2.5 out of 5. What Kingdom of the Dragon lacks in polish, it makes up for with heart. If you're interested in amateur game design, KOTD offers a fun world to explore, and near impossible challenges.
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How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. The general feel is more ''Souls-Like'' than Metroidvania, which makes me hesitate to give it a ''High Fit'' opinion. Like Salt and Sanctuary, you can die from falling too far.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~8 hours
Review Info: Kingdom of the Dragon was played on Steam.

More Info

Developer: Hook Echo Software
Publisher: Hook Echo Software
Sub-genre: Souls-Like
Features: 2D Platformer, Melee Combat, Environmental Storytelling, Level-Based, Blood and Gore
Difficulty: Brutal
Linearity/Openness: Open Low Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Steam
Release Date: 2018/02/01
Available Languages: English

Store Links

    Steam    

Buy Kingdom of the Dragon if you like…

  • Amateur Games
  • Nearly impossible challenges, but usually fair
  • Rewarding Exploration
  • ▼ Review continues below ▼

    Since this review was written, Kingdom of the Dragon has received a major patch, which this review has not been updated for. At some point in the future I will revisit the game to check out the changes, but in the meantime please check the link below for what’s new. I am especially pleased with the addition of the Lore Books and potentially the bug changes will rectify some of the cons I mention in the review.

    Version 2.0 Patch Notes

    It wasn’t very long into my play through of Kingdom of the Dragon that I thought to myself, “Do I mark this game as ‘Not Recommended’, and explain why you SHOULD get it, or do I mark it as ‘Recommended’ and spend most of the review talking about why you shouldn’t get it.” I’ve chosen to mark it as Recommended on Steam for the sake of gaming the Steam Statistics system, and because I believe this game deserves some attention.

    KOTD is very rough around the edges. If you’re the type of person who gets upset at any sort of collision detection issues, or wonky hitboxes, you’ll probably hate this game. With in mind I should make a full disclosure of my biases going into this. Growing up I had access to a terrible game making program called “Klik & Play”, and a cousin and I would use it to make terrible games. This was my first foray into what would eventually become my main hobby; Game Design. Since then, I’ve always been interested in amateur gaming, and even though during my college years I had a PS2 with a vast collection, and I was involved in World of Warcraft like everyone else, I probably spent an equal amount of time playing games on Armorgames.com and Kongregate, just to see what budding game designers were coming up with. This was before Xbox Live Gold and eventually Valve really gave the Indie Developer a place to sell their work, but, similar to the Indie Scene as we know it today, these flash games often had experimental ideas or took risks that you simply didn’t see with the AAA industry. The reason I bring all of this up is because between my own experience with game design and spending a good amount of my time with other beginner’s works, I have developed an appreciation for amateur game design. I can look past a lack of polish and see the workings of great game design.

    And Kingdom of the Dragon certainly lacks polish. While the pixel art is beautiful at times, a lot of the assets look like they were made in MS Paint. When you make contact with walls or ledges, you often don’t make a clean and predictable stop, but instead jank around while the program tries to figure out what to do with your avatar. Occasionally enemies and projectiles will come at you at a trajectory where you’ll just have to take it in the face. Sometimes the level design commits horrible sins – notably the game’s first boss breaks what I would consider a rule of Metroidvania style level design. That rule is “If you’re going to have upgrades obtained through exploration, make sure you can reasonably leave an area in case the player finds that it’s too hard and wants to look for upgrades before coming back.” That first boss has a bonfire right before it, making it so you’re stuck unless you go through the boss. It is also the the first taste of just how difficult the game can be. Often perfect performance is necessary, or you get to start all over again from wherever you saved last. Especially as you get later into the game that could mean restarting a pretty long journey. The second boss took me at least 20 tries to defeat, which is probably more than most sane players will put up with.

    In spite of all of these problems, I never felt like the game was unreasonably unfair. I’m not going to say it’s fair all the time – I ran into a glitch here and there that took my character’s life, and that kind of thing is certainly frustrating for the wrong reasons. But those kinds of problems were the exception, not the norm. Most of my deaths, that is most of the challenges I had to overcome, were resolved by good ol’ fashioned “git gud”. I genuinely wanted to see what else the game had to offer, and because of that I never reached a point where I stopped having fun. It’s legitimately satisfying to explore around the various islands. The level design has an almost “Souls-like” quality to it, and even though you don’t have a map system, and even though the backgrounds were often colored with flat textures, I never really felt truly lost even if occasionally I didn’t know exactly where I needed to go next. The combat system isn’t great, but it’s saved by a spammable dodge roll (I rolled 12,000 times in my playthrough!) and the fact that attack power upgrades ludicrously double your attack power with each one you find – meaning that as long as you keep vigilant with your exploration most non-boss enemies will die in a single hit as your AP reaches over 1000 from the single digit you start with. Even though death is frustrating, you also don’t lose anything permanently except the progress you made since your last save.

    With high difficulty comes high satisfaction for completion, if you have the right mindset. And for the reasons I already mentioned I had a favorable mindset going into KOTD. If you have a similar interest in amateur games, then you are the person I’d recommend this game to. If you’re looking for a masterpiece, at a similar price point you can get Hollow Knight, or even Axiom Verge or Ori and the Blind Forest on a sale. But maybe you’ve already played those, or like the idea of seeing what a programming team of just 2-4 people can come up with when they tackle a project that’s perhaps too ambitious for their resources. I personally enjoyed it, quite a lot. But I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of that enjoyment is for personal reasons. At least for me, Kingdom of the Dragon makes up for what it lacks in polish, with heart.


    Final Score

    2.5/5

    Scoring system overview


    Metroidvania Breakdown

    Combat
    – 2

    A slow wind-up sword and a bow are your only useful options, and enemy attacks are sometimes frustrating to dodge even with a functional dodge roll

    Platforming
    – 2

    Your knight understandably has a lame short hop for his only verticle movement to start, and often platforming needs to be frustratingly precise

    Exploration
    – 4

    Exploration is fun and satisfying, and also completely necessary to mitigate the game's high difficulty.

    Puzzle
    – 2

    The occasional puzzle exists, but for the most part simply exploring the game's castle's, pits, and caverns is the main focus

    Story
    – 1

    Basically non-existent. You're a hero, there's a dragon. Kill it. What more do you need in a video game?

    Graphics
    – 3

    The Pixel Art is beautiful at times, and other times it feels like the assets were made with a basic paint program

    Music
    – 2

    While the music occasionally sets a good mood with its oldschool PC bit-sounds, often times it's just a short tune followed by silence.

    Replayability
    – 1

    There is basically no incentive to play this game more than once, unless you just feel like experiencing it again


    Want a second opinion? See what other reviews say:

    Steam Reviews
    All Time: Mostly Positive
    (74% of 27 Reviews)