My Kingdom Review

Oberon Interactive were definitely on to something when they thought it would be cool to blend the kingdom-building sim into a massively multiplayer online model, topping it all off by varying player experience according to where the user is in real life when he or she logs into the game. In My Kingdom the player finds his or her house (or office, or whatever the starting location is) transformed into a bare plot of medieval soil ripe for claiming and settlement. A menu-driven interface places the player in charge of founding and fortifying settlements, production facilities, and bulwarks, all in a bid to grow that first plot of land into the world’s reigning empire. The really interesting bits happen when one player approaches the boundary of another player’s kingdom: is it time to cough up tribute to keep the peace, or launch a turf war with available resources?

That sounded like a cool premise, so once I had completed a thorough basics tutorial I was ready to explore and lay claim to the land surrounding my humble medieval potato farm. A location map revealed that my initial settlement lay at the center of a darkened nine-square grid, and I needed to tap on each square to reveal a new area I could order my subjects to scour for treasure. Concluding that exercise within a minute’s time, I felt ready to push beyond the boundaries of the initial area, eager to find out what yet-untilled land might lie between me and the Eastern Seaboard.  

So I swiped at my touchscreen, expecting that nine-square grid to slide over and reveal new areas just as a Google Map would. It didn’t budge. I tried again; still nothing. It’s difficult to appreciate just how important the ability to scroll this screen and access more land is until one realizes that new settlements – and therefore the bulk of the gameplay – can’t be initiated again within the starting grid. Surely, I could jot this experience down as a rare touch sensitivity flaw in an otherwise smoothly functioning game?

A few quick taps summoned the game’s in-depth tutorial – again, My Kingdom admirably caters to player needs in this regard – and I was shocked. There, staring back at me, was the suggestion that I hop onto a bus if I wanted to continue the game. In real life. This, in an area of the United States where public transportation is practically anathema, and where a trip to the nearest park will burn up some gasoline. I could, of course, grab my tennis shoes for a jaunt down the street and see if I had moved far enough to access more in-game territory, but what then? That would net me another five to fifteen minutes’ worth of medieval landlord exploits, and then I’d have to hoof it yet again in the real world to access more in-game territory while I wait for my current settlements to produce their assigned resources. Let’s not forget that I’d have to travel to those locations day after day if I were serious about fully developing the plots of in-game land I’d started.

In short, My Kingdom is strictly geared toward players with a certain type of lifestyle — namely, those who have numerous daily stops and have the time to whip out their iDevices for short periods at each of those stops. This transforms what could have been an exciting land grab competition within an MMO environment into a disjointed and slowly developing affair that might center around four or five settlements at best. My Kingdom‘s disappointing truth is that there are no vast empires to be built within its world unless the player happens to have a daily routine that would make Ferdinand Magellan blush.

At least My Kingdom is free, albeit filled with in-app purchases. Certain specialist units – thieves, saboteurs, minstrels who double as cultural ambassadors – cost real world dough unless the player opts for a $3.99 PRO version of the game, in which case these units can be recruited with the game world’s currency. Their functions certainly come in handy for player vs. player interaction: a saboteur could sap fortifications in preparation for an assault, while a minstrel could earn one player some goodwill by entertaining another player’s populace. Sim fans will likely know whether this game fits into their daily routines long before having to decide whether one or more in-app purchases are worth buying.

My Kingdom sports suitable medieval-themed imagery but no music, so firing up the ol’ iTunes playlist is a must. Players who have a difficult time poring over small text will appreciate the ability to magnify the game’s lengthy set of tutorials and FAQs.

iFanzine Verdict: My Kingdom sure does take the concept of location-based gaming seriously! So seriously, unfortunately, that it ends up hemming the player in unless his or her daily travels already conform to the kind of schedule the game demands if any depth is to be found in it.

Despite this appeal-devouring drawback, My Kingdomfeels well designed in terms of user interface. If you’re a fan of society-building simulation games, you can’t go wrong by giving it a spin since it’s free with the exception of in-app purchases meant for the truly addicted. Recommended only to those who are a.) constantly on the move, and b.) have to wait for a period of somewhere between five to fifteen minutes at each stop. Be sure to double check your iDevice’s Internet access requirements, as connection quality is sure to vary from one location to the next.

Enjoy the review? Find the game on iTunes!