Tainted Kingdom is a lean, tactical warfare game from Krinlabs, the creator of Sonny. You play a young nobleman assigned to a front-line unit in a lamentable war, only to find that your superiors are not who they seem. The gameplay is taut, playing out as a real-time dance of rock-paper-scissors match-ups. Do you have the skill to lead in battle?
The game alternates between a map of the battlefield and a diorama view of individual skirmishes. At the battlefield map, you can choose to attack an adjacent outpost, fortify one of your own, cultivate the land and get a bigger tax and population yield, or build troops. Building troops involves dropping a small, sunk-cost into a building that houses certain types of units, with accompanying upgrades, and then spending population and gold on those various options. Building a farm allows you to convert population into gold, or vice versa. The game's skirmishes involve spending a unit by dragging its icon onto one of three rows, the unit then walks across the screen, fighting any enemies it encounters. Your goal is to get a certain number of units across the screen safely, doing one point of damage to the enemy base, before you run out of deployment points which limit the number of troops you can enter into battle. All this is slightly more complex than what you're used to, more so than Sonny for example, but once you get your head around it, it's fast and easy.
Analysis: Tainted Kingdom is a solid game with great production values, yet it suffers from a few notable flaws: The game could be better balanced; the down-time buffer that keeps you from deploying soldiers at the same space consecutively could be slightly lower; and the blocking effect could be more lenient. The free hit allowed for by a soldier dying could have been done away with simply by letting troops walk past dying soldiers, as it is it's somewhat cheap. The plot is also left unresolved, like in Sonny, and it uses narrative devices that feel manipulative in the context of a game, where you expect to have some control over the course of events. It would also be nice to have surviving soldiers re-enter your ranks, rather than having to recruit everyone for a single skirmish each, which is kind of silly when you think about it. However, the mathematical poise of what remains under these scars is still striking, and the trade-offs you'll have to make on a moment-by-moment basis will keep you jamming the hot-keys.