthwhile, due to its paper-thin content.
I don’t have any problem admitting that I didn’t get very far in King of the World’s solo journey. Honestly, life really is too short to be playing games as lackluster as this.
Simplicity to the Point of…?
I am not someone who ordinarily has a lot of time for real-time strategy, generally because I suck at them and get easily overwhelmed by all the numbers and options and permutations. King of the World boils it all down to the nub: select a unit, move it there, have him hack the other guys.
There are no stats, no XP, no load-outs, no customization of any description. I began missions with melee fighters, archers, guardsmen and medics, etc., but with no indication as to their abilities outside of the assumption that if one cost more gold to spawn afresh, then he was presumably harder to kill. What about speed? Accuracy? Stealth? Magic?
There are no catapults, no ogres, no dragons; hell, there’s barely any real physical difference between the characters from any faction, and at times there were up to four groups fighting for the same ground. Even color-coded, telling them apart in the heat of battle isn’t always easy.
Something or Other in the State of Denmark
So the story is about something or other in Denmark, kings and princes and betrayal etc. The overarching premise of the game is essentially usurp this tower, turn it blue, wait for gold to generate and spawn more troops. Then, attack the other tower, turn it blue, hold it and on and on.
And I could say that the successful formula that I found is simply utilizing overwhelming numbers and speed to win, but that doesn’t always work – which is a good thing – except that whenever I was defeated, it just seemed that the enemy ran me over with more troops rather than outsmarting me.
Sometimes dozens of enemies would appear from inside one of their towers and maraud me. What about maybe having spies to gather info on the tower? What about having or building a cannon to fire at it?
A huge frustration is being defeated, and I say that not just because I had to start the entire mission again from scratch (and these missions are lengthy). No, the problem is that I frequently didn’t understand why I was defeated.
Barely Visible Baron
There are two ways to lose (and they are auto-fails, another annoyance): either all your towers are taken on the map or The Baron – the closest thing to a story protagonist – gets killed on the battlefield. The joke here is that there’s no way to see the Baron in the midst of dozens of little top-down fighters slashing and parrying so that I could keep track of his health.
Couldn’t they have put an arrow over his head to be able to find him at all times? It seems like a ludicrous oversight. To battle at length and feel like you’re gaining some lost ground only to suddenly be defeated because one single knight is killed – and I don’t even know where he was when it happened – is an extraordinary mechanic to allow.
The AI is generally OK but can be very scattered and irritating. Soldiers are oblivious to violence happening just feet away. When they storm a tower, rather than standing in any kind of traditional post-victory military formation, the men create a very tight circular huddle, jostling on the spot like a galaxy held together by its gravitational nucleus, as if trying to catch the juicy gossip being spewed by the guy in the middle who was probably only desperate for air.
Missions are uninspired and repetitive. The graphics are unimpressive – landscapes are green, castles are stone, towns are…towns – what about night-time? Or rainfall? The soundtrack and sound effects are serviceable and equally forgettable. Missions cannot be paused and the excruciatingly dull story scenes are unskippable but at least mercifully short.
Did I mention that you have to go multi-player to find the tutorial, and even then it doesn’t tell you everything that you need to know? General presentation is of a low quality with weak and tinny audio that frequently vanishes for the length of whole missions.
My biggest gripe, though (besides the constant bugs and terrible spelling errors – this game has been in Early Access for eleven months with basic and absolutely inexcusable mistakes still littering the writing) is what I would consider to be the game’s greatest failing.
When I hold down the left mouse button and drag a green square across all the men that I wish to highlight and control, it is little to ask of the game, I suppose, that they might all just then do what I say. But, unfortunately, when I drag the box, not all of the men are highlighted in the box.
So I have to do it again, losing time. Or I drag the box and I successfully highlight all of my men and still some of them ignore my commands. Try doing this every single time you want to summon a clutch of soldiers and have them move as one solid unit. This persistent irritant, coupled with the inconsistent AI, results in many stragglers zigzagging around the place when I need them to maybe cut the enemy off or support those already under siege on the other side of the map. I must waste time then selecting individual men to catch up with the others.
At first glance, the simplicity of the controls was attractive and I grew in confidence, being someone who isn’t well-versed in the genre. I thought that this game would be a great introduction for me.
But soon it became apparent that something was rotten in the state of Denmark, and that’s when I realized that if you’re going to cut this type of experience down to the bone (there’s no thrust to my decision-making, due to having practically zero options) and make neither victory nor defeat feel like any kind of accomplishment, it has be an extremely polished, compelling and imaginative offering.
King of the World is available in Early Access via Steam.
Watch the official King of the World trailer below: