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Kingdoms & Lords Review: Conquer rival kingdoms on Windows Phone 8

City-building games with timers are increasingly common on mobile platforms. Xbox Windows Phone has seen a few, including Gameloft’s own Ice Age Village. These games lure players in with their initially rapid progression and lots of loot to collect. But the longer one plays, the less new things there are to see and the more the feeling of sameness pulls in. Do we keep playing them for fun or out of habit?

So the question becomes how to make a city builder with real lasting appeal – one that keeps providing players a reason to play and maybe even spend some money. Electronic Arts found a clever way to do so by adding timers to its Sims franchise and calling it Sims FreePlay. Now Gameloft returns to the genre with Kingdoms & Lords. The hook: they’ve thrown strategic battles into the mix.

Kingdoms under fire

The game starts out with a light narrative involving a king’s assassination. This act thrusts the medieval world’s four kingdoms into chaos. As the player, you’ll need to set things right and find the evil force orchestrating the conflict.

NPCs will occasionally deliver tidbits of dialogue that embellish the premise, but the main way the story advances is via a series of boss battles. By reaching the proper experience level and completing required quests, players will unlock boss conflicts on the world map. Bosses must be defeated three times before admitting defeat and opening the way to the next opponent.

It bears mentioning that you don’t fight the actual boss in combat, just his or her flunkies. Since all the bosses can be unlocked as playable heroes, it makes little sense that they don’t show up in person for the story battles. But hey, at least the battles lend the game a structure other than just building things and collecting coins forever.

Simple strategy

This type of game is aimed at casual players, hence the battle system isn’t too complex. Both sides during a battle can have up to five units that take turns attacking each other. The speed rating of the unit affects the order of its turn, not unlike a role-playing game.

Units have several ratings including attack power, defense, hit points, miss rate (basically reverse accuracy), and critical hit chance. On top of that, every unit is strong against four other unit types and weak against the same number. Cavalry are better against the three infantry categories, for instance, while ranged units get attack bonuses against horse-riders.

Taking units’ strengths and weaknesses into account won’t win you the battle all on its own, however. Each category of units such as swordsmen, pikemen, etc. comes in several classes. A higher class unit usually holds a significant advantage over lower class units thanks to its increased attack, defense, and health ratings. The only way to unlock better units is by leveling up, so you might

­find yourself running up against bosses and opposing player teams that simply outclass your best team from time to time.

Players can also cast single-use magic spells during battle, upgrade units to make them more effective, and hire costly hero units to take into the fray. Our In-App Purchase Guide has more details on all three mechanics.

Quests

Beyond progression through the campaign’s boss battles, players can also work through a variety of quests. Many quests appear when you reach a certain level, while others unlock after completing previous quests.

Quests boil down to standard genre tropes like planting specific crops, placing decorations, expanding your kingdom, reaching population milestones, or performing social interactions with other players. Completing a quest rewards you with gold (the game’s soft currency) and experience.

As you finish quests in a chain, you’ll eventually run into quests that require diamonds – premium currency – to complete. Nothing to do about that but ignore the premium quest and move on; you need your diamonds for other things. There’s always a non-premium quest or two to work on instead, and quests aren’t the only way to gain gold and experience.

Resource gathering

One steady source of income comes from your citizen’s dwellings. Each house or windmill produces gold and experience at regular intervals ranging from a few minutes to several hours. Houses also contribute to population, a value that matters for population-based quests and nothing else. Perhaps population could have been better integrated into the game’s design.

The most important and flexible source of gold (and to a lesser extent, experience) comes from farms. Farms can plant various crops, with harvesting times ranging from a few minutes to a full day. Strangely, the payouts sort of level off after 12 hours; a 16 hour crop won’t pay significantly more gold than a 14 hour one.

You can build as many homesteads as will fit in your kingdom, with the only other limiting factor being how much energy it takes to harvest them. Yes, collecting from farms, houses, and other buildings actually depletes your energy meter. Run out and your range of actions will be limited until you get more. Luckily energy refills over time, so its limited nature won’t hamper progression too much.

Three additional resources: wood, stone, and wool require their own special buildings for production. These materials cost gold to produce, with increased payouts for longer production periods. Wood, stone, and wool are used almost exclusively to produce military units.

