Price: Free (with In-App Purchases Available)
Version Reviewed: 1.1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad, iPhone 3G
Graphics / Sound Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Game Controls Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Gameplay Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Replay Value Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
So far, freemium apps have been little more than takes off of Farmville or We Rule – manage a farm, city, kingdom, whatever, grow crops and/or build things, wait till you make enough of a certain resource to build more, and visit your friends to see how they’re doing, and to interact with them in some often trivial way. What there just isn’t a lot of is action and violence. What if I want to attack my friends’ farms? What if I want to get new things by going into a dungeon and slaying some monsters, and getting rewards for doing so, not to mention getting the feeling of playing an ‘actual’ game with real-time gameplay? How can I sate my virtual bloodlust while still feeling the ‘thrill’ of growing and building things on my properties? If you have wished for this specific set of features, then I suggest that you not only get out of my brain, but that you also get excited for Kingdom Conquest (stylized as -KingdomConquest-), a freemium social game that’s a bit more, shall we say brutal and action-packed, than your run-of-the-mill social and farming games.
Kingdom Conquest’s gameplay is a three-pronged affair, each one connected to the other in fundamental ways. The first prong is the farming/resource management gameplay. You have a base where you develop resources that you use to build new facilities to generate resources faster, make new facilities to hold more monsters, raise stats, and more. You have 4 types of resources, Wood, Stone, Iron, and Food, the first 3 only able to be created by special production facilities adjacent to specific land portions on your territory (like forests for wood). The second prong is conquering territories. You collect and develop monsters that you use to conquer territory that have different levels that make them harder to conquer, but have more of the special resource squares to produce with, if you decide to build a base there. Regulating your ability to grab land is a stat called Reign, which recharges every 12 hours or so, and while you can send out units indefinitely to gain experience and raise their stats, each new territory square you conquer lowers your Reign, preventing you from just bieng able to grab land indiscriminately. This land conquering mode is also where the competitive multiplayer comes in, as you share a map with other players, and you will be fighting with other players for empty land and to try and conquer their land. As well, you can join an alliance to get help whenever your land is attacked, and to have a bigger footprint on the game world with your alliance. The third prong is the one that will appeal most to core gamers – the dungeon crawling aspect. You can take your character and play with up to 3 other players to visit dungeons filled with enemies. The purpose of the dungeon crawling is not just to level up your character – by completing so many floors of each dungeon, and by defeating the boss, you get stars that can be used to draw items from each dungeon’s pack of items – these vary from new equipment to the real draw, new monsters for your army. To keep you from just being able to grind your way to getting the best monsters and equipment, you only get 4 dungeon dispatches every 24 hours without paying for more.
Kingdom Conquest is a freemium game, and the premium part of the freemium portmanteau comes from the Charge Points. They can be used to increase resource production, allow you to queue up and/or immediately complete more construction, increase your monsters’ attack, defense, experience, and buy more dungeon dispatches. CP comes at as low as 100 for $0.99 (100 points allowing you to increase production of a resource for a week and queueing up a couple additional buildings to be made) and up to $43.99 for 6500 CP, which will mean you won’t have to wait very long to get new resources or building projects to complete for a while. The one thing you can’t do with CP is buy more Reign, so while CP lets you get an advantage on other players or just be your impatient self, it doesn’t just mean that the richest player wins.
Kingdom Conquest is insanely deep. There is a lot to do in this game, far more than your average farming game. Just the land conquering and dungeon crawling aspects alone are more gameplay than what you see from other freemium games. And yet, it still contains those addictive hooks that the typical farming game does, just with so much more to do. And it helps that there are more gamer-friendly elements as well, especially since there is ‘actual’ gameplay (with synchronous multiplayer to boot) here with the dungeon crawling mode. It adds an air of legitimacy to this game, that there’s something to do here besides waiting around for resources to be generated, or buildings to finish building, or for units to go out and return. Yes, there are those elements that are set up in the traditional social game elements of “waiting for actions to complete.,” but since you can go and accomplish things by going out and killing some monsters, and playing what would be considered an actual game. It makes this game feel more legitimate than it would without it.
But of course, what makes this game great is that it still nails all the other aspects that social games typically have, and then gives them more purpose. There’s strategy in just what you decide to do – do you decide to produce more units with your resources to make them stronger? Do you build that new building to improve your stats or to unlock new unit types? Or do you apply them towards that upgrade that you feel like you need? Everything has a cost, and learning how to manage those costs is how you succeed in this game. Those layers of depth make this harder to get into than your average We Rule-esque game, but the depth is what makes this one unique, and what keeps you coming back. You really have to work to find yourself out of things to do with this game. It can be hard to progress in this game, but thankfully the Quests largely serve as goals that you can progress towards, as they largely consist of goals like raising your territory’s population or being able to generate so much of certain resources, or raising your monsters to a certain level. While progression can feel a bit aimless at times, the Quest menu gives you specirfic goals to work toward, and even though the game offers a tutorial at the beginning, you really ought to skip it, as the first few quests will cover exactly what the tutorial has you do, just with actual productive results for you.
But really, Kingdom Conquest’s biggest issue is that it can be often aimless – there is a LOT to do, and it’s often not apparent what you need to do next. There are a lot of things that I was confused about that the help screens never actually explained, that it took posting on my Alliance’s message board or just random guessing to discover. The dungeon crawling aspect could be more involved, as it is just very basic here, just involving flat dungeons that you and your party slay monsters in until you go to the next level. It feels like a very primitive version of Phantasy Star Online. As well, if you don’t have a magician type character in your party (the only one of the three classes that can heal characters), then you may be out of luck if you’re in a particularly hard dungeon. The dungeon crawling could have been more fully realized as a whole, particularly as its overall purpose in the game is to allow you random draws at new usable minions more than anything else, and if you really want to skip that part of the game, you could just try to win monsters in auctions using your Daily Points that you get for completing actions. As well, while Kingdom Conquest is a different kind of social/farming game, it still does use a lot of the elements, such as time limitations, that other games have. If you hate social games for those time elements, then you’ll eventually be annoyed by this game as well. Also, as an iPad owner, I would really appreciate if this was updated to be Universal, as the app looks kind of ugly scaled to 2X.
But really, Kingdom Conquest does a fantastic job at being more than just the typical farming game, while keeping a lot of what makes these types of freemium games work. While the “-mium” part of “freemium” is definitely in play, you can definitely enjoy this game without ever needing to spend a dime (although I was provided CP for the purposes of this review, and it does help with building and producing resources, along with my natural impatience, for sure), and there’s just a lot to do here. This is a casual game for gamers, people who want to feel like they actually want to do things besides just watching and waiting for their crops grow, to actually play with and against actual people. Kingdom Conquest is a great step up for social and freemium games, and one that is worth checking out for those who have been turned off to the genre, or for those looking for something more than their typical farming app.