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“To the fields peasant!” the lord bellows his orders and his people obey. One woman trudges off to the east, getting her boots muddy in the swamp before arriving at her new post in the wheat fields a few days later. The lord commands another to the quarry, a three day journey that, while on the road, ends at the most back breaking labor of the province. The third peasant is assigned to the fields in the south, this area designated for the sheep. He takes up the crook and marches off to his new life. “You!” the lord bellows to the fourth and most lazy of the peasants. “you’re coming with me.” Conscription to soldierhood and being sent off to the wastelands was the ‘reward’ for those foolish enough to be unproductive. The lord’s orders were final.
Welcome to Rising Lords.
If I had told you that Rising Lords was on my list of games I knew about, I’d be a dirty liar. The beauty and frustration behind indie games and reviewing them is sometimes, a great game exists, but a reviewer like me doesn’t see it because the time and resources needed to get the word out and eyes on it isn’t achievable when the dev team is focused on making their game. So it was a surprise yet not surprising that Rising Lords essentially fell into my lap a few days ago (by way of Evolve PR, thank you) and I quickly scooped it up to see what it was all about.
Rising Lords is a turn-based game of strategy and management. Start and manage your province, delegating workers to various resource generators, and build your province up to fight others (and defend from others as well). The management system is in-depth and intricate, and the best way to figure out what everything does is trial and error.
The game looks like a medieval tapestry come to life, with great detail taken in every aspect to represent this aesthetic. All images are hand drawn 2D and from the management piece to the in-game events to the cards, each art piece is really eye-catching and visually pleasing. The music adds to the ambiance and was excellently crafted for the period the game conveys.
Getting into battles and defending from others is a whole different ball game, and where the choices made throughout province-building really pay off. Development of stronger soldiers and upgraded abilities (in the form of cards) benefit the player on the battlefield. The battles take place on the same hexagonal tiles that the management does, moving soldiers across the plains, swamps, forests, and hills to wage war. Cards are drawn and used to enhance units, whether it be a decoy to prevent damage or a war cry to demoralize the opponent (a relevant and valid strategy for victory, as demoralization can add up and cause enemies to retreat).
This is not a traditional review of a game because the piece I played was an alpha representation before the game hits Early Access on Steam, so it is not a finished product. In lieu of a score or opinion, I am suggesting the reader takes a look at this game as well as pointing out what I would like to see come from the full experience.
First, Rising Lords is in dire need of a tutorial. There is a video to accompany play (a YouTube video for now), but a traditional tutorial within the game itself at the beginning of an initial scenario playthrough would be tops, because, much like other strategy and turn based games, there are many intricacies missed if they’re not pointed out (or tested thoroughly).
Second, a short story mode (see Armello or similar game) for something that can be played to get someone into the game before leaving them to their own devices (more like a Civilization game). This could even go hand in hand with the previously mentioned tutorial if need be, so it’s not just slapped on like a bandage, but I know the game would flourish with these additions.
As a minor tweak, maybe just for me personally, having the cursor shrink when a card is selected for more info would make life easier for a player reading fine print, as the large gauntlet cursor fits the theme but definitely obstructs a player from getting a better view of a card.
Rising Lords is going to be something I sink a chunk of time into in the future, and I’m always excited when the indie game fairy drops an unknown gem into my lap. The brothers at ArgonWood have something noteworthy on their plate, and I encourage you to find it on Steam and give it a shot if medieval or turn-based games are in your wheelhouse.
I’m not rating a game that isn’t fully released yet, but check back later for coverage of the full release!