Well, as I get ready to buckle down and delve into Arel Wars 2–with the intention of writing the strategy guide as I go this time–it seems time to discuss other offerings by the company, Gamevil. Unfortunately, I don’t have much good to report. Arel Wars wasn’t nearly what it could have been–it should have been amazing but small easy-to-fix problems reduced it to okay, which is fine since the game was free, but I still wish it had been worth putting money toward since I would have very much liked to.
That said, as far as I’ve discovered Arel Wars is by far Gamevil’s best effort. Other of their titles I tried lacked even the promise that Arel Wars should have lived up to, and most of them were so bad they didn’t stay on my phone for even a day and thus don’t merit a review.
Kingdom Royale is an interesting middle ground, whose place on my phone is probably going after this review but managed to at least engage me for a time.
Kingdom Royale has an amazing design aesthetic to it–which sadly is all the further too many iPhone Apps seem to bother going–and in the vein of Arel Wars is an all out fantasy war game. I didn’t catch what the storyline was since they give you about one second to read a whole screen of text and I couldn’t find any way to go back to it–but I did catch that there was one and that seemed cool.
I’m not a great strategist, which is part of my chagrin at having to write the Arel Wars strategy guide, so simple effective strategies really appeal to me. In this regard I am very much a fan of Kingdom Royale’s double-layered Rocks-Paper-Scissors mechanic. In true RPG style, your units are defined by a combination of their race and class.
Orcs beat Humans, who beat Elves, who beat Orcs–but also Melee beats Range, which beats Magic, which beats Melee. That seems to me like enough to be really interesting to play with–say an Orc Melee unit against an Elf Ranged unit would be a fairly even match against each other or against a Human Magic unit, but reverse the classes in the first pairing and the Orc gets curb-stomped. Those sorts of mechanics are really fun for me to play with, and figuring out the troop roster to take into any given battle, who assign to guard duty and how many of each unit to keep in reserve makes me happy.
Even better, you don’t have to choose a faction when you play! All players have access to all three races and can produce and maintain troops as they see fit. I don’t mind having to choose a faction, and admittedly my play style heavily favors my elven units, but the completionist in me really loves the idea of being able to get everything–every unit, every structure–on a single play through. So I play elves whenever I can, but sometimes having exactly the right unit for any given job is immensely satisfying.
Now, Kingdom Royale is one of those resource oriented games where the passage of real time–whether you’re in the game or not–is required to build up the resources to build your structures and produce your units. That’s not an inherently bad thing to me, it can be nice to come back with a sense of progress after leaving your phone alone for an extended period.
Unfortunately I believe the actual implementation of resources in Kingdom Royale is one of its unforgivable gaffs. That’s right, I have good things to say about the game but this will not be a positive review over all.
The first three resources you work with are Gold, Wood, and Food. Gold is used in everything you do–and is proportionally easy to come by. Wood is used more heavily in the construction and improvement of structures and fortifications, while Food is significant to the production of units. All three of these resources are actually quite well handled–frequently used but easy enough to come by. Another thing the game does right is the general store in your secure home area where you can exchange one resource type for another if you need something other than what you’ve got in a hurry.
The next three resources I liked in concept, Sapphires associated with Human units, Amethysts with Elven units, and Emeralds with Orc units. These are a little harder to come by and later upgrades demand quantities that can be difficult to collect, but early in the game you can secure sources of Sapphires and Amethysts safe from seizure by other players so even if holding and taking ground against others is proving difficult you can still get the resources you need given enough time. No such luck with Emeralds. The first source of Emeralds is a little further in to the game, and is hotly contested enough I was never able to hold it long enough to have any pretensions about building any sort of meaningful force of orcs. I would have been fine with this, but even humans and elves start requiring some Emeralds once you begin producing 4th level units.
The final three resources are the ultra rare, Diamonds, Opals and “Crowns”–with the latter primarily being obtained by paying real world money into the game. The balance of supply and demand for these resources seems fairly reasonable to me, but I’ll never get far enough in the game to say whether this holds true to the end. I’ve got a sinking suspicion it doesn’t.
See, the difficulty of obtaining Emeralds–one of the core three gem types–throws the whole economy out of balance even before factoring the exponential price increases that far outstrip any sort of resource income I could envision having achieved.
I love the character design of the units, and find the sound from music to effects to voices spot on for the game. I even discovered that it is possible for a unit to gain experience and become more powerful–without you having to spend half a day training the entire unit type, or just buying the next level up of the race/class combination. This is an awesome touch that really lines up with my preference for developing an elite team with as few casualties as possible.
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that there’s virtually nowhere to train your units up. The storyline missions are all only played once before moving you on, and the enemies become stronger faster than your units can–and I have yet to meet a player who just offers up their fodder units for you to train on and then take their land. Also, when on offense–as you will generally be–your units can be killed and then are gone along with potentially the vast amount of resources spent producing the higher level ones.
Your main keep has a hospital where defense units, or offense units who weren’t actually reduced to zero health, can recuperate over time. If there were better odds on a unit being sent to the hospital rather than killed then even in loss a player could build their forces up and do better next time–but as it actually stands when you lose you lose big.
It is technically possible to alleviate the deficit of any resource (Emeralds being the prime offender) by building structures dedicated to harnessing that resource on a limited number of vacant land plots within your secure home area. Unfortunately, Sapphires, Emeralds, Diamonds and Opals all require Crowns to build their structures–unlike the others that can be built with in-game resources. Since the game never convinced me it was worth money, and I burned crowns on unit resurrections while I was still learning the game, getting a reasonable supply of Emeralds is out of the question for me, and thus so is advancing through the game.
The challenge curve is the last problem with the game I think is worth mentioning–because between the rapid scaling of challenges and the rapid scaling of costs I found it completely inconceivable that I could ever really get anywhere in the game. If the Player versus Player element happened on a separate map and resources gained on the regular map were retained, or if there were at least a secure source of Emeralds that would be different. But as is I reached the 12th area of Payro with the first real boss enemy and found that no combination of units I could produce could stand up to him without devastatingly high losses (Spoiler Alert: You have to fight him more than once in that area) that would take days of play for me to recuperate from.
So I was stuck unable to get the resources I needed to build up my forces, unable to advance the single-player storyline, unable to complete the side-quests (which advance in difficulty as rapidly as the core missions), and unable to defeat other players in such a way that I gained more than I lost. So at this point the only thing I can do is log in and collect resources from my safe sources, and that just isn’t fun at all.
The good news is that since playing the game is free, there’s no real reason not to try it for yourself and form your own opinion if you think it even might be different from mine–plus you can benefit from my folly and spend your crowns getting an Emerald mine in your home area rather than on unit healing/resurrection.
I give the game 3 of 5 stars–similar to Arel Wars. I’m certain there’s something there, I love the aesthetic and I definitely feel it actually is a game–I just can’t seem to find the way in to it. One difference is that Arel Wars could have easily been a 5 star game if they’d bothered fixing what I felt were obvious errors… Kingdom Royale could probably get up to 4 stars if they fixed their wonky resource availability/expense balance, but getting all the way to 5 would take serious work and require more story and character for me.