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Little King's Story (PC) artwork

Little King's Story (PC) review

"There's fun to be had here, but it's hidden behind poor controls and even worse port issues."

Little King's Story is one of those awkward times when I want to enjoy a game for its pleasant vibe and the enjoyment it sometimes offers, but a variety of technical, gameplay and porting issues end up frustrating me too much. On the surface, there's plenty to like. The game features bright, cheerful tones and tells the playful tale of a tiny king who is working to expand his kingdom. But when the sugary sweetness wears off, all that's left is a shallow game that could easily have run more smoothly and wouldn't have left me shaking my head most of the time.

Little King's Story slightly resembles the Pikmin games, in that there is a leader (the player character) who commands an array of individual units with different uses and purposes, ranging from tree-climbing children to hearty boulder-breaking miners and gourmet chefs. The similarities begin and end there, though, as Little King's Story expands on the concept by having players take their citizens out into the world to seek riches and dispatch enemy rulers, thus taking over new territory.

Little King's Story (PC) image

The pacing is well done, at least. You initially start with carefree adults who do little more than laze about. From there you can turn them into soldiers and farmers, who serve you in battle and unearth treasure, respectively. As you gain new land, more citizen jobs become available. You amass armies for two general purposes: boss battles and exploration.

When you have multiple citizens working the same job, that speeds up projects such as construction or the removing of massive boulders that block your path, but the exploration team still needs a handful of guards or archers. Foreign territories feature enemies, and you'll have to grapple with a a troublesome control scheme in order to survive encounters with them.

As you wander about or battle, the game features a handy aiming line to let you know where units will be sent when commanded to charge, and it will snap to objects or enemies. Unfortunately, keeping a lock on your targets is a finicky process, and your efforts may simply not register. Many times, my aiming line would snap to a fallen log instead of the enemy I meant to attack, or it would focus on an enemy positioned on a ridge that my archers couldn't even hit. The king, who you control more directly, will sometimes focus appropriately on a target and even backpedal or strafe as necessary. Other times, though, he'll lose interest and venture in some other direction the minute you try to secure better positioning. Battles end up being far more tedious and frustrating than necessary as a result, and that's doubly true of the boss battles where citizen deaths rack up quickly due to obnoxious enemy patterns.

Little King's Story (PC) image

Barriers such as dirt mounds and fences also can ruin a directed charge, since your citizens aren't smart enough to walk over the dirt or around a fence in order to head for a specified target. Elsewhere, cliffs end up being a death trap. Your citizens will more or less follow your movements when in the correct formation, but they still can take a tumble and suffer damage from the fall. They're also unable to climb back up until you find an earthen ramp in order to retrieve them. And don't get me started on citizens being left behind as you ascend stairs.

The experience isn't helped by poor combat mechanics that amount almost entirely to you running your citizen units into enemies so that they can wail on them furiously. That, or they'll be knocked away and you must order them to retreat. Then you get to repeat the process ad nauseum. Except for adding archers to your army, the only strategy that seems to work is to wait for an opening, charge forward for a strike and then back off before the enemy can counter. Even relying on units with higher health stats, such as lumberjacks or miners, doesn't change the outcome much. It all comes down to how much damage you can deal, and how much of it you can withstand.

Perhaps I'm expecting too much from a game about a tiny king who lives in a kingdom filled with whimsical rivals and mischievous enemies, but the awkward controls and the lack of any real depth left me bored during too many of those precious moments when I wasn't frustrated. Still, there is a gleeful silliness in battling a boss to William Tell's Overture, which leads to a point I'd like to stress even though I've mostly vented up to this point: Little King's Story is a joyful, pleasant affair, despite aging poorly since its Wii debut. It has heart, charm and a desire to make you like it.

Little King's Story (PC) image

Unfortunately, that commendable desire is at odds with the port job, which opened up a handful of new issues ranging from random crashes to the desktop, to visuals that stutter on occasion and even brief lockups. You're also unable to change settings in-game. Keyboard and controller support is active by default, but my earlier complaints about the control scheme could easily have been circumvented if it were only possible to also aim with the mouse while using the keyboard (and in all directions, not just the cardinal four).

Putting the controls and the port issues aside for a moment, though, you're still left with an experience that is generally disappointing in spite of its abundant charm. You can find treasure to upgrade your kingdom, and citizens and armies too, but there's only so much that you can do to spruce up your developing kingdom. It feels good to invade a hostile territory and turn it into a friendly, fun place for your citizens to live and work, but then you have to devote time to managing it. Still, taking a stroll through a new section of unified land and watching my citizens run around and take care of their daily business around buildings I had erected did function as a nice reward. There are just too many headaches and annoyance caused by the minor issues that stack up along the way, and those serve as a major barrier to any lasting enjoyment.

Its theme, visuals, charm and easily grasped systems mean that Little King's Story can be fun at times. But grappling with controls in combat, dealing with poor pathfinding AI and a lack of real depth left me exasperated, even before the port issues were factored into the equation. I can only recommend the PC port if you're hungry for a game in the vein of Pikmin and are drawn to the pleasant presentation offered here. Otherwise, I can't in good faith tell you to bother with this release in its current state. There has been mention of fixes and patches to come, but personally, I've already had my fill.


Dinoracha's avatar
Freelance review by Lucas Goulding (September 02, 2016)

Dinoracha is a world-renowned internet famous Let's Player, voice actor, writer, reviewer, e-sports competitor, masterful stream host and man of the people. These may or may not all be gross exaggerations.

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