Game Review

Rise of Kingdoms – Is It Worth It?

Rise of Kingdoms mobile game by Lilith Games poster.

What qualities distinguish a great leader?

Unfortunately, it appears that historians will never agree on this critical question. Some emphasized the warrior’s characteristics, such as bravery, brute strength, determination, and quick decision-making. Others voted for intelligence, diplomacy, cunning, and education, while others voted for ethical values and moral integrity. But, then, there is also a slew of seemingly insignificant characteristics, such as jousting ability, dancing ability, multitasking, and the ability to resist poison, to name a few.

Whatever your feelings are on the subject, Rise of Kingdoms will give you complete freedom to become the leader you’ve always wanted to be and write your kingdom’s history in gold calligraphy – or blood.

Riches, war spoils, and eternal glory awaited the brute, despot, dictator, benefactor, megalomaniac, or enlightened monarch.

All of this is available to you; say you are willing to pay a specific price. But, lest we scare off the faint of heart, let’s leave the unpleasant subject of payments and tributes.

Development

Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade was initially released in 2018 as Rise of Civilizations by renowned Chinese developer Lilith Games. If you aren’t familiar with their work, here are a few notable titles: AFK Arena, Art of Conquest, Soul Hunters, and Abi, among others. Due to legal reasons, in May 2019, Rise of Civilizations was renamed Rise of Kingdoms by Lilith Games to avoid any potential confusion.

This worked out well for gamers worldwide because they took advantage of the rebranding opportunity to improve their real-time/city building/MMO offspring with several new features. Including a couple of new civilizations and commanders, as well as a completely new and, dare we say, utterly excellent musical score by famous Christopher Tin. And, if you’ve started whistling Baba Yetu, you’re dead on – that’s the guy.

Gameplay

RoK lacks a specific campaign or story to highlight the entire match and seamlessly unify all of its features. Instead, it is a game with an open, non-linear structure. Which, in this case, happens not necessarily to be a bad thing; after all, you’ll be free to write your legend through your mighty gubernatorial deeds without being constrained by the constraints of a screenplay.

Instead, it provides excellent and highly functional gameplay with a slew of unique features that set it apart from other mobile games. However, let’s be clear from the start: despite being advertised in that manner occasionally, the game doesn’t offer anything particularly revolutionary. Rather, it is a deft pastiche of various time-honored ideas we’ve seen countless times throughout gaming history. But, of course, there’s something to be said for games that successfully recycle elements from other titles and combine them into an elegant, functional whole. That’s certainly true of RoK, an RTS/City Builder hybrid that puts you on the throne of a great nation’s ruler, inspiring his people to become more than a ragtag band of primitive barbarians and ushering them into the new age of prosperity.

What is the objective of the game?

Anyone who has played strategies like Civilization or its clones will recognize the terrain. You begin by deciding which civilization you will lead. Initially, there were eight available civilizations, but as previously stated, developers expanded the selection by adding three more. So you’ve got Rome, Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Korea, China, and Japan all represented, along with a few more exotic options such as Arabia, the Ottomans, and Byzantium.

Will there be any more?

Nothing to assume for sure, but given that the gaming community is clamoring for more on Reddit and other virtual forums, it might happen.

Each civilization has a distinct starting advantage in terms of commanders, special units, and bonuses, implying that there is no single best civilization but rather those best suited to specific situations or diverse playing styles. This makes a choice all the more critical because different cultures may benefit at the varying stages of the game. If you feel you’ve made the wrong decision, you can change civilization later in the game. However, because it will cost you a king’s ransom, we strongly advise you to consider your options carefully.

Before you get carried away with grandiose ideas of grandeur, eternal glory, and your empire on which the sun never sets, remember that your beginnings will be modest and that every great leader is – first and foremost – a servant of the nation. That means you’ll be slaving between many tasks that require your royal attention, and you’ll quickly realize that a leader’s most important quality is his ability to multitask efficiently. The foundation of your future kingdom will be a single, relatively undeveloped city with walls that, in all honesty, wouldn’t stop a swarm of angry kittens, let alone Hannibal and his raging elephants. But don’t worry, it won’t last forever.

