Review: Hero of the Kingdom

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It can be hard to find a good game to chill out with. Even the friendliest-looking games can confound you with tricky jumps or brain-teasers when you don’t need it. At the same time, games lacking that excitement can easily become dull or unengaging. That’s what makes Hero of the Kingdom so special, the fact that it can sit in a perfect place between relaxing and interesting, just engaging enough to keep you going but not so much as to ever stress you. It accomplishes this through a rousing adventure full of charm and discovery, and entirely absent any way to lose.

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You are but a simple youth, living with your simple father on your simple farm. One day he goes off to market, and while you’re out picking berries and chopping wood bandits burn it all down and take off after Dad. As a budding protagonist you’re not about to take that lying down, and so begins a grand journey that will lead you all across your quaint little kingdom. Everywhere you go you’ll find peasants in need, boulders and fallen trees in your path, and wildlife threatening your quest. But the land is also rich in resources, and with enough work you’ll find everything you need to overcome your challenges, find your father, and unravel the dark secret that plagues the kingdom.

This is an adventure game, first and foremost, played out on static scenes of pastoral villages and rugged wilderness seemingly captured from a strategy game like Stronghold. There are no units to move here, though, as everything is accomplished by clicking on hotspots. They’ll pop up bits of dialogue and available tasks, everything from chopping trees to picking corn, building boats to slaying orcs. You’ll collect resources in your journey which are expended to complete tasks, and everything can be traded in one way or another to get the tools you need to progress. Gold can buy food, food can restore energy, energy can complete jobs for gold, and so on.

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It almost feels like a trading game at times, though everything is laid out to allow you to progress towards your goal rather than turn a profit. Despite the hero appellation you’ll be spending most of your time helping the seemingly helpless peasants with their problems. You’ll gather berries for an herbalist, help a miller produce flour, repair bridges with construction crews, and train soldiers at a military camp. There are battles at key points but they play out the same way, as chains of tasks that require resources, this time swords and arrows and potions instead of hammers and planks and rope. None of this is timed and there are no moves you can make that will end in failure or lock you out of victory, so you can relax, explore, and experiment all you want.

Exploration is one of the better aspects of the game, adding a much-needed layer of gameplay atop the trading and questing. Every scene has a load of hidden resources to pick up, everything from mushrooms and eggs to hidden treasure. Some of these can provide shortcuts through certain quests, while others can open up whole new quests entirely. There are several parts of the world that are inaccessible unless you complete side or secret tasks, and are in fact entirely optional to the main story. That was what sucked me into Hero of the Kingdom more than anything, the fact that I could wander away from my duties and find an enchanted island on a lark.

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While this isn’t the most technically accomplished or deepest game, it’s found a place in my heart as one of my favorites. The graphics manage to be just as clear and detailed as they need to be, and the soundtrack is just rousing enough for the grand journey before you. It’ll take around three hours to finish, plus another hour or two if you want to go for full completing, which feels like the perfect length for a game like this. The appeal of a no-pressure quest through such a fully-realized world can’t be overstated, allowing you to be a hero of not just the kingdom but the people with minimal stress. This is one of the most relaxing and rewarding games I’ve played on Steam, and it’s an easy recommendation to anyone looking for a fun way to chill out and game.

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