You would be forgiven for believing that Gnomes Garden 3: The Thief of Castles is a cheap Facebook game port, à la FarmVille or something to a similar effect. If that’s your assumption, you’re half right. This game is not available on Facebook. So, it’s a cheap game? Well that wasn’t really the point I was trying to make, but yes, talking specifically about the cost of the game, it’s cheap, weighing in at the sum total of just £3.99/$4.99 or region equivalent. The point I was making is that the actual game is cheap, right across the board.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a fairly decent experience for those that enjoy the genre, but even then, I highly doubt it’s going to turn many heads. The premise is as daft as you expect it to be, but don’t worry if you haven’t played any of the prior games, because in honesty, you’re not missing out on much and the story is totally isolated. This means that you can dive straight into this third title in the series without needing any knowledge whatsoever of its predecessors. On that front alone, I will back this game up for being quite accessible.
Though, accessibility will only get you so far. The story tells of the return of the Gnome Princess, who presumably had a few issues with some trolls in one of the prior games. Whatever the case, now that the Gnome Princess has befriended the Queen of trolls and made peace, she’s making her way back home. She’s not greeted with quite the welcome she was expect, however, as an evil devious Warlock has stolen her castle, had away with it, as well as the royals. Now, the Gnome Princess must venture out on another adventure.
Gnomes Garden 3: The Thief of Castles is a resource management game that places far too many of its eggs in one basket. The game takes place over the course of a handful of distinct environments, each categorized into several levels. These levels climb in difficulty and complexity as you journey through, with each coming with their own tasks and requirements, such as; stocking up on food, restoring a farm, repair fishing nets, build specific structures and so on and so forth. It’s simple to understand, I’ll give it that much.
During gameplay, you’ll see a collection of gathered resources along the top of the screen. There’s also some handy tips next to this chart that you can utilize using the tutorial. Outside of that there’s a star-meter on the left side of the screen, offering a total of three star-ranks per level. Finally, at the bottom of the screen, you’ll find your overarching missions. In regards to the UI, Gnomes Garden 3 is clean, clutter-free and to the point. The presentation is indeed leaning towards that of a touch-screen game but it gets the job done.
The aim of the game is relatively straight forward. Using a cursor, you’ll maneuver a team of workers around each level through a point-and-click mechanic. Depending on what your missions are per-level will determine what actions you need to take. For instance, the opening level requires that you stock up on food and restore the overall farm. This consists of picking up a few resources from around the level, which are often necessary to fulfill the main tasks, all whilst harvesting food and repairing a food hut to open up more resource.
As aforementioned, the difficulty and complexity of each level will gradually rise as you proceed. This much is made apparent on level 2, which has you planting trees, building some structures and chasing away a giant troll. The main loop here is that your tasks tend to feed into one another to some degree. Building a sorcerer’s hut will will grant you the ability to chase away the troll through the use of a magical spell, but in order to access that hut, you’ll need to farm wood to construct a foot-way to overcome a water-filled sinkhole.
The game remains quite lax to begin with and you’re free to pursue whatever pathway you want to take, in whichever order you please. Though, later on in the game, there’s a steep pressure to think carefully about where you want to focus your resources. Some additional help can indeed be sought, such as building a sawmill to produce more wood. This adds a nice touch to the game’s pace and frees you to chase after other requirements to bolster your resources, but the biggest problem here is that the gameplay never truly evolves.
I get that this is a very cheap game and as such, we shouldn’t really expect too much from it, but still, it would have been nice to see some more structure here. The truth of the matter is that this is pretty much all you’ll be doing throughout the entirety of play, despite the occasional new feature or function. Speaking of the game’s visuals, there’s very little to get excited about. I’ll point out again that it looks like one of those Facebook games that you play around in whilst you’re waiting for a buddy to pop online. There’s diversity, but not much.
I’ll extend the same opinion to the game’s audio, which sits quite well with the game’s theme, but does little to stand out. When all is said and done, for its price, you cant really grumble. There’s enough content here but everything just feels as cheap as its cost. If you fancy yourselves a resource management that offers a few hours worth of fun, and you can forgive the repetitive nature of the game, Gnomes Garden 3: The Thief of Castles is certainly worth a trip. Just don’t expect to see anything here that you haven’t already seen elsewhere.
Gnomes Garden 3’s asking price is a generous one, and I wont deny that there’s more than enough content to justify its cost several times over. However, that doesn’t cover up the fact that the game’s core loop just doesn’t maintain its initial excitement throughout. This is fun in short bursts, but everything you’ll see here has already been done a thousand times before, to a better degree, I might add. Pay a cheap price, get a cheap game.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.