Social features

Xbox Windows Phone gamers haven’t had much exposure to social interaction in their city buildings games. The social features in Ice Age Village never worked properly and Electronic Arts annoyingly chose to omit Sims FreePlay’s social features entirely. Lucky for us, Kingdoms & Lords has a strong asynchronous multiplayer component that actually works the majority of the time.

By accessing the game’s social menu, players can choose to interact with their Xbox Live friends. There’s no Facebook support (despite mention on a loading screen), but that probably ends up for the best considering all the Facebook integration issues we’ve seen in Ice Age Village and Tetris Blitz.

Some friendly interactions are cooperative in nature; players can visit each others’ villages and harvest five resources or buildings and send gifts of magic spells (the best gift) or other items once per day. The other option is to invade a friend’s village, which pits you in a battle against your pal’s defense team. If you succeed in the invasion, your friend has the opportunity to repeal the invasion in a follow-up battle.

Attacking friends seems less than friendly, but invasions provide an important source of social stars. These can be spent on materials needed for unlocking unit upgrades. Counterintuitive as it is, players are best off getting their friends to choose deliberately weak defense units and just making invasion easy for everyone involved.

Of course, weak defenses won’t help you against attacks from random players. Fighting random players can be quite fun, but the matchmaking is terrible. Choose to engage in such a battle and you’re thrown into a fight against someone who could be much higher or lower level than you. It would be fairer to match players of similar levels or allow the player to choose between a few different opponents.

The game also suffers from connectivity issues in which it sometimes can’t connect to the server at all or drops a connection during battle. Dropped invasions of friends can be resumed but random battles can’t. These nuisances are still relatively minor compared to Ice Age Village’s severely broken multiplayer.

Achievements

Good news: all of Kingdoms & Lords’ Achievements can be unlocked! Bad news: some of the boss Achievements might fail to unlock. But there is a workaround. If you defeat a boss for the final time and his or her Achievement doesn’t pop, immediately exit the game. When you start up again, choose to load your cloud save instead of the file stored on your device. The cloud save should roll you back a bit and provide another chance at the Achievement. It worked for me!

Also note that two Achievements’ descriptions are vague or misleading. For ‘Demon’s Nightmare’ (Successfully resist invasion 100 times) you must resist invasion from friends, not random opponents. The invasion counter on the Achievement screen also seems a bit wonky. And ‘Good Luck Follows’ you requires players to win 50 battles with only one unit remaining on their team, which the description doesn’t spell out.

See our In-App Purchase Guide and Arsenic17’s Achievement Guide for more tips.

Overall Impression

Kingdoms & Lords doesn’t quite transcend the genre. If you’ve never cared for mobile city building games, this one won’t likely change your mind. But the addition of combat and player-versus-player battles does make for a more engaging experience than previous “village” games.

Compared to other Gameloft titles, this one has far better cloud save support since you can save to the cloud at any time. If the upcoming Windows 8 version shares the same save and Achievements, checking in from the device of your choosing should be a most convenient way to play.

