Strategy games can be rather intimidating. Generally speaking, they're difficult by design, forcing you to think several steps ahead, and make decisions more carefully than you would in other genres. Occasionally you'll come across a strategy title that's a little easier to get into, and the Kingdom games are certainly in that ballpark. In fact, Kingdom Two Crowns might be the most accessible so far, but that's not to say it's a total breeze.
If you're not familiar with this series, you control a king or queen and must build, maintain, and grow a settlement from scratch. You'll roam the 2D landscape looking for coins with which you can start constructing your kingdom. There are also villagers dotted around that you can recruit and give jobs -- builders to erect and mend defences, archers to fend off attackers, and farmers to earn some extra cash. It's extremely straightforward to play, with only the left stick and the X button required, but there's further depth that you'll need to keep in mind.
At night, a strange race of creatures called Greed will storm your kingdom, and anyone outside your walls will have their tools or money stolen -- including you. If you don't have any coins, they'll knock the crown off your head, and if you fail to retrieve it, it's game over. However, in Two Crowns, failure doesn't spell the end for your kingdom; instead, you'll come back as an heir, and will be able to continue where you left off with the previous monarch. This makes the game far more forgiving than previous entries with their rogue-like nature.
The game only teaches you the very basics of playing Kingdom, but there are of course small nuances to the gameplay you'll pick up on as you play. For example, deer can be chased back to your settlement and killed by your archers, which affords you some extra coins. Archers will hunt any animals that wander too close and give you any money they find as you pass by. A merchant can be sent to a nearby camp, and at the start of the next day, he'll offload a few more pennies for you to spend. Venturing out to either the left or right has its benefits too -- sometimes you'll find chests full of coins or gems, or come across more people to recruit. However, it can be dangerous to stay outside the kingdom's walls as the sun sets, and with no means to defend yourself, you'll need to be careful.
It sounds like a lot to keep on top of, but because the level of interaction is quite low, it's perfectly manageable. Each land has a destroyed ship which you can rebuild in order to move onto the next area, with the ultimate goal being to establish yourself on each island and defeat the Greed for good. How you get to that stage is mostly down to you, and how you spend the money in your coin purse.
The headline addition in Two Crowns - and the clue's in the name - is co-op. Along with the more lenient penalty for dying, this is what makes the game that much more accessible. Splitting the screen, and your royal duties, between two gives both players an easier time, and it can be fun strategising with an ally, either locally or online.
One thing we would say is that, while this game is easy to get into, the sedate gameplay certainly won't be for everyone. Some may find it too slow, and the game leaves you to discover its mysteries for yourself, which can make it a little obtuse at times. There are hermits, statues, and other special occurrences that aren't explained at all, leaving you in the dark until you figure them out.
Kingdom Two Crowns is a well presented, brilliantly simple strategy game that makes some smart changes to allow more players to get involved. Co-op is handled well, and the straightforward gameplay means almost anyone can try their hand at building their very own kingdom. However, the limited interaction and slow pace might put off some. If you're looking for a relaxed strategy title to lose yourself in, Two Crowns should serve you well.
It seems similar to the first game, but that's not a bad thing in my mind. Being able to continue building on your kingdom is a great addition. There's some new biomes and settings, including a Japanese Shogun-inspired one. I haven't picked it up myself yet, but it's on my wish-list.
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