When it comes to finding a decent, yet unremarkable point-and-click hidden object game, Artifex Mundi proves to be a safe bet. We’ve seen some pretty solid additions to the genre from them, and some equally as forgettable ones. Sadly, despite its interesting setting, Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne is of the latter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly enough here to keep fans of the formula entertained for a few hours, at very best, but if you’re looking for depth and ingenuity, you’re not going to find any of those qualities in this game.
The game centers around two royal knights, Edmund and Randall Ulmer. Both Edmund and Randall are tricked into a conspiracy against the crown, and soon find themselves at the mercy of the royal guard. Together, these hunted brothers pursue the restoration of their family honor, uncovering nefarious secrets and misdeeds along the way. The premise is bare-bones, and any story beats that follow suit don’t really have the desired impact. There’s some interesting moments, that much has to be said, but it’s far from compelling.
I did, however, appreciate the game’s attempt at solidifying its back story, but again, these moments were often lost in the midst of me not really giving a shit about anything that was going on. This, by and large, is a problem that dampens these games considerably. There’s just no meaningful connection between plot and player, making the whole ordeal feel somewhat unimportant and uninteresting. It doesn’t at all help matters that the game falls victim to some of the usual weaknesses that we’ve come to heavily expect from Artifex.
Whilst the game’s character animations during cutscenes are better than previous attempts, they’re still fairly laughable nonetheless. The voice acting, on the other hand, can piss off entirely. Several times was I that distracted by the game’s horrendous voice work, that I totally lost focus in the face of its shoddy dialogue. The writing is hardly something to brag about either, oftentimes falling prey to sloppy, cheesy exchanges. I suppose this is easy to overlook if you’re just here for the many puzzles, but it still hits pretty hard nevertheless.
The gameplay follows the same usual tried and tested concept. Players will move through a collection of single screen surroundings, interacting with characters and piecing together puzzles along the way. The scenes are gorgeously designed, giving off a wonderful level of detail and care to attention. I especially commend the amount of variation on offer, with each new scene bringing some jaw-dropping, diverse eye candy. The game’s puzzles sit well with these designs, effortlessly slotting into place and making sense alongside their backdrops.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that the puzzles in this game are better than the games that come before it, but I certainly feel comfortable in pointing out that they’re nicely structured and challenging. Rarely do I ever have to skip a puzzle due to being stumped, but here, I felt as though that’s an option that popped into my mind more often than not. There’s a solid variation to them too, giving fans of the formula a healthy dollop of brain work to get through before they hit the end game, and indeed, the additional bonus chapter.
Puzzles range from your typical hidden objects and item merging, right up to single-line webbing and scenery manipulation. Depending on your chosen difficulty, the game will scale its aid in different ways. There’s quite a good degree of creativity running through the game’s puzzles, further adding a layer of depth and distinction. When all is said and done, there’s roughly four to five hours worth of playtime here, including the short bonus chapter that unlocks once you’ve completed the main campaign. Does this sit well with the price?
Well, if you’re a die-hard fan of the hidden object scene, there’s much more incentive to purchase than those that are dipping their toes in for the first time. Whilst the game does admittedly have quite a bit of charm about it, the short length, together with the issues outlined above, makes it all the more difficult to truly recommend. Sure, it’s got great puzzle work, lush visuals and a worthy soundtrack, but stepping back to look at the bigger picture only shows a game that’s slightly above passable, at very best. Make of that what you will.
Kingmaker: Rise to the Throne brings with it the usual drawbacks that we’ve come to expect from its developer and its publisher. The game’s poor writing and its shoddy voice work makes it hard to get truly invested in the story at hand, which at best, is only mildly entertaining throughout. That said, the game’s exceptional artwork, together with its fairly creative puzzles, collectively provide the journey with its much needed grip.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.