Review: A Kingdom for Keflings

As one of the very first titles available with avatar support for the NXE, A Kingdom for Keflings had some lofty standards to live up to. It had to be fun, cute, and impressive. And guess what – it fit the bill. Though I’m a little late to the party I can most definitely understand why many of my Live friends list and those I communicate with regularly are still playing it from time to time. NinjaBee has done a great job with creating an accessible, relaxing RTS-lite title that most anyone can enjoy.

Your very own avatar that you created to be tied in with your gamertag stars in the title as a veritable giant. Upon just starting off, you have a few Keflings (think more intelligent and humanoid Lemmings) following you to do your dirty work. Your responsibility: build the patch of green into a respectable kingdom that you can rule over while taking care of the Keflings who follow you. While you don’t have to play as your avatar, the fact that you can is a welcome addition. No matter who you choose out of the available giants, you will be able to perform the same feats. You can smash buildings, work alongside the Keflings, all the while towering over the Keflings as your Xbox Live avatar.

The beginning of the game allows you one small town square that’s halfway built. Your first assignment is to harvest enough resources such as lumber and rocks to build it the rest of the way. As you build more and more facilities, different resources become available, as well as more Keflings to help you do your bidding. Having the tiny titans available to do what you yourself cannot do since you’re a hulking Avatar is quite useful, though you may grow tired of being their only pillar of support. I’m sure this is how Gulliver must have felt when interacting with the Lilliputians.

As you shear sheep, chop wood, build via blueprints, and babysit your Keflings, you will soon grow tired of playing. That’s why it’s best to have a nice sitdown with A Kingdom for Keflings in short bursts much like you might enjoy your DS or PSP on the go. As entertaining as it can be to watch your avatar hulking over the diminutive Keflings, building and collecting materials only stays fun for a short period of time as the tasks meander into becoming repetitive.

Though its gameplay can be a good diversion and its charm thick, AKFK does have its share of graphical issues. A good bit of slowdown is brought on when there are too many activities going on at the same time. It’s then that your kingdom begins to slowly crawl, and for an XBLA game, that’s a pretty glaring flaw. If you’ve ever enjoyed Odin Sphere or have sat through The Last Remnant, then you’ll know exactly what I mean. When the game slows to a snail’s pace it’s difficult to keep patient to see it through the chugging bits. As far as sound effects go, casual acoustic guitar pleases. It’s quite refreshing to hear such relaxing music in what should be a frantically-paced kingdom-building sim. However, your Keflings rather utter a word. I suppose it’s great that they know better than to complain, but it would have been welcome had you been able to conduct conversations with them about the state of their homes that would likely not exist had you not stepped in to lend a hand.

You may be turned off initially because this is essentially an RTS with the exact same goals and mechanics that its big-brother titles offer, such as Warcraft and (dare I say it?) Starcraft. Erase those notions from your head, as from sharing the same genre, those games have absolutely nothing in common. There are no enemies to thwart and there is no true way to lose. If you’ve somehow managed to screw up a building, then reduce it to its basic components to start over. Because of this, A Kingdom for Keflings can provide many hours of stress-free fun that anyone can enjoy. However, if you’re looking for an easier RTS that has enemies, consequences, and more substance, you’ll want to look elsewhere. This game was created primarily with the casual gamer in mind, and casual gamers can usually withstand design flaws more than any other kind. Still, if you find the idea of playing as your avatar nice, go ahead and pick this one up.

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