SAN FRANCISCO – The Nintendo Switch has no shortage of indie games, but they tend to skew toward platformers and adventure titles. Nintendo's plucky little system could use an infusion of strategy games – and that's just what offbeat publisher Raw Fury wants to deliver.
Kingdom: Two Crowns and Bad North are both making their way to Switch later this year, and each one balances strategic thinking with procedural gameplay, and the risk of losing it all.
I had a chance to check out both games firsthand at GDC 2018. Kingdom: Two Crowns is the latest entry in the minimalist Kingdom franchise. I went hands-on with the game back at PAX West, and since then, the game has seen a number of refinements, including some tremendous new units: the fire catapults.
For those who have never played a Kingdom game before, the concept is remarkably simple: You start off as a pixelated king (or queen) on a horse, and come across a few coins. You find you can spend these coins to build up a small settlement. Investing in villagers nets you additional coins, or you can build up walls and train archers. These become necessary when night falls, and hordes of shadow creatures attack your village. You must survive as long as you can, learning the game's arcane-but-logical rules as you go.
Kingdom: Two Crowns adds multiplayer to the series, and I didn't realize quite how useful I'd find it until I actually sat down with a partner. After some initial miscommunications, we found that we could each explore different corners of the map, expanding our civilization much faster and collaborating to find far-reaching treasures. We still got trounced three days into our adventure, but the developers assured as that's normal for novice players.
Bad North, on the other hand, hews much closer to a traditional real-time strategy game. You play as a group of Celtic warriors, trying to defend a series of islands from pernicious Viking invaders. Each level is a small map with a number of squares, where you can position swordsmen, pikemen, archers and more as they fend off the deadly Scandinavians.
What sets Bad North apart from other RTS titles is its sheer simplicity. You won't be pumping out units and building up an economy while trying to find an enemy base and exploit its weaknesses. You'll simply control a handful of units, which you can upgrade over time, and position them to repel warriors as Vikings ships come in. Selecting a unit to move slows the game down to a crawl, giving you lots of time to decide, and units will automatically fight enemies within proximity.
The game is simple, but not easy, since knowing how to position your warriors, and which Celts excel against which Vikings, are critical to victory. But each time you play, the game will generate a new set of warriors and islands, ensuring that no two paths through Bad North are quite alike. If you fail to defend the islands, your next trip through may be more manageable.
Neither game has a hard price or release date yet, although both developers hope to have their titles out before the end of 2018. Now you'll be able to exercise your mind on-the-go; not just your fingers.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.