Imagine a game in which Aveyond meets a lighter version of The Sims. That sounds quite compelling, doesn’t it? It’s exactly what you get with Cute Knight Kingdom, developed by Hanako Games. While the title has some flaws and is rather rough around the edges, it still manages to charm and entertain anyone who likes a shot of good old role-playing gameplay with a ton of character customization.
At the beginning of the game you have to give your female character a name and choose an astronomical sign for her, which constitutes her basic skills and preferences. At her 18th birthday your heroine learns that she is an adopted child, and that her future is absolutely open. She can become anything she wants to, and you’ll influence her destiny immensely by the decisions you make throughout the game.
The idea is similar to the previous Hanako Games title Cute Knight. Cute Knight Kingdom consists of various game elements, including story-driven dialogues, working, learning, and battles. The complex skill system is a big part of what sets the game apart from similar titles. Skills include strength, magic, stamina, cooking, taming or artistry, and you can improve those skills by either performing related actions or taking classes. Those classes are offered for gold by teachers who are situated in settlements throughout the country.
Besides those skills there are two other factors which influence your success at work and in school, namely "sin" and "dream." You cannot improve those attributes, but they strongly depend on your success at work and at school. The "dream" stats are connected to peaceful activities such as cooking, foraging, tending crops or smithing, while the "sin" stats increase by performing actions such as battles or hunting.
Successful battles against bandits, wolves, or large monsters also provide you with Experience ("XP") points. The more points you accumulate, the more popular you will become throughout the country, which offers you even more possibilities and adventures. In battles you can decide for yourself whether you want to cast magical spells on your enemies or to fight them with ordinary weapons, whose effectiveness depends on your magical and fighting abilities.
Work and school are definitely as interesting and exciting as the battles. It’s incredibly motivating and addictive to improve your character as much as possible, and to earn your own money through various jobs, which become more demanding and profitable along with your development of skills. Let’s say you start with baking breads at the bakery in your hometown for five gold a day. As soon as your cooking skills increase you will be offered to decorate the cakes, which pays you eight gold a day, but is also more complicated. Each job requires various skills: for example, smithing takes into account your crafting and strength abilities, as well as your dream-value.
To earn something and finish a working day successfully (one work-cycle takes seven days altogether) you have to fill a green bar by either exertion or concentration. Exertion uses up your health points, concentration your magic points, and you have to be careful to keep balance between successful working/learning on the one hand, and not getting burned out on the other hand.
Depending on your achievements, which skills you develop, and your general gameplay you will get one of many different possible endings after three in-game years. This is great for replay value, although it would have been great if it was possible to continue playing after those three years. There is a lot to discover in the various settlements and the capital city, inside the dangerous dungeons on the outskirts, or by just traveling across the country. The game’s depth and complexity is not apparent all at once, but after playing two or three hours and getting used to its mechanics you will be constantly surprised by new jobs, rare items, new opportunities and additional adventures.
Players should be aware that the game takes a while to get into, and the poor graphics surely don’t help with that. In the beginning you’ll realize on a regular basis that you didn’t develop your character correctly to achieve the goals you have set yourself; other times you’ll simply be unsure of what to do next. The instructions are not as detailed as they should be, and there are no goals set in stone so you are basically on your own – although you will quickly discover that there are enough motivating features that will keep you playing.
Although some of the actions and the constant travelling can become slightly cumbersome and repetitive after ten or so hours of playing, Cute Knight Kingdom is without a doubt one of the positive surprises this month. Don’t be fooled by the first hour of playing, if you are a fan of either Aveyond-like games or love to develop characters, this game is definitely your thing and will reward your patience in the beginning with loads of fun and at least ten hours of playtime – not to mention significant replay value.