Every so often, I look at the ports for Nintendo Switch and see something that seems like a perfect fit. Stardew Valley, Night in the Woods, Okami, The Witcher 3– to me, the best things in the Switch library are adventures on the go. And that’s how I feel about Kingdom: Two Crowns.
Two Crowns is the third generation of the Kingdom series, which began as a two-man project by Thomas van den Berg and Marco Bancale, before Swedish publisher RawFury acquired the rights to expand the pair’s work even further. Essentially, each title in the series thus far isn’t a sequel so much as the same core concept getting more polished with new features added on. Since every installment is fairly inexpensive and each one truly is an improvement on a simple strategy game, it’s still worth the time! The premise is pretty basic: you are a monarch. Create your kingdom and defeat a plague of greed demons that ravages the islands every night. But here’s the kicker: You can’t attack or defend, not directly. Essentially, your role is support! The player is tasked with making and managing gold, which you use to build structures, recruit vagrants, and make tools they use to become archers, knights, and workmen. The end goal is to destroy giant, cliff-side portals on five islands, ridding the world of monsters.
Dialogue is a very important story element, however in its absence you’ll find creative solutions. Any narrative medium needs a way to communicate with the participant, whether that’s a reader, viewer, or player. Kingdom makes an effort to use as little dialogue as possible, which to me creates a fascinating situation where your focus is entirely visual. The soundtrack of the game, save the most climactic scenarios, is mostly what I would describe as gentle. I’ve had trouble tracking down the composer’s portfolio, but I can safely say Amos Robby, known as ToyTree, has created music that truly pulls the game together atmospherically. This is the kind of music that plays during the day as you ride through the forests, creating some poignantly serene moments in between the stress of protecting your crown and managing your money.
Multiplayer isn’t great, though granted you have to find someone else who doesn’t mess around and recognizes that your character is always vulnerable. I tried it out with my partner and the main complaint I have is the split-screen. It’s VERY squished. My TV is a 32-inch, it’s larger than anything I grew up with, but it’s still two long strips for each player and, at least for my eyes, it’s a lot to focus on without accidentally thinking your fellow monarch is you. We gave up when my partner lost his crown, which you can’t reobtain, so our joint reign was over and I restarted the file. But here’s where the twist comes in…
If your monarch loses his or her crown, a new game begins, retaining statues, mounts, and more unlocked with gems. You have to expend coins to use them again, but it’s a step. I found that even my previous fortresses and destroyed cliff portals remained in some cases! This mechanic fascinates me because essentially you create a bloodline, generations of royalty expanding the efforts of their forefathers and avenging their deaths.
Challenge Islands were introduced this year in August. They’re unique spins on the basic formula with limits and more frequent spawns in some cases.
In summation, Kingdom: Two Crowns is a gorgeous, colorful, calming piece of work with unique mechanics and no straight-forward way to play and win. It has a fairly repetitive core gameplay that, while not everyone will enjoy, has ways of keeping things fresh and engaging. It’s an easy game to pick up for hours on end or a short time, making it perfect for the Switch as an at-home adventure or fun on the go. There’s a ton of little details I love about it from the hidden ability to customize your crest in the menu screen, the dog sprite’s subtle animations, the beautiful environments, and much more. While several unique holiday events and online co-op are currently only available through Kingdom: New Lands and the Steam version of Two Crowns, there is hope future updates will bring these desirable features to the Switch port.
Kingdom: Two Crowns is available on the Nintendo eShop for $19.99 and is subject to occasional sales.
This title is also supported on Steam with online co-op, as well as phone, tablet, and TV Remote Play, and offers the bundle option with the game’s original OST.