Hey, you! Go Be a King! In fact, let's do one better. Be a King 2! The casual strategy/simulation series from developer 300AD has returned, boasting excellent visuals, lots of house upgrading and farm building, and tons of ruined villages to spruce up, all in the name of making the medieval world a better place to live. Awww!
You play as the young prince, son of the late king whose brother took over rule of the kingdom 18 years ago. The new king isn't exactly a nice guy, and he can run a kingdom about as efficiently as he can breakdance to polka music, so it's up to you to travel around the land, fixing up destitute villages so the citizens can, you know, eat and stay alive.
Much like the Build-a-lot series, Be a King 2 turns the focus away from gathering resources and allows you to concentrate on the bigger picture. In this case, your job is to increase the population of each village, ensure there's enough food to go around, and keep the town safe from attack (in addition to level-specific goals). You do this by building houses, farms, barracks, and more advanced versions of the above later in the game.
Your wallet isn't unlimited, though, so you have to do some mild resource management to facilitate repairs and new buildings. Gold, wood, stone, and workers are all you have to keep an eye on. Gold increases every few moments via tax collection. The more citizens you have, the more cash you'll nab. Other resources can be ordered through the menu at the bottom of the screen, and as you unlock new, more complex structures to build, you'll have more resources to take care of as well.
One unique feature of the Be a King series is the ability to hire heroes. Instead of just watching your villagers bumble back and forth with vegetables in their hands, you can hire heroes from the barracks and send them out on side quests. These optional missions can net you gold, bonus materials, and other goodies. Heroes aren't always successful in their adventures, though, so it's important to weigh the cost with the risks and rewards of the extra quest.
Analysis: Be a King 2 is an exquisitely constructed game with an excellent visual presentation that never fails to impress. Apart from the in-game artwork (landscapes, buildings, maps, etc.), you'll catch a lot of character portraits that look like they belong in a book of fantasy artwork.
The game's design falls somewhere between a casual building game and, thanks to the combat situations, a real-time strategy title. This mixture makes for an exciting experience that's much more engrossing than your typical simulation, and it's always cool to slay dragons and defend villagers from wolf attacks.
Unfortunately for fans of the series, Be a King 2 doesn't offer many new features beyond the first game. The levels, quests and objectives are entirely unique, of course, but if you've saved one village from poverty and starvation you've saved them all. The pacing of the game is still a bit slow for my taste, knocking the challenge factor down a notch and leading to several "come on, let's get to the game!" moments.
Apart from its minor difficulty issues, Be a King 2 is an excellent simulation title that's a worthy successor to the original. Great artwork, simple presentation, and enough content to keep you churning away for hours.