Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

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Trev
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Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by Trev » Sat Dec 05, 2009 4:43 pm

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I like the idea behind ‘Kingdom’, at least in theory. Take an animated fantasy world like Dragon’s Lair, but eliminate it’s fast pace. With more time to sit and enjoy the animation, and gameplay relying less on quick reflexes and more on thought, it would seem to translate into a better game. Perhaps that is true, but I don’t know if Kingdom is the game to demonstrate this. Not that it doesn’t have enjoyable elements mind you, but its drawbacks are hard to overlook. Let’s explore, as we enter the fantasy world of Kingdom: The Far Reaches.

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The sense of fantasy is certainly well realized by Kingdom. At the same time however, this is one of its weaknesses. Little attempt at originality seems evident. Instead, you get to witness minor variants of stuff you’ve likely seen, read, or played many times prior. Critics knocked this game for its clichéd approach, and the complaints seem justified. Still ... it gives the game a familiar and, dare I say, comfortable feel. Reminds me (and surely many others too) of the Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch as a kid.

Long story short, you take on the role of a young adventurer named Lathan. During your journey you’ll traverse all manner of storybook locations and meet a who’s who of both friends and foes. The quest (given by your mighty, but aging mentor named Daelon) is to find relics needed to take down the Torlok’s evil empire. Again, probably nothing you haven’t seen before. It boils down to whether or not you or sick of said story.

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The animation in Kingdom seemed promising at first. This isn’t to say that it later totally disappoints, but there are a few things to note … things which do bump the visuals down. While the opening title is displayed in full screen, the introduction and all actual game play to follow is done in a reduced size setting. :? I’m not sure if this is a result of Kingdom being a port of an old laser disc game or not (seems unlikely, especially as the Cd-i version is full screen) but it did give me pause. Would have been fine for a Sega cd game but I, rightfully, expected more from my 3DO.

Another thing worth noting is breakup of the animation … While never overly distracting, I again have to pause and wonder why it is present at all? Slow scenes shouldn’t have it, at the very least. 3DO can certainly produce much cleaner visuals than this … just look at the Don Bluth games.

Repeating animation … hmmm? Not so much a visual disappointment in the traditional sense, but still a letdown in my opinion. Necessary perhaps, but it does tend to yank you out of the moment. Example – An initial scene may play out, say with 10 seconds of dialogue. Return to that location later at it will play identical footage, but new dialogue will be in place. The problem is that it’s often longer than the initial conversation! This makes sense insofar as the story will have progressed, but it forces 1 of 2 things. Either a quick reading of the dialogue to squeeze it in the allotted footage time, or dialogue that is skimping on details. Either result distracts, and makes the repeating animation stand out that much more (oh, and concealed lips are the norm in an attempt to mask this :lol: ) Budget cuts I guess.

Despite the aforementioned gripes, I’ll again emphasize that the animation has an old school air that I did enjoy. Strictly from an artistic point of view it is really quite good, and the technical hiccups shouldn’t take away from that. Sleepy villages, towering castles, forest nooks, everything you’d expect is there, and drawn rather well. A fun game to watch. :)

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Audio wise, Kingdom offers some fairly rich music and sound effects in tandem with some sporadic voice acting. I suspect that some of the voice talent in Kingdom might have taken on more than one role. :wink: Nevertheless, the characters that are done well stand out more than the weaker ones and it’s worth noting that the main leads (Lathan & Daelon) are both pretty good.

