Seven Kingdoms

Ambitious real-time economics marred by lousy combat.

The working title for Seven Kingdoms was Ambition, and that’s an accurate description for both the gameplay as well as the design. However ambitious a design may be, it’s useless without proper execution. Surprisingly, Seven Kingdoms turns out to be a fairly balanced real-time strategy game that manages to emulate other games without feeling wholly derivative. It’s also one of the few RTS games that doesn’t feel rushed..

Snap197_1You start as one of a user-specified number of kingdoms on a randomly generated map. The victory conditions are user configurable, with a Warlords-style difficulty meter that increases or decreases based on the options selected. Seven Kingdoms follows the expansion patterns typical of most games in the genre—build up a home base, get your economy up and running, expand across the map, research new and powerful ways of killing opponents and eventually take out the enemy to dry. It’s the tried and tested RTS formula powered by a novel economic model.

It’s also how you do all of these things that makes it feel different. While it lacks the sense of discovery of Civilization due to a poor technology tree, the build-up phase is fairly complex for an RTS title, with a beautifully abstracted economic system. It’s fortunate the build-up is interesting because the inevitable combat turns out to be somewhat tedious, with the battles degenerating into unusually square formations of visually indistinct units.

Fortunately, combat isn’t the most essential aspect of the game. Much of the strategy involved with the game is in managing an ethnically diverse population. While the cultures, of which there are seven, sound different on paper, you don’t get the feeling of distinctiveness you get from even Microsoft’s Age of Empires. In Seven Kingdoms by contrast, you tend to play the game identically as the Chinese or the Normans.

Snap208_1The AI opponent is somewhat one-dimensional but surprisingly challenging. It tends to break a lot of treaties at unusual times, and will continuously throw spy after spy at you in an annoying manner. While it does a good job at building and managing armies, it has a hard time with economics. This is somewhat surprising, because a valid criticism of the game is that it’s too easy to build up a large cash base. Overall, Seven Kingdoms is occasionally too ambitious, forcing you to manage too many things with lacking information. Don’t expect an easy ride.

System Requirements: Pentium 60 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, 40 MB HDD, Windows 95

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