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Kingdom, Dungeon, and Hero First Impressions – 4X RPG Hybrid

Kingdom, Dungeon, and Hero is an upcoming fantasy strategy and adventure game set to release in July 2024. Developed and published by Kraken Studios, the game invites players to immerse themselves in a realm filled with horrors, magic, and strategic conquest. This follows a recent trend where a game with one focus is expanded to encompass a broader gameplay experience while maintaining that core element. The roots of Kraken Studios previous game Warplan Pacific are easily visible in Kingdom, Dungeon, and Hero, with added layers of country building and hero management. These complement the core war gameplay well, making the game more of a 4X than a war sim. Shadow Empire has done similarly and received a great reception, so hopefully Kraken Studios can pull off the transition well here too.

In the turn-based gameplay of Kingdom, Dungeon, and Hero, the player manages limited resources to develop their nation, raise armies to defend and conquer, conduct diplomacy with other factions, hire heroes that can be equipped, trained, and used to conquer dungeons, manage cities or lead armies. There are many developer-made scenarios to choose from, plus any number of player-made scenarios made with the included powerful scenario editor. These scenarios will provide substantially different gameplay based on the type and number of factions, terrain, resources and so on. There are small 1v1 maps where you are already at war and jump straight into it, ranging up to 50-faction sandboxes where you act and react based on what all the other factions are doing, and even custom scenarios such as feudal(ish) Europe. Turns can take a while on the larger scenarios but it’s not too bad, certainly nowhere near as bad as Total War or Civilization has been at its worst.

Combat is simplistic with a single-click to do an attack which will run the numbers and apply damage to the armies. Units vary between factions with some having one or two unique units, like War Bears or Wolf Cavalry for Jarnskag or Amanon, and others being made up substantially such as Red/Green/Ivory legions for Skadi. It is hard to tell how these differences in armies play however as there is no feedback from combat other than the number of losses incurred. It will likely take an external tutorial covering the aspects of combat, impact of terrain and statistics to get an idea of how combat will go.

The hero system creates randomised heroes from a pool of icons, names, and a random generator. They will be central to much of the gameplay as they can lead your armies, govern, go on missions, and explore for you. These adventures can bring extra rewards to supplement your standard income or equip your heroes with magic items and artifacts, so they perform better. There are buildings, events and special abilities that can greatly impact the game, such as the Nullifier which can seriously dampen your plans as a necromancer by crippling nearby undead.

Some things didn’t sit right with me, however. The interface can feel cumbersome and unintuitive to use. To build in your cities you don’t select a city, you select the districts button on the top bar and then cycle through cities until you find the one you want to build in. It feels like resources aren’t balanced in a fun way, where individual units cost a similar amount of resources to a building, and it takes turns to afford one or the other at the start of a game. You can configure what icons are shown on the map but there are no map modes such as who is an ally or enemy and so on. There are currently a couple of small bugs, and there is a lack of polish but it’s nothing that will prevent you having fun with the game even if they’re not fixed, other than the diplomacy window not scrolling properly for me in a large scenario.

There is definitely potential in Kingdom, Dungeon, and Hero for a niche group of strategy gamers, especially those that are more likely to engage with the included hotseat and PBEM multiplayer game modes. The scenario-based nature of the game combined with the included scenario builder will allow for a lot of fun gameplay in substantially different ways. This is nice to see when the larger players like Paradox have been releasing games such as Victoria 3 which have become sadly simplistic and homogenous. The gameplay isn’t hugely up my alley, but the variation provided in the scenarios does give promise for some that will definitely tickle me enough to dive back in for some long games.

There are already a set of tutorials up on the Kraken Studios YouTube channel, and a number of content creators such as Battlemode and Nookrium have gameplay videos that are well worth watching to get more of a feel for the game.

This preview utilised a key provided by Starfall PR and Kingdom, Dungeon, and Hero will release on Steam in July 2024.


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