Control is a piece of cake in Kingdom, and made much more enjoyable in my opinion thanks to having eliminated the need for quickness and timing. (if you are worried this makes the game easier though, hold that thought til the next paragraph) There are a few occasions where fast button taps are required (signaled by a shrinking hourglass on the screen) but these are the exception, and as such, are more enjoyable than if they were the status quo. Maybe one of the most notable things about Kingdoms control scheme is the fact that it extends to not just controlling the actions in a location, but actually picking which location you’ll go to next. A novel idea, especially for an animated game like this, but …
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Again, in theory this sounds good. Goodbye linear adventure, or so it would seem. The truth of the matter is though; this freedom often results in just more ways to die. :( Kingdom does have a very set course you should follow and any deviations from this, though allowed, will usually result in failure (albeit with amusing clips) This helps to compensate for the lack of challenge stemming from the slower paced control, and may in fact surpass it. With only three tries to complete the game successfully, you can’t afford too many missteps. Yet, it’s hard to avoid missteps when so many choices are available that result in them. I was surprised to discover the Kingdom was a much bigger game than I had anticipated, one that will take a fair amount of time to play through. Heck, when you compare it to other animated games, Kingdom is epic!
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The puzzles don’t share the aforementioned challenge however, and though this may disappoint some it does lend a sense of balance to the game. I’ve encountered nothing that was even moderately difficult. One example … I’m standing in front of a stone that has ancient writing in an unknown dialect. How can I read it? Oh yes, I have a scroll that can translate it. :wink: It’s easy sailing with Kingdom’s puzzles.

Overall, Kingdom seems to be a mixed bag. I did enjoy playing it, and any who enjoy an old fashioned adventure or animated type games surely will too. Yet, I can’t recommend it to all, as the aforementioned flaws really do knock it down several pegs. I applaud the game for its novel approach, I really do, especially given the limits of the genre, but I don’t think it reached its ambitions as intended. Weigh the pros and cons carefully before you decide to proceed with this game ... a game that might be more fun to watch than play.

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-Trev
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Post by Trev » Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:47 am

Added some nice pics which I think really enhance this review, especially since (like Dragon's Lair) the visuals are such a big part of the game.
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Post by Martin III » Thu Feb 23, 2012 2:43 am

I was actually just looking into this game a couple days ago. Discovering that most of the FMV isn't full screen was a turn-off, though, as was the extremely washed-out color palette. Everything looks so bland. It's a shame, because I too thought that the relatively non-linear gameplay sounded quite promising.

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Post by FrumpleOrz » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:08 am

I had this one as a kid and I could just never quite get into it. I'll give it a shot again if I ever see a copy for cheap I guess but I dunno. It seemed like it could've been something better than it turned out.

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by goldenband » Tue Dec 17, 2013 7:19 am

Trev wrote:The puzzles don’t share the aforementioned challenge however, and though this may disappoint some it does lend a sense of balance to the game. I’ve encountered nothing that was even moderately difficult. One example … I’m standing in front of a stone that has ancient writing in an unknown dialect. How can I read it? Oh yes, I have a scroll that can translate it. :wink: It’s easy sailing with Kingdom’s puzzles.
Jeez, I'm glad you sailed through, but that hasn't been my experience. My fiancée and I picked this one back up tonight, after having bailed on it about a year ago, and it took us over two hours just to make a tiny bit of progress over what we'd done last year. That progress doesn't seem to actually mean much -- we only unlocked one new location, and it's just a healing spot -- but we felt like champs. :D And we're only playing on Apprentice mode!

When a puzzle actually presents itself unambiguously, it's pretty easy to solve, but there are tons of places where either a character doesn't seem to want to help us (and offers no obvious clues as to what he/she needs from us), or we're under attack and none of our available items have any effect. And there are items that the manual suggests are associated with a particular location, but when we go there, nothing's available to pick up. :?

Oh well, we'll figure it out in due time (so don't give me any hints!). But it's yet another "bang your head against the wall" FMV game of the kind with which we've been having bad luck lately (Daedalus Encounter, Sherlock Holmes for Sega CD, Dracula Unleashed for Sega CD...). BTW we were unamused that one puzzle, talked up by several of the characters, appears to amount to nothing more than an advertisement for the next game in the series (unreleased on 3DO but published on Mac/PC). :evil:

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by Trev » Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:09 am

I think the actual puzzles themselves are easy ... but there's lots of trial & error before you can get to a point where you can even attempt them. Time sensitive type things which makes it a game that isn't really challenging, but nonetheless difficult.

You wouldn't want hints from me anyway, as I don't think I've played it since posting this review. :wink:
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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by goldenband » Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:21 am

Trev wrote:I think the actual puzzles themselves are easy ... but there's lots of trial & error before you can get to a point where you can even attempt them. Time sensitive type things which makes it a game that isn't really challenging, but nonetheless difficult.

You wouldn't want hints from me anyway, as I don't think I've played it since posting this review. :wink:
Heh, fair enough. But in any event we ended up going in circles again tonight, so I gave in and peeked at a walkthrough. I only needed to read the first two lines of it to discover what we'd missed: the location of the Crystal. :oops:

It's both patently obvious and completely obscure -- we had no idea there was a second path at that location, and it was the one place where we hadn't bothered to mouse over every single spot (either that, or we assumed the left-hand path was the same as the right, since the name's the same!). And since the game gives no real hints as to its location, we figured we had some puzzles to solve yet before we got near it. Little did we know it was something we were supposed to discover right away!

Anyway, with that in hand everything else was trivial, and we tore through the rest of Apprentice mode in just 10-15 minutes. Wizard mode next! And then, rumor has it that Santa's bringing the Mac version of Shadoan II for Christmas this year, but don't tell my fiancée...:D

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by goldenband » Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:01 am

Wizard mode done and beaten! It took us about three hours, and we had no real problems figuring out any of the puzzles. The timed sequence was a little tricky, but the game drops such heavy hints about respawning items that it was all feasible. Funny that we got so utterly stuck on something completely innocuous, and then tore through the rest of the game twice over.

Actually, a lot of things make more sense on Wizard mode, especially the woodsman/lumberjack -- he's totally unhelpful on Apprentice mode, so we assumed we had to be missing something that would get him to help us out, and spent way too much time revisiting him. In Wizard mode, the scene with him is longer, and its purpose (which involves a goal that's omitted in Apprentice mode) is established.

BTW that makes Kingdom: TFR the 12th 3DO game I've beaten. I came very close to finishing Peter Frankl's Tower of Puzzle earlier this year, so maybe I'll fire that up again to make a lucky 13.

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by Austin » Thu Dec 19, 2013 8:49 pm

goldenband wrote:I came very close to finishing Peter Frankl's Tower of Puzzle earlier this year, so maybe I'll fire that up again to make a lucky 13.
I'm glad to hear you made some progress in Tower of Puzzle. I played a few of the puzzles then put it down.

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by goldenband » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:26 pm

Austin wrote:I'm glad to hear you made some progress in Tower of Puzzle. I played a few of the puzzles then put it down.
Yeah, I got all the way to the final puzzle, and then something came up and I packed it in. That last puzzle is very nasty! If/when I do beat the game, I'll probably write a review for the board.

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by Austin » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:06 pm

goldenband wrote:If/when I do beat the game, I'll probably write a review for the board.
That would be great! I don't think many (even here) know much about this game.

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by Trev » Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:54 am

Austin wrote:
goldenband wrote:If/when I do beat the game, I'll probably write a review for the board.
That would be great! I don't think many (even here) know much about this game.
I bet more would be interested if they knew how English friendly the game was. I know it surprised me when I first played it ... such a relief to play an import w/o having to deal w/copious amounts of Japanese text. I look forward to the review.
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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by goldenband » Mon Dec 30, 2013 1:28 am

Just posted a review of the Mac OS Classic version of Kingdom II: Shadoan, the sequel to this game that was never released on 3DO (though it did come out on CD-i, apparently). It doesn't belong in the 3DO section, but I thought it might be of some interest.

Also, to keep continuity with the above posts, my Tower of Puzzle review is here -- though the two people who mentioned interest in it have already commented on it. :D

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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by T2KFreeker » Thu Feb 27, 2014 4:06 am

Yay! It's nice to see some more nice reviews from you Trev. Sorry, just getting caught up. I actually liked Kingdom The Far Reaches back when I played it. Mind you, it has been a bit. I have had a copy of the game sitting with my other 3DO stuff for a bit, but have been busy trying to beat Monster Manor again to jump back into it. I don't know, I can't say it killed me too much to see the animation not be full screen, although I thought it would have been nice to clean them up some as it was mentioned above, the washed out colors in some of the sections I remember was a bit irritating.
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Re: Review - Kingdom: The Far Reaches

Post by Trev » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:56 am

Thanks for the kind words. :)
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