Making an idle game isn’t as easy as you think. Yes, you’re asking the player to do almost nothing, but you have to give them exactly the right amount of almost nothing to do. If you get it wrong, they’ll finish doing almost nothing and be left with nothing to do.
Don’t worry – this will all make sense later in the review.
Kingdomtopia: The Idle King makes the difficulty of idle game design obvious by sometimes getting it wrong, leaving strange lulls in the frantic tappy action. But for the most part it’s a charming and different idle RPG with a refreshing emphasis on story and characters.
The plot opens with the invasion of Kingdomtopia by an unknown assailant. The kingdom is reduced practically to rubble, and the king is killed in battle, leaving you, his son and heir, to rebuild under the guidance of your loyal advisor Pug.
This involves a lot of tapping. Your kingdom is arranged vertically along a scrolling map, with different businesses appearing in order of their value and productivity. At the top, there’s your humble farm, while your divine temple sits all the way down at the bottom.
Each one costs gold, but generates gold once you’ve bought it. You can upgrade them, too, which costs yet more gold and generates yet more. Hundreds become thousands and then millions, billions, trillions, whatever AE means, and so on in the happy exponential loop we all know and love from idle games past.
Build, Destroy, Repeat
It doesn’t take long to buy all of the revenue centers in Kingdomtopia: The Idle King, along with the mayors to collect the revenue for you, but that’s just the beginning. There are also renovations and heirlooms – buffs that you can buy with gold and gems – and much more besides.
Kingdomtopia: The Idle King has a proper story, told in chapters, and once you’ve earned enough gold you can open the next chapter, which generally introduces a new gameplay element and resets your progress to zero.
The third chapter introduces Offerings, too, which work in pretty much the same way. Once you’ve earned enough gold, you can make an Offering, exponentially increasing your earning power at the expense of your progress so far.
So progress isn’t really about building up the kingdom of Kingdomtopia, which repeatedly happens in the blink of an eye, but working towards Offerings, which takes quite a while, and unlocking new chapters, which takes forever.
If you want a rough idea, we’ve been plugging away at Kingdomtopia: The Idle King for about four days now and we’ve only got as far as chapter 3, out of 15, with more to come. This game will keep you busy for a long time.
Thankfully, your businesses aren’t your only source of revenue. You can earn gold by fighting with invaders in short, sharp tapfests, intercept paper airplanes for gold and gems, and skip time to instantly generate the amount of gold it would normally take you half an hour or more to generate.
Plus, you can spend $1.99 on a banner that attracts a tribute from a neighboring kingdom for every five minutes that you’re playing, and you can dramatically increase your earnings by watching ads every time you tap a paper plane, punch an invader, perform an offering, and so on. We found ourselves doing all of the above to speed things up.
The Pace Ebbs and Flows
There’s plenty to do in Kingdomtopia: The Idle King – particularly just after you’ve reset your kingdom and the upgrade thresholds for businesses are quite low.
But we’ve found that each cycle tends to involve a lull when everything grinds to a halt, or at least slows down.
You’ll just sit in your tower, tapping on businesses to upgrade them whenever you can afford it while listening out for the swoop of a paper airplane or the trumpet call of an invader battle to break the monotony. These come regularly enough, but the cycle is markedly uneven in its pacing.
These are the moments when it might be a good idea to put the game down and let the progress happen in your absence – it is an idle RPG, after all – but the lure of the next Offering and the next chapter is strong, and your progress is so much more rapid while you’re playing.
Presentation-wise, Kingdomtopia: The Idle King is a solid contender, with polished cartoon visuals, an unobtrusive looping soundtrack, and several neat prompts like the aforementioned plane swoops, invader horns, and the little ding that tells you there’s something available to buy or claim.
It’s a solid, addictive, and well-made idle-RPG. The pace sometimes feels uneven, with periods of frantic activity punctuated by spells when you’re waiting for something to tap on, but the overall journey is addictive, compelling and fun.
Just be ready to exercise some patience, and accept that you’ll be in it for the long haul if you want to unlock every chapter.