As in many other games of this type, the level of your City Hall will be the primary requirement for developing your thriving little city. Give it some love and attention, and your fair city will soon have other structures required for the further development and training of your noble armies. Then things will start to look more appealing. You’ll begin by exploring your surroundings, dispersing the fog of war with your scouts, looking for resources, fighting barbarian hordes, and meeting other players.

Don’t play alone

Does the game have other players? Why, yes! The game’s MMO component, which creates a lively and dynamic arena for your exploits, is one of its most satisfying features. You’ll be able to take more military-based courses, with spectacular RTS combats and a plethora of tactics led by some of the 27 heroes currently available. However, you can always go with pacifism, diplomacy, steady development, and a non-pillage and plundering-based economy.

As in a delicious multilayered cake, the ability to join an alliance of like-minded individuals adds a new savory dimension to the overall gaming experience. This is how the game can make your life much easier, allowing you to directly interact with real people, thanks to shared resources and the protection of your allies. Finally, alliance membership will unlock several appealing options unique to each alliance that will enrich the overall gameplay.

Graphics and Tech compatibility

The visual presentation of the game is reasonably good. The graphics are appealing and colorful and are done in an utterly cartoonish style, reminiscent of something famous Albert Uderzo might have done if he had been a Pixar animator. And while the visual designers and animators at Lilith Games did a good job, as usual, they may have gone a little too far with the cuteness this time.

Of course, they did it on purpose to confirm the visual presentation to the majority’s liking. Although most gamers enjoy this type of carefree, slightly caricatured design and puppy-eyed characters, they also accomplished two slightly subversive things that become apparent once you’ve seen through all the dazzling visual spectacle. The result is adorable and pleasing to the eye, with a lovely pastel color scheme, but it’s also quite generic.

So you’ll have the impression that you’ve seen it all before in terms of visuals. The other issue is that this exuberant cuteness doesn’t reflect all the depth and complexity of the gameplay. As a result, it might be better suited to a less ambitious and casual game than this one, which is essentially a severe RTS/City Builder MMO title. Yet, take this remark with a grain of salt, especially if you like this type of presentation because the visuals are pretty appealing. That’s especially true thanks to the so-called “infinite zoom feature,” which (though there’s nothing infinite about it) allows you to zoom in and zoom out with extreme flexibility, whether for tactical or purely aesthetic reasons.

What platforms can you enjoy the Rise of Kingdoms on?

As long as you have a device running Android 4.1, you should be fine, as far as Android users are concerned.

On the other hand, owners of iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch devices running iOS 8.0 or later will be pleased to learn that they can now experience firsthand what it’s like to be a rising nation’s leader.

Finally, there is a way to play this game on PC, which you can learn more about in our guides section.

Free-to-play friendliness

We’ve finally arrived at the dreaded topic of payments in our text. Is it suitable for free-to-play? It’s as close as an unruly barbarian horde preparing to sack the temple, which only a group of helpless vestal virgins defends. If you’ve read what gamers across the internet have to say about this topic, you’ll know that it’s currently a very unbalanced game that favors pay-to-win players. Unfortunately, our experience has been consistent: if you’re a free-to-play user, you’ll struggle to keep up with paying players in the game’s later stages. They’ll build faster, recruit better heroes, and be bigger, stronger, and quicker.

Verdict

Rise of Kingdoms is one ambitious hybrid that attempts – and, for the most part, admirably succeeds – in combining a real-time strategy with city building. Yet to make the final decision even more complex, it adds an MMO component to the mix, which throws your state-building and expansionist efforts into an entirely new dimension. Especially given that there are currently a plethora of alliances to which you could pledge – or refuse – your cause. Finally, all of this goodness is artistically wrapped in a visually appealing, colorful, and eye-catching visual casing that will look great on the screens of your mobile devices. The only major (and we mean a colossal type of “major” – literally the size of the famous Colossus of Rhodes) issue is the balance of power between free-to-play and pay-to-win players. Still, you could easily overcome even that with some tweaking.