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Publisher: Rake in Grass    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.4

Be a King!
April 23, 2009 | David Allen

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Be a King!
They say "heavy is the head that wears the crown," and if being a king is anything like this game makes it seem, I can see why. Be a King! is a new offering from Rake in Grass (publishers of the amazing Jets 'n' Guns) that attempts to bring you all the excitement of running your own kingdom, with, to be polite, underwhelming results.

Here's how this game works. You are a king who must raise his kingdom up from starvation, underpopulation, defenselessness, and economic stagnation. I'm not sure if you were in charge before and what exactly you were doing—probably swanning around and getting drunk with the peasantry like a young Henry V or something, but at any rate, you'd better hurry up because you've got to save your land one town at a time.

To get you started, you are shown a map of your kingdom with the villages you've straightened out marked with a check (obviously, none, in the beginning). I'm not sure why you need a map, because you don't have any choice about which town you go to, and there doesn't seem to be any larger strategic goal you need to keep in mind. It's just a dressed-up medieval progress bar, really.

Enter a village and you're in the heart of the game. The scale suddenly gets much smaller—in fact, it's just slightly larger than the village you're in. There are typically a few "starter" buildings scattered around, and the rest of the space is filled with scattered bare spots that indicate predetermined locations for additional buildings. Part of the strategy in this game—OK, about 90% of the game, really, is figuring out which buildings to put in the limited spaces you have, in order to meet the goals of each scenario. The buildings fall into four categories: dwellings, food-producing, defensive, and support. Support buildings are in effect another type of upgrade to the other three—they increase population limits, boost food production efficiency and so on. Your advisor, a rather high-strung, elderly gentleman, will tell you what you need to accomplish in order to meet your kingly goals for that round. He'll also apprise you if you are not meeting the fundamental human needs of your subjects: "Your peasants have no food! Build more farms!" etc.

Typically, goals for each town run along the lines of reaching a certain population point, having a steady income of a particular amount, and/or building a prescribed number of specialized buildings. Of course, because your kingdom is such an anarchic mess, you're never left in peace to build your economy. You must also fend off the attacks of marauding robbers, monsters, and rogue knights. You do so with a combination of hired heroes and defensive structures, which will fire on your assailants until they are dead.

Defensive is an important word here. Imagine a Real Time Strategy game (hereafter RTS) in which all you do is build your base and economy and fend off attacks, and you'll get the picture. The only other events that occur in the game are buying materials when you have enough gold to do so, and the occasional "game event" wherein you can either purchase an upgrade of some kind, or risk one of your heroes on a quest that may earn some additional gold, wood, or stone. You don't actually get to SEE these quests play out—you're given a dialog box with a yes or no option for sending your hero out. If you say yes, then you wait a little while, and another dialog box pops up telling you that either the mission was a success and you've gained something, or your hero didn't make it. It's not exactly the most immersive experience.

So, that's the game. As you continue to win rounds, more towns get checked off on the big map, and your path takes you from small villages to cities. Having finished the game, I can't say I noticed any differences between the hamlets and the cities once you were in them—they only look different on the big map. In fact, the only thing that changes in the later stages of the game is that there are further upgrades available to buildings, as well as some new buildings. The new buildings don't bring any new tactical wrinkles to the game; they are merely more potent versions of the earlier structures.


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