Hero of the Kingdom II (PC) review
"A casual, risk-free game to relax with when actual RPGs or strategy games become too frustrating."
When I first noticed these games, the graphics caught my attention, they seemed to look just right for a fantasy RPG. But they’re casual games, not actual fantasy RPGs, so I dismissed them a moment later… Until this one was given away for free, at which point I decided to grab and start it. That was mainly because I thought that I’ll finish it pretty quickly and at least have a second finished game this year, at that point my expectations being largely limited to not being frustrated. However, I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would.
Yes, the first things that made it appealing were the expected ones, the graphics and the fact that you just move along, with no stress, risk or frustration, since there’s no way to lose or get stuck. Those traits are specific to casual games and therefore not typically found in those that I’d normally be interested in, but when managing frustration and striving to do things just right tends to be such a struggle, I tend to consider a low difficulty as a positive aspect as long as the game is a good source of escapism. Going this far and ensuring that there’s no way to lose may be too much if it’d happen on a regular basis, but it may feel like a breath of fresh air if experienced sparingly. Also, while this is not a game that would be notable thanks to its story, and even less so when it comes to the world or characters, I could actually say that it does well enough in terms of the overall atmosphere, at least as long as you keep the fact that it’s a casual game in mind and tailor your expectations accordingly.
If you’re not used to such games, you may worry that you’ll get stuck, miss something, use or sell a necessary item or otherwise become unable to continue, but that’s not the case. The limiting factors are gold, strength and reputation, but in fact it all boils down to gold, and plenty of items can be bought and sold at the same price, so you can sell something in order to get enough to advance and then recover any needed items when you’ll afford it. But if that feels like a risk, there are also a few ways to earn money by trading, buying from one place and selling in another, possibly with a crafting phase in between. Making a large amount of money in this manner may feel tedious, but if you want to avoid feeling that you’re taking even any potential or perceived risk, you can spend a little time and do it this way. And you can “stock” strength as well, resting repeatedly, so if you want to, you can earn the necessary amount for the available tasks, including for the food needed to rest in order to have the needed strength, then rest as many times as necessary, and then just move along, without really caring about the order or supposed difficulty of the tasks, with the exception of those that come with a spike in the reputation requirement, which can be taken as advancing to another part or chapter of the game.
Completing a task simply means meeting its requirements, and that even applies to fighting, so it’s never a question of attempting something; you either can do it or see what you’re missing before being able to. And there’s nothing you can permanently miss or lose, so while you can “finish” the game, in terms of the story, while you’ll still have some available tasks or still miss some achievements, you can always continue or have another look, even after the game is “finished”, until you’ll manage to do whatever else you mean to do. And I’ll also mention that you can get all of the achievements, including those that may appear to require finding all of a certain item, enemy or event, without actually doing so, because there are usually a few more available than the number required.
That said, I wasn’t keen on the hidden object part. At least the objects aren’t really hidden, but just small, so it wasn’t actually hard to find everything… With the exception of one quest that I was left with after everything else was completed, so I ended up searching for the solution and finding that I should have actually been looking for a tiny, tiny object that I couldn’t have possibly known to look for. And what was rather annoying was that the next phase was pretty obvious, so I kept returning and wondering how to activate the spot where I was quite certain that I should be clicking, and then whether there was a bug, but in fact I had to find that tiny object before being able to move on to that next phase.
Speaking of quests, a journal would have been useful. There aren’t that many screens and the available tasks are clearly marked, so it doesn’t take long to see what you can still do if you happen to forget, but you shouldn’t need to do that. And you also shouldn’t need to hover over each thing that you need for a task and don’t have enough of in order to see how many you do have, and therefore how many you’re still missing, when that number could have easily been listed directly. And I’ll also mention here that I think that the listed strength requirement is wrong in a couple of places. Also, your gold, strength and reputation could have been displayed at all times, on the border of the screen, instead of requiring you to open the inventory whenever you want to check… And the border is probably also where the buttons that are in the corners should have been, even if only to make it no longer feel like the corners of the image are covered.
Those are all minor matters that I wouldn’t mention, and perhaps wouldn’t even notice, in other games, but these little things become more visible in a casual game, with far fewer elements and systems and little depth to speak of, plus that the UI is more important when that’s all you interact with, not having any actual player character. On the other hand, something that does tend to be noticeable in any game is the point after which the developers seem to have started rushing, and in case of Hero of the Kingdom II that comes once you sail away from the mainland, which is much more detailed than those other areas.
Otherwise, I really didn’t like the fact that you can’t save freely or use multiple slots on one profile, the game saving automatically when you exit. Admittedly, since you can’t lose or get stuck, there’s no real need to go back to any earlier save, but it still makes me feel really uneasy. And there’s also the fact that, if you meet the requirements for a fight or to gather something, it happens automatically, as soon as you click, so you don’t get to see what you’ll use and choose whether to go ahead or not, as it happens for other tasks, and sometimes you may not want to use something at a certain moment and might therefore wish to be able to return to an earlier save. But the more obvious risk of being unable to freely save is losing progress in case the game stops unexpectedly. Yes, you can return to the main menu and then continue right away, in order to create a save, but that’s somewhat jarring and players are much less likely to do that than they are to simply save when the option’s provided, and I don’t recall ever doing it while I played the game.
One last moment when I wished to have been able to load an earlier save was when I suddenly found that I had “finished” the game without actually meaning to. Sure, it’s not just that it’s no problem if that happens, since you can just continue after you get thrown back to the main menu, but the game actually expects that, the final part of the cutscene coming after you do so, before you’re allowed to get back and finish anything you had left unfinished. It is rather unpleasant that there’s no indication that you actually did complete all the tasks and quests, however, especially considering that lack of a journal.
Since I don’t usually play casual games, I can’t judge it from the point of view of someone who does, but I will say that, considering my expectations, Hero of the Kingdom II was better than I thought it’d be. It looks like a fantasy RPG and, within its limitations, may even be said to have the atmosphere of one, but it does away with any stress, risk or frustration and lets the player just advance. It should allow free saving and have a few quality of life improvements, but overall, it’s a nice way to relax in an active manner, perhaps especially if you’re used to playing complex or difficult games… And getting frustrated by them.
Community review by Cavalary (November 04, 2023)
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