A Sleeping Giant Awakes
A Kingdom for Keflings, NinjaBee’s latest XBLA title, can be best described as a Gulliver’s Travels meets Molenux’s Black and White meets Fraggle Rock mash-up that throws casual players into a shocking hardcore gaming experience. Do not let the aesthetic deceive, A Kingdom for Keflings’ difficulty is not targeted at children and its challenges could prove taxing for some adults. The assignments to harvest and bring materials into workshops, the managing of the Kefling workforce to be as efficient as possible in delivering these materials, and other various objectives offer a player many choices in how they are to customize their towns and eventually build up to a populated Kingdom. The game works surprisingly well by maintaining a player’s interest through progressive quests and power-ups that show noticeable upgrades to material harvesting and Kefling management. A Kingdome for Keflings is a competent and well-crafted demonstration of casual civilization-esque construction.
The game can cup you in its’ grasp for hours with addictive and rewarding assignments. It is far more than a casual “look at mom play,” game; its’ resource management and emphasis on construction efficiency harkens back to the days of Age of Empires or Civilization I through III.
The Xbox Live Party System (XLPS) still hitches in multiplayer. The game’s music is repetitive and can becoming annoying to some. Context sensitive controls can make an easy task more difficult.
Okay, so in A Kingdome for Keflings (AFK) you play as a giant who has awakened only to find tiny little Keflings crowding around in worship and boredom. The Keflings live in a thriving, uncultivated, paradise that yields forth bounty from its fertile land in forms of trees, stones and gems. The Keflings can be picked up and carried around by the rather large being while flailing their arms about wildly. To say the Keflings are bored, though, is an understatement, they await your every command and will carry out their orders to the utmost, no matter how silly an order may be. Come to think of it, the only other species of beings living with the Keflings are the sheep, usually found on the edges of the world. In any case, if there was one thing that could be said negatively about the world is that it is way too small to form a spanning empire. A good reasoning for the game’s rather small world is that a smaller world promotes build efficiency.
The player is tasked with an admirable starting goal of helping the Keflings build a thriving and vibrant town. Building requires materials that are randomly generated and placed all through out the map. Basic resources like Wood, Stone, and Gems can be crafted by workshops into Carved Wood, Brick and Magic Stones, however resources are not infinite, save for those found on the edge of the map. It is best to think of the Keflings as blank “if-then” statements. Picking up a Kefling sets the “if” command and setting it down sets the “then”. For example, picking up a Kefling and placing it by a forest allows the Kefling to start chopping wood, the “if”; picking up the Kefling again and brining it to the workshop lets the Kefling know where to deposit said wood, the “then”. For each piece of wood harvested, Kefling will make the walk over to the designated spot and deposit their load and set up stockpiles of materials. The player is then given blue prints and begins constructing buildings using the materials that were harvested and placed in the workshops by either the Keflings or the player’s giant sized representative.
Each blueprint is more of a map to help the player discover what is already in the game’s database of buildings. Some buildings can be constructed without the blueprints provided that the player has the appropriate materials to construct it. Blueprints serve the purpose of either showing the player buildings that would produce other types of materials from the basics or show buildings that would add slight improvements to the Keflings’ performance. Improvements to the Keflings enable the player to finish tasks quickly and efficiently.
Tasks range from “put x number of bricks in x workshop” to “build x buildings”. The brilliance of the tasks is that they are the tutorial for the game. For example, the first task is to build a home for Keflings, once completed the game gives the player “love” to put in the house…after love enters the home, Keflings pop out. As the player completes more tasks, he or she is rewarded with love and the player soon realizes that more love means that more houses can be built, that means more Keflings to help with bigger tasks. Each stockpiling task, such as “move X bricks to Workshop A,” teaches the player how to revitalize the supply of a workshop or market with materials very quickly. Completion of tasks seems like achievements all in their own right but the greatest pleasure of the game comes from its multiplayer.
The XLPS is a wondrous feature and with the game supporting Avatars to supplant the goofy looking giants, it is interesting to see your friends romping around your growing Kingdom. The multiplayer works a lot like single-player only that the host is the only one with the ability to access quests and tasks. While the online helpers might be able to complete quests for the host, the host is the only one who can see what objective to complete next. This opens the channels of communication for all party members. It supports up to 4 players in multiplayer, however the most effective number seems to be 2 or 3 (internet connection might factor). Occasionally party members will drop out of games but not out of the party, which signals a networking code error within the Keflings product itself which could be resolved in title updates or downloadable content. Nothing is more satisfying though then playing the game with friends and arguing over which building to tear down or what order the Keflings should be harvesting.
Cooperation is necessary to build up the most efficient town possible; it is an experience that must be shared.
AFK is by far the most addictive multiplayer and single-player game on XBLA since UNO and Geometry Wars 1 and 2.