Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne – Xbox One Review
Clearly bitten by the Game of Thrones bug, Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne places you in the boots of two brother knights, framed by cunning conspirators as usurpers to the throne. They embark on a perilous journey to clear their family name and uncover the identities of the real culprits. Set in an unspecified medieval, feudal type kingdom with entirely fictional characters to allow for creative license; if you’ve played an Artifex Mundi title before, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
A largely family friendly plot, with a few twists and turns, is played out using a succession of mini-games and puzzles with a huge emphasis on point and click style exploration of scenes. It’s a tried and tested formula, and there’s something pleasantly reassuring about taking a step back from frantic Odyssey and Forza sessions and quietly clicking your way through a tableau.
For the uninitiated, each chapter takes place over one to three locations (by and large). You’ll be tasked with locating a number of items, cunningly hidden throughout the scenes, and piecing them together to achieve a desired outcome – make your own glue to repair a boat which you need to cross a lake which will get you to a castle which will contain the next puzzle…..and so on.
The point and click exploration is broken up with mini-games. Pulleys must be yanked in the correct order to make them the same length, for example, or a series of pins must be positioned appropriately to unlock a door. There’s even some combat scenarios in which you must play a convoluted join the dots style game in order to swing your sword. Some work well, others less so, but they lend some variety to the gameplay to break up the exploration and searching for items.
When Kingmaker does become too challenging (or frustrating) there’s a handy rechargeable hint system available to you. This highlights the area you need to focus on, or allows you to skip the minigames or combat altogether. The emphasis is very much on the story, and the game ensures you can choose your own level of difficulty in order to get to the bottom of the royal conspiracy at the heart of the tale.
Kingmaker is reasonably generous with achievements, but relying too heavily on the hint system can cause you to miss out. The game offers you the easy path using the hints, and it would be possible to blast through the game in a couple of hours that way, but not only would you be sacrificing the cheevos, but you’d be missing the point of the game. Kingmaker is most rewarding when you eschew the hints; finally finding that last missing object sneakily hidden in the rafters or picking a lock which initially baffled you. None of the puzzles are so challenging that you should need the hints, but they can get frustrating (and we do get impatient) so it’s nice to have the option of a hint or a skip – just beware the potential for lost gamer score.
Dialogue and voice acting are predictably cheesy and over the top, but manage to avoid crossing the line into Monty Python territory – just. Graphically, you’ll be unimpressed despite the X enhancements, but Artifex Mundi don’t really set their stall out to wow you visually. Instead, there is lavish attention to detail in the various static scenes and hidden object puzzles. They look nice, but this isn’t the title to show off your consoles graphical prowess – it looks and feels like a mobile game.
Overall, this is another slice of the same pie for fans of point and click exploration and puzzles. It won’t win over many new fans, but for fans of the genre or those of you looking for something a little more sedate, it ticks all the right boxes.
Many thanks to Artifex Mundi for the review code.
Developer: Cordelia Games
Publisher: Artifex Mundi
Website: Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne