The first time I played the Genesis port of Peter Molyneux’s Populous, one of the very first-ever God games, I really fell in love with the genre. The Black & White games followed after that and even though I severely lack the strategic insight to excel at real-time strategy epics like Total War, I appreciate the intimate management of city building games all the same.
It’s a big reason why the metropolitan creation of Sim City and army management of Heroes of Might & Magic dominated so many of my weekends as a kid. There’s something magical about lording over an area, telling tiny people what to do, and watching your plans come to wondrous fruition.
At the core of a game of Kingdoms and Castles is that desire to build a castle and expand across regions, but there’s also a medieval flair that helps set it apart and resemble the likes of the Stronghold series. You can see in the trailer below that in addition to building cities and castles, you’ll have to contend with ravaging Viking factions — similar to the Barbarians found in the early phases of Civilization games.
Kingdoms and Castles is being created by Lion Shield, an indie group made up of Peter Angstadt and Michael Peddicord. When it first launched its funding campaign on Fig, asking for just $15,000, VR wasn’t in the minds of the developers at all yet — that wasn’t added until the $55,000 stretch goal. They’re currently designing the game with optional VR support enabled with the Vive and its motion controllers in mind.
“We both love all the great city builders both old and new (like SimCity, Caeser III, and Banished) and wanted to add our own take to running a little world, specifically where building a castle would be important and meaningful,” said Angstadt in an email interview. “It’s a holistic kingdom experience – you grow your town over many hours, but also build castles to defend it. The bond you build with your town and the threats you must protect your people from are what make the best part – building castles – really meaningful.”
Part of the appeal of playing a game like this will be the ability to lean in and inspect areas, pick up and interact with things using your hands, and to look up at the sky or down the landscape at other areas. Since the camera isn’t locked into a fixed top-down angle, it will be much more immersive and flexible to move around the environment in VR.
“VR support for this project is a bit of an experiment,” explained Angstadt. “City-building hasn’t been done yet in VR, and we’re excited to see what can be achieved and how the gameplay can be improved with a VR option. From our preliminary development with VR in Kingdoms and Castles, the sense of immersion is unmatched compared to any city sim game we’ve ever played before. We want our players to feel connected to the world they are building and the people that they govern. Bringing the top down builder to VR seems like a natural and yet very exciting next step. Standing in the Kingdoms and Castles world with birds flying around, clouds overhead, and people at your feet – it’s fantastic.”
For those unfamiliar, Fig works a lot like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, except you’re not just pledging funding, you’re also acting as real investors in the project itself, complete with potential returns on that investment. The platform is also specifically focused on funding only games, which makes it unique.
“We chose Fig because they are focused purely on funding games and offer a lot of direct support in making the campaign successful,” said Angstadt. “Since we’re a two-person team it’s great to have allies in helping the game get made.”
One of the other aspects you might notice immediately is the striking low-poly art style. The design is growing in popularity as of late, especially among indie studios, but it’s not something we’ve seen in city builders much. Typically these sorts of games seem to adopt a modern art style with actual buildings or a more traditional fantasy aesthetic due to the inclusion of castles and melee-wielding soldiers.
That’s not the case with Kingdoms and Castles. “The low-poly look is definitely making a renaissance,” said Angstadt. “I think it just takes time to percolate through all the different genres, especially those that are more difficult to make (like simulation games).”
Kingdoms and Castles is currently expected to release later this year with both VR and non-VR support. You can keep up with development by following the game on Steam Greenlight, Twitter and visiting the official website.