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Kingdoms & Lords

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad
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Oppressive rule

Product: Kingdoms & Lords | Developer: Gameloft | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.0
Kingdoms & Lords iPhone, thumbnail 1
Mediaeval times were full of pageantry and bluster, as feuding factions tried to bluff and intimidate their way to a more advantageous position.

Kingdoms & Lords rather aptly follows this course.

It comes to you seemingly as a deep, involving strategy game, but underneath it all it's a cynically hollow freemium experience.

Not what it seems

In the world of Kingdoms & Lords, nothing is quite as it seems. Take a glance at those screenshots and you might be expecting a Settlers-style empire-builder.

Or, if your eyes fall on those battle sequences, you could be fooled into thinking it's a turn-based RPG of some kind. It's neither.

Sure, you build up your town from nothing, constructing barracks and houses and libraries and even roads. And yes, those battle sections are turn-based.

But there's no depth or soul to any of it. Every action and game mechanic is rooted in a familiar payment model that will inevitably require you to splash out repeatedly to get the full experience, while offering very little in the way of rewarding gameplay.

Feudal system

Just built a barracks and started training a soldier so you can engage in a random skirmish? That soldier will take five minutes to appear - unless you pay up to remove the wait.

Of course, you could have built better barracks that spawn soldiers faster - but that would have cost you gems rather than the plentiful coins that can be readily earned by fulfilling tasks.

Well, we say 'fulfilling' tasks. You can actually shortcut the whole process by - yep - paying to skip them altogether.

Kingdoms & Lords's focus on its payment model rather than gameplay is also apparent when you look at its technical performance. This is a relatively ugly, basic-looking isometric game, like a mid-'90s PC title. Yet it stuttered and stalled repeatedly on my third-generation iPad.

Time for the serfs to rise up

Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with having the option to pay to skip chunks of a game. But the worrying thing is, enjoyment doesn't factor into your decision-making process either way. I never once thought I'd go and help out a neighbouring village myself because it would be fun. Why would I think that when all it involves is tapping on a few icons?

No, I thought I'd do it because I was down to my last few gems and really didn't want to pay for more.

When it's used properly there's nothing at all wrong with the freemium model. But when games like Kingdoms & Lords so cynically sideline fun gameplay in favour of a drip feed of empty level-ups and rewards - well, it makes us want to get mediaeval on someone.
Kingdoms & Lords
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 15 August 2012
A cynically deceptive experience that promises deep strategy while delivering the same old social freemium 'gameplay'
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