  • Kingdoms & Lords – Windows Phone 8 – 122 MB – Free – Store Link

QR: Kingdoms and Lords

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

50 Comments
  • Average game....
    Edit: The best game in the world
  • Wrong. This game is great. Free and with Xbox achievements to boot. Can't wait for the complementary (and complimentary!) Windows 8 and RT versions to come out too so I can pick up and play on my phone, PC, and Surface like some kind of gaming superhero. Xbox, Xbox, Xbox, Xbox!
  • Agreed really enjoy this game only wish I had more then 1 friend that plays it
  • Add me! my gamertag is Homergdog
  • I sent you a friend request my gt is, angeluswrath.
  • I sent both of you invites. Please add me.
  • Can you add me as your friend in kingdoms and lord?
  • Seriously? Its one of the best games on Windows Phone right now
  • Every game needs cloud save ugh. Nice review
  • I was just abt to ask for this.....I think the reviews pretty late...But cultivating crops gives only the exact amt of coins used for purchasing it after production?
  • 9 days after release (US release) isn't what we'd call late. That's how you get a thorough review. Crops produce a profit only if you collect them within a fixed time after they're fully grown. See the in-app purchase guide for more details.
  • No offense man.....I just downloaded it when u tipped us that it had a soft release and waiting for it from then
  • Please help Paul. I can't move on to osloth. It says i must complete the BARBARIAN REDUX mission. What is this?
  • the best strategy game for windows phone but the diamonds are hard to get..
  • Nice.  I'll have to give it a try.  I WISH WISH WISH Clash of Clans would come to WP.
  • wanna unlimited http://img35.imageshack.us/img35/8048/orkp.png on wifi 24 hours open this game
  • i've just unlocked every achievement except resist 100 invasion and i see you (maybe the hardest one) for boss battle just keep trading magic cards and blast it to them XD . good luck follow you achievement is easiest to me cause just put one cavalry unit in the very first boss which you have to battle 2 axeman . i've using heavy cavalry with double impact ability and this piece of cake and the result is the good luck achievement works :D anyways, good game but battery consuming on my weapon L520.
  • How did you get the BARBARIAN GENERAL achievement? Please help. I can't get to osloth
  • Oh and please do add me up. Gamertag Bel B Ningthou
  • add me up please. no friends.. gamertag : Jason Basalo
  • have 5 friends now. LOL! add me up.  gamer tag : Jason Basalo
  • What happens if one of your Hero warriors dies in battle? Do you lose him or her like other fighters or do you get them back for free later on?
  • Heroes respawn later for free.
  • Oh, great. So a good battle strategy is to put them in the front row since they have higher defense, right? I was scared to death mine would dir in battle and be permanently lost.
  • Put them in the front row only if their HP is at the same level or higher as your best units. Early on, it may be best to keep them in the back and let stronger units do the work. A good way to build up heroes is by invading friends who have chosen to use light defenses, btw.
  • paul. Do you remember me? I am htccreditcard in sixgun. I have bought a lot of thing in sixgun and now I complete 100% sixgun game. However now I play kingdom and lord and I ask you how to alien, how to help neightbour defend, how to defend my kingdom, how to play versus with friends? I often see the notice..xx is attacking your kingdom, defend it. But i can't go in to defend because I can't see where he invades. Only after my kingdom is lost, can I see his face on the house, but it is too late. I want to control the army to defend, not automatic defend. And some times my neighbour is being attacked but i can't jion to help him. Please show me the way to defend my kingdom and my neighour 's kingdom and fight with my friend (human - human) not human with automatic defend of my friend 's kingodom, please show me, thank you very much. Please, I am looking forward to hearing from you. Please, thanks for your help
  • Looks nice, but is it true free-to-play or is it more like pay-to-win ? 
  • I have three kingdom friends but i need more!!! I started a thread... We need a large community kingdom!!!
  • I need more friends to play with on Xbox Live. I'm sharing training and hoping to find folks with Calvery Training to share. My Xbox Live Gamertag is : Homergdog Send me an invite ;) I'll give you some gold and assist in production. Not to mention sharing my Training of Archers and Swordsman. That said, get ready to for war! hoping to build a good amount of friends playing this. 
  • please add me in kingdoms and lord game. my gt: anirban130
  • I need neighbours please add me "MamlukWarrior", if it is wrong please tell me how it works.
  • Add me! my gamertag is MIKEHDZALO I like to play kingdoms & lords and I would like to have friends who also play it.
  • You are welcome to add me as a friend, my gamertag is MindaugasKr
  • Can any of you guys post your e-mails so i can invite you as friends over e-mail since i don't have xbox gold? Or maybe you guys can invite me, maybe i can accept. My gamertag is CrumbyMovie5.
  • add me gamer tag: anirban130
  • Add my gamer tag: itomanpr
  • my gamertag is : nijithkm    
  • already added..thnx
  • my gamertag: nijithkm  
  • gamertag: sanctumchristi
  • Add me.. Xbox id = SleepyBubu
  • add me! gamer id = Hockgwai. just started getting into this game this week!
  • I need neighbours please add me "Gryphon", if it is wrong please tell me how it works.
  • MamlukWarrior
  • No need to spam the comments section, dude.
  • add me!! Samshyne
  • Cool game tho drains the battery fast..... Love the tunes by the way.
    Add me, my gt Asafam95
  • Is this ingdoms and lord is an online game???  
  • Sure, add gamertag: MhmmdFarhan
  • add me too i have no one to play with gamertag airius5