Well now, another farm management game from 8Floor hits the Xbox storefront, isn’t that the shocker? Before you leave, let me tell you, this attempt isn’t actually that half bad. If you’ve played any of the Gnomes Garden games, you’ll know exactly what to expect. In fact, the concept here is practically identical. That being said, Royal Roads is much more polished overall. That, and the game packs much more content in comparison to its contemporaries. Still, it has to be said, if you’ve not enjoyed the experience of its peers, this is unlikely to sway you over.
There’s a light and boring story buried underneath its play. Royal Roads tells of a princess that goes by the name of Layna, set within the backdrop of some mystical kingdom that you’re not going to give two craps about. Layna, who has spent most of her days carefree, is looking forward to her coronation. When the day finally comes and she’s about to be crowned, an evil witch appears to cut short the celebrations; teleporting Layna somewhere far away. Layna awakens in a haystack, and is surprisingly unbeknownst to everyone around her.
Layna vows to help those that are helping her by aiding them in the restoration of their habitats, and in doing so, will slowly make her way back home and with any luck, find some answers. It’s your run of the mill story, and it doesn’t really get much interesting than that. The bulk of the game’s plot is relayed to you through text boxes and sliding stills, most of which are moderately presented. Nevertheless, you’re not here for the story, you’re here for the gameplay. So, how does it shape up? As alluded to above, it’s very samey-samey, but much better looking.
The game’s world map presents you with one hundred levels of management-based puzzles. You’ll start at one end of the map, and must work through the levels until you reach the endgame. The first dozen levels are very ‘back to basics’ overall, meaning that you’ll spend time here going over the core mechanics to get an understanding as to how everything functions. There’s a tutorial present too, which in truth, and even if this is your first experience with a game of this type, doesn’t really need to be activated. The game is far too simple to fail at.
Much to be expected, you’ll see a collection of accolades that you can earn through play. The majority of these will unlock as natural progression is made, but there’s a few present that push you to achieve perfection; such as earning three stars on all levels. Whatever the case, there’s replay value to be found here. The crux of play is to take on each level and solve whatever problems they throw your way. Starting out, this consists of little more than restoring a farm, repairing a bridge, upgrading a hut, and other simple tasks. Complexity builds up later in.
Soon enough, you’ll be juggling a wide range of tasks per-level; clearing logs and pathways in order to reach a construction site, before using the wares from said construction site to aid you elsewhere. That being said, there really is very few ways to play the game. In fact, the game’s levels oftentimes can only be played via taking very specific routes. For instance, you may be told to build a sawmill, but the only way to reach the sawmill is by trekking on one path that has rocks blocking the way to it. Clear ’em, done. It’s straightforward work, which is really its greatest drawback.
It would have been nice to see more emphasis on the puzzle aspects of play, instead what we have is a game that feels like it’s completing itself with your simple inputs. It rarely gets hard either, just more tedious. That’s how the game tends to provide difficulty, by throwing more jobs at you per-level, rather than making jobs hard to accomplish. Still, one has to appreciate the amount of content within. There’s hours of playtime to be found here, and more on top of that if you plan on perfecting your run. Now, as aforementioned, the game plays as expected.
During the beginning of each level, you’ll be given a list of assignments that you need to fulfill. This is constantly charted at the lower of the screen. To the top of the screen is where you resources sit; to which there are four in total. You don’t have any direct control over the characters that you play as. Instead, you control a cursor and must maneuver each single screen level by clicking on resource points or by clicking on objectives that will spend resources. The faster you complete a level, the more stars you’ll earn. That’s pretty much the sum of the game’s depth.
You’ll always start each level with just one worker, however, you can indeed upgrade your worker’s tent to pull in extra hands. This allows you to complete tasks faster, as you’ll be able to send multiple workers to different points in the level in an attempt to expedite the process. The same can be said about your resource sites, being that any upgraded site – despite costing resources to upgrade – will dish out more resources per-drop. You’ll also get access to a few abilities along the way, such as the ability to speed up movement and hasten construction.
Another of the game’s biggest drawbacks is that it never really evolves past the first hour of play. Despite some slight variation to its environments, much of what you do in the first hour of play will be the same thing you’ll be doing several hours in. Furthermore, the game makes a nasty habit of producing levels that are clearly needless filler. Some twenty levels in, I found that I was merely tasked with stocking up on food, which amounted to little more than idly sitting by whilst my farm produced the goods; rinse and repeat a dozen times and level complete.
Things don’t fare much better as you get even further into the game. Sure, Royal Roads adds in new mechanics, such as the ability to call upon an Elf to open a magical door, but it takes little more than stocking up on the required resources and then simply clicking on the door. Where’s the innovation? Where’s the varied resources? I’ll tell you where they are. Nowhere, that’s where. Royal Roads would have greatly benefited from deeper gameplay elements and a much more varied pool of wares to utilize. Instead, you’ll get a few tools and that’s that.
The game’s attempt to spread these few mechanics across one hundred levels only further highlights how repetitive the whole ordeal becomes. On top of that, the game’s difficulty curve is all over the place. Time and time again I came across levels that actually had me slightly concentrating, only to be met with a succeeding level that required little more than to mindlessly upgrade a few sawmills and quarries. Hopefully we see more depth across the entire board in what the developer brings over next, because as it stands, the tired concept is massively wearing thin.
In regards to the game’s visual presentation, Royal Roads looks a hell of a lot more refined in comparison to that of any of the Gnomes Garden games. Details are sharp and distinct, with a nice portion of variation across the board. That said, and overall, it still looks like a Facebook game in the grand scheme of things, but it’s nice to take to one of 8Floor’s games without seeing visual blemishes or a complete lack of sharpness. Sadly, I cant be quite as forgiving when it comes to the audio design, being that it sounds as generic and as annoying as all of its peers.
What I will say in support of the game is that it handles a lot better than any of the Gnomes Garden games, and indeed DayD: Through Time. Finally, a game from this developer in which cursor movement isn’t unresponsive, and actually feels intuitive. That’s not a saving grace, mind, but I’ll dish out praise where praise is deserved. All in all, this is the best farm management experience that 8Floor have offered to date. Whilst there’s still drawbacks, those of you coming from its related peers will be glad to learn of its fluidity and its mild improvements.
The bottom line in all of this is that if this is your go-to concept, Royal Roads is unlikely to disappoint. If you’re curious about what’s on show, then again, Royal Roads is the best place to start. Just don’t come into this with the expectation that you’re getting anything different to what 8Floor have already released, because you’re not going to get that. Royal Roads, despite its visual improvements, is still a Gnomes Garden game that’s wearing a new skin; one that gets fairly dull and repetitive, fairly quickly. Make of that, ladies and gents, what you will.
Royal Roads is a Gnomes Garden game in a different skin, and as such, the same issues found in those titles are present here. I’ll credit the game for its improved handling, for being visually superior in comparison to its related peers, and for its depth of content, but it still falls rather flat overall. If you’re in the market for a deep resource management game, look elsewhere. If you’re just here for more of the same, Royal Roads will serve you well.
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.