Throne: Kingdom at War Review
Pros: Excellent graphics, lots of features, gameplay revolves around PVP and Orders
Cons: Linear progression which is disguised as high levels of customization, players are forced to constantly do meaningless actions, combat is dull and lacks meaningful strategy
Recently we took some time to check out the newest browser based free to play city builder strategy game from Plarium, Throne: Kingdom at War, a medieval themed MMO where we controlled our own keep town and would have to manage resource acquisition, training up units for our standing army, and battle against other players for ranks, resources and rewards. Whilst this is a new title the game does, once again, follow the same “Plarium formula” that the developers have used in their previous games, offering a lot of the same mechanics, features and gameplay. We put a few hours into the game to see just want this new game offered and how different it was from its predecessors (it’ll be no big surprise if we tell you then answer is “not that much”).
The game, upon first stepping into it, looks visually stunning and once more they have used the same kind of animations and graphics style we originally saw in Nords: Heroes of the North, which was the first big step away from their more classical browser strategy graphics. This same style was used once again in Vikings: War of Clans and now in Throne: Kingdom at War; it is a really fantastic style and the small details and little animations of soldiers and workers going about the town really does add life to the city. However, when zoomed in to the maximize camera view the graphics are surprisingly quite fuzzy and pixelated and really does not hold up the fidelity we would have expected; furthermore given how similar the gameplay and features are we’re not sure Plarium really needed to release ANOTHER fantasy/medieval themed title as all three really do feel like the same game (with a few feature tweaks here and there).
All that said, judging the game on its own merits (not that we really think we have to as the developers openly say that they use the same formula for each of their games, so they are essentially a slight tweak on the same game) we tried to come at the game with fresh eyes and an open mind. The mechanics are fairly simple and the tutorial opened up with showing us how to construct buildings, which uses up your resources, as well as upgrading their rank to make them more powerful. The tutorial NPC is accompanied with a long list of quests divided into three categories: “Warrior Training” (quests for training up different types of units), “Building” (quests for constructing or upgrading different types of buildings) and “Conducting Studies” (quests for advancing down the tech trees).
The quests were, in no uncertain terms, completely meaningless and uninspired. The same quest to “Build 4x <building>”, “Upgrade <building> to level 2”, “Train 10x <troop>” made up the list of quests, and once we’d done them they’d just be replaced with “Upgrade <building> to level 3” and “Train 25x <troop>”…. I mean… we HAD to do these things anyway, they are literally what the game is about, so why bother listing them as a quest when it’s just another delve into another menu pointlessly? If the developers wanted to give rewards for doing these tasks… then just give the rewards when they’re completed. This early part of the game was the biggest struggle as it goes on for quite some time with little else for us to do; constructing a building, or upgrading one to a low rank, or training a unit, or studying an early tech, would take around 5 minutes to complete. However, when the construction/training/studying timer reached under 5 minutes then you could rush it to complete for free (instead of having to use up boosts), so it once again became a pointless task of clicking a building to construct it, then having to go back into the building menu again to speed it to completion, then go into your quest log to claim the reward for doing it…. Multiply this by a dozen buildings and half a dozen units and having to do the same thing each time… it wasn’t exactly exciting, far better for the game to just say “Okay, you’ve learned how to construct buildings and train units, here, let us build the rest and train up an army so you can actually start playing the game.”
Pointless actions seemed to be a running theme which we discovered when we went to engage in some combat; switching to the Kingdom Map we saw a bunch of AI enemies wandering around that we could attack which would give us various materials and rewards. Only we couldn’t attack them and found that two of the pre-requisites to attack THE AI (not even players) were that we had unlocked the “Assailants” technology and that we were part of an Order (a guild). So to play the most basic elements of the game there were two hurdles. We went into the tech tree to see where this technology was to see how long it would take us before we could fight AI… it was the first tech in the “Assailants” studies tree (there’s 5 trees with different tech categories), and to learn this initial tech it would take us 44 seconds.
Why? What is the point in that? Why make unnecessary barriers? Why make players have to go into the tech tree for such a meaningless task instead of, oh I don’t know, perhaps just letting them fight AI from the beginning!?
Second was being part of an Order, on the one hand we appreciate the developers want players to become invested and being part of an Order will definitely do that, there’s more to get from the game if you’re working alongside other players. However, don’t force them into one JUST TO BATTLE AI ENEMIES! Our options were to create our own Order (which costs 1000gold premium currency which we didn’t have), join an Open Order who accept anyone, or apply for a closed Order who will take applications; we ended up joining an open Order with a bunch of people we didn’t know, would probably never have to speak to, just so we could play the game…
All in all the game, as far as city building strategies go, isn’t that bad and it definitely sits comfortably somewhere at the top of the list in many ways. Graphically it has no competitors, and whilst there are things that we really don’t like (automated combat and battle reports with no player involvement, or the tech trees bottlenecking into single techs that you have to pick up and need all the previous techs as pre-reqs) there is still something enjoyable about the game.