Kingdoms Fall Review

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the old saying goes. The original The Legend of Zelda for the NES not only laid the groundwork for adventure games, it set a bar that many games still aim for decades after its release. Kingdoms Fall is an homage to that video game classic, and it comes to iOS devices thanks to the developers at Last Life Games. But how well does this new incarnation stack up against its timeless forebearer? We look into that in our review of the game.

Kingdoms Fall by Last Life Games

It’s a big world and only you can save it.

Kingdoms Fall tells the classic hero’s story of a young man as the lone warrior who can save his kingdom from an advancing evil. In a twist, our hero isn’t a nameless farmer or peasant, but the son of the king and destined to save the land. As in Zelda, the player guides the hero through on overworld map littered with monsters with the occasional village or encampment interspersed. NPCs give the towns a little more character by providing more information about whatever calamity they’re suffering, whether it be a personal or more global plight. The world itself is largely forgettable, but the suffering of the people is oftentimes portrayed quite well. I would like to have seen even more of that to instill a greater connection to the people and places in need of saving.

To solve those villagers’ problems or avenge their losses, our hero heads into dungeons, each of which is lorded over by an evil general of the invading Necromancer King of the North. Defeating these generals weakens the evil conqueror, but players will unsurprisingly have to earn their way to each boss battle. As with the overworld map, each dungeon room is infested with monsters, and often they’ll all have to be defeated in order to exit the room or gain a key to a locked door located elsewhere. The occasional puzzle is mixed in usually involving switches or pressure plates, but they’re rather simplistic in nature, at least early on. In true Zelda fashion, a special item is acquired in each dungeon that will help our hero either defeat the boss, or at least open up the path to get there. Kingdoms Fall actually does a pretty good job of ensuring that each item remains useful over the course of the game, including in the overworld. In fact, the latter dungeons require many of those special abilities, sometimes used in quick succession.

Kingdoms Fall by Last Life Games

Deadly traps and monsters are made tougher by the game’s controls.

Unfortunately, the controls are without a doubt the most frustrating part of the game. Movement of the player is performed by dragging a finger in the desired direction. The same is true for changing the character’s orientation. It’s not as simple as it sounds though. One problematic requirement is that attacks must be lined up in the exact direction of the enemy. Despite an on-screen indicator, in the heat of the action it’s not always readily apparent when a player is facing diagonally. Trying to change the direction can be slow and prone to moving the character. The player must constantly move and shift when attacking or defending against a moving enemy. The controls are simply not built for such frenetic and minute adjustments. Even trying to enter doorways, line up to talk to NPCs, and move from screen to screen can prove troublesome. At times it felt more like I was battling the controls than the enemies themselves, and the game screams for a directional pad.

I often found myself missing the correct button when tapping the action abilities on the right side of the screen. A recent update made those buttons larger which somewhat helped with the problem, but it’s simply no replacement for a controller’s standard button layout for ease of use and tactile feedback. Long story short, an adventure game of this design requires precision and timing with the controls and unfortunately, that’s not present here. There are simply some technological limitations with today’s touchscreen gaming devices that are difficult, if not impossible to overcome.

Although this game is obviously inspired by adventure games of the Zelda variety, this is no Zelda game. Players expecting that kind of polish and charm won’t find it here. What Kingdoms Fall is, though, is a respectable take on the genre with some challenging boss fights, brief but emotive character dialogue, and an epic soundtrack. There are some problems, but I’m glad I toughed through the controls and made it to some far more interesting later dungeons later in the game. I should also mention that the developers actually released two updates in the time it took me to tackle this review. They’ve shown a desire to take player feedback to heart, and some of the improvements – particularly on the control front – have helped smooth over those rough edges a little bit. It’ll be interesting to see how far those updates go, but for now Kingdoms Fall remains a recommendable, but flawed game.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

What does this score mean?

A copy of this game was provided by the developer for that purpose. This game was reviewed on the iPad using version 1.0.4. Kingdoms Fall is available through the App Store.

© 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.

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Author:Brandon Schmidt

Brandon is the founder and managing director of The Indie Mine in his free time. His preferred medium is video games and he's not shy about his support for the indie development community. You can follow him on Twitter @TheIndieMine.

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