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Risen Kingdom Indie Video Game Review

Ever since I was a kid I was a big fan of the RTS genre. As I grew older I also really started to enjoy the tower defense genre. In these games I always enjoyed building a strong base that would produce a lot of resources as well as provide a strong defense instead of building an army to attack my opponents. In recent years a sub-genre has started to develop which was popularized by the video game They Are Billions. What I really enjoyed about They Are Billions is that it emphasized building a strong base as you defended yourself against a zombie invasion. One issue with They Are Billions though was that the game could be somewhat unforgiving. It was the type of game that you had to learn through failure as your perfectly laid plans would regularly fail. This is why I was intrigued when I first saw Risen Kingdom. The game basically looked like a simplified They Are Billions. I was really curious to see how this would turn out. Risen Kingdom is a satisfying game that does a good job streamlining They Are Billions even if it goes a little too far at times.

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank MyDreamFoever and Tazdraperm for the review copy of Risen Kingdom used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.

Risen Kingdom takes place in a kingdom that was overwhelmed by the undead years ago. Unsatisfied with running from the undead your people decide to try and reclaim their kingdom. You are put in charge of these efforts of fighting back the undead as you make your way closer and closer to the center of your former kingdom. Will you be able to successfully fend off the undead for long enough to reclaim your kingdom?

If I were to describe Risen Kingdom in one sentence I would say that it is a more casual take on the gameplay made famous by the game They Are Billions. For those not familiar with They Are Billions, Risen Kingdom feels like a combination of a number of different mechanics. The game includes elements of RTS and tower defense games mixed with a few other mechanics.

Lets begin with the RTS mechanics. Risen Kingdom’s gameplay is broken down into day and night cycles. During the day your goal is to build up your base and explore your surroundings. The building aspect is similar to your typical RTS. You will build different buildings in order to gather resources including food, people, wood, and stone. These resources are then used to build additional buildings and train units to fight for you. As you are building up your base and generating resources you will begin to explore your surroundings. This involves fighting neutral enemies as you claim more territory to expand your base. This additional territory gives you more land to build on while also giving you access to more resources. More territory will allow you to build up your army as well as put up more defenses. This will be needed for when night approaches.

When day turns into night you better hope that you built a strong enough defense. At night a horde of zombies will begin advancing on your location. To prepare for this you need to recruit troops and build defenses to hold back and kill the zombies that attack your base. To build up your defenses you will have to place towers to shoot at the zombies. You will also need to build stakewalls to slow down your enemies along with melee warriors to hold them back and deal damage. Risen Kingdom has another interesting mechanic though. The zombies have a natural advantage in the dark. When in darkness the zombies are stronger and your own warriors deal less damage. Thus you need to light up your defenses in order to weaken the enemies while also strengthening your own warriors. If your fires go out your fight will become much harder. If you can survive the night you will have another day to get ready for the next onslaught of zombies. If you can survive enough nights while completing your other objectives you will finish the level.

As I mentioned earlier while playing Risen Kingdom it really reminded me of They Are Billions. The concept of both games are very similar. You are basically switching between building up your defenses, expanding your base, and defending your base from the zombie hordes. As a fan of RTS games, especially base building, as well as tower defense games I really like this new sub-genre of games that is starting to develop. To be successful in the game you need to balance building up your base to generate more resources with expanding your base opening up new opportunities. On top of these two elements you need to continue to build up your defenses so you aren’t overrun with enemies. Just like with They Are Billions if the zombies get past your defenses you are in deep trouble as things can fall apart quickly. If you are able to balance these three elements well though you will likely be successful.

Just like They Are Billions I think the reason that Risen Kingdom works so well is because the gameplay loop is really satisfying. You need the right balance between building your base, expanding it, and preparing your defense. Get one of these wrong and your base will fall apart in dramatic fashion. You will invest quite a bit of time building up your base just to see it crumble if the zombies get through one of your lines of defense. It sucks having to replay a mission from the start, but it is so satisfying when you can successfully hold back the hordes of zombies. In the last waves you have to face tons of enemies where it feels like you have no chance of surviving. When you successfully hold them back though you have a genuine sense of relief. This leads to a really enjoyable game.

So I mentioned earlier that Risen Kingdom felt like a more streamlined version of They Are Billions. I say this for a couple reasons. The game features less unit types, less building types, and less upgrades. This means that there is a lighter learning curve as there are less enemies and buildings to figure out. The size of the maps are considerably smaller as they are a fraction of the the size of a They Are Billions map. The number of units you have to deal with is also considerably smaller. The last waves of levels can feature a lot of zombies, but the numbers are nowhere near how many you can face in They Are Billions. All of these factors lead to the game’s levels being considerably shorter. In some ways I like these attempts at streamlining, but some just make the game worse.

The biggest positive from the streamlining is that the levels don’t take nearly as long. Depending on settings and how often you pause to plan your base levels in They Are Billions could take hours to complete. That is not the case in Risen Kingdom as levels are considerably shorter. It depends on the mission but some of the longest missions in the game only take 30-45 minutes to complete. While I can see the value of longer levels, as it gives you more time to build a bigger base, it also leads to They Are Billions being kind of frustrating as you could spend hours just to have your entire base crumble before you. That is not really the case in Risen Kingdom. If you make a mistake and lose you aren’t out nearly as much time. You can learn from your mistake and quickly try something else. This makes the game less frustrating.

Unfortunately I think the game goes a little too far in streamlining. With a limited number of buildings and units you can’t create as unique of strategy as you would like. It just felt like something was missing from the game. Mission after mission you basically follow the same strategy as there appears to be a preferential strategy to the game. This means the game gets a little repetitive after a while. There is also the fact that the maps are quite small. You may want to keep expanding your base to acquire more resources, but the size of the map puts real limitations on this. Before the end of most levels you will usually run out of areas that you can expand to. At this point there isn’t much you can do except wait for enough resources to come in where you can purchase another unit or build another building. The streamlining of the game really feels like it limits what you can do to defend yourself.

I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing but one of the side effects of the streamlining is that Risen Kingdom is quite a bit easier than They Are Billions. I wouldn’t call the game easy but it is a lot more forgiving. Basically the key to each of the levels in Risen Kingdom is to follow the plan for expansion that the developers want you to follow. What I mean by this is that there are certain ways that you should address each mission in order to be successful. If you follow the right plan you will do well in the game. If you decide to expand in a different direction or do things in a different way you will just be making the game considerably harder on yourself. Most of the difficulty in the game comes from how well you do early in the level. If you get off to a slow start or don’t choose the right expansion plan the game will become pretty hard for you. Once you get your defense and resource generation up and going though the game can become quite easy. If you get a good start to the level you will eventually get to a point where you will mow through the zombies that attack. The game doesn’t have the learning curve of They Are Billions where you basically have to accept that you will die in your first couple of games and will only learn from the mistakes that you make.

As for Risen Kingdom’s theme I would say that it is a little hit or miss. The story is quite generic. I wasn’t expecting much from it, and yet didn’t really care about it. The story just felt like your generic story of trying to survive a zombie infestation in a fantasy setting. I found the story to be kind of boring where I didn’t really care what happened to the characters. On the other end of the spectrum I liked the game’s art style. The art style reminds me a lot of the Kingdom Rush style. The game utilizes a more simplified style which I think works really well for the game. It adds character to the game by creating its own unique style.

While not a game breaking issue, I do think Risen Kingdom could improve its controls. I had three main problems with the controls. First I think the game could have used a pause button. This may have made the game too easy, but I think the addition would have been nice as it would have allowed you the opportunity to plan out what you wanted to do. Second I felt the controls for traversing the map were kind of sluggish. I think the game could have let you move around quicker as it is sometimes a pain to move to different parts of the map. Finally I think the game could have made it easier to select specific units. When units were in a large group it would regularly pick a unit that I wasn’t trying to select. Therefore I had to try and keep units further apart so I wouldn’t select the wrong units. I hope the game finds a way to tweak these settings so it is a little easier to select the units that you want.

Due to the game being more streamlined it is not surprising that Risen Kingdom is considerably shorter than They Are Billions. The length is going to depend somewhat on how many times you fail. The game has a total of eight missions. Most of these missions will take 15-30 minutes to finish. If you breeze through the levels you could finish the campaign pretty quickly. In addition to the missions there is also a survival mode. The survival mode basically throws wave after wave of zombies after you as you try to survive for as long as you can. This adds some replay value to the game, but the mode is not really randomized which means there is a limit on how often you will probably play it. With the game being on the cheaper side the shorter length is not that bad, but you should know that you won’t get nearly as much time out of Risen Kingdom as you would from a game like They Are Billions.

Risen Kingdom is basically what you would get if you took They Are Billions and simplified/streamlined it. In the game you need to balance building up your base while expanding so you can acquire more resources. You can’t forget to bolster your defenses because each night zombies will invade and you have to hold them back. Just like They Are Billions this creates a satisfying gameplay loop. Balancing these three things is crucial to your success. It is really satisfying when you are able to hold back a large zombie horde. As a more streamlined game levels don’t take nearly as long so it is not as crushing when you fail and lose all of your progress. Unfortunately the streamlining goes too far in my opinion. It leads to Risen Kingdom having less strategy and thus it is not as satisfying. Risen Kingdom is ultimately quite a bit easier and shorter than They Are Billions. While still a good game I just didn’t feel like Risen Kingdom was quite as good as They Are Billions.

If you have never really cared for tower defense and RTS games or didn’t really care for They Are Billions, I don’t see Risen Kingdom being for you. Fans of this genre though or people who want a more streamlined They Are Billions will probably really enjoy Risen Kingdom. For these people I would definitely recommend picking up Risen Kingdom.

Buy Risen Kingdom: Steam

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