So the Keflings are back. It’s been a while since we’ve seen them. Their last and only other appearance was in the XBLA title A Kingdom For Keflings, which came out back in November 2008. The game was pretty well received and I for one really enjoyed it. When NinjaBee announced that the Keflings would be getting a sequel, in the form of A World Of Keflings, I was very excited.
Like most fans, I was pleased with the gameplay experience that A Kingdom For Keflings offered and I was curious to see how NinjaBee would build and expand upon it. Would A World Of Keflings turn out to be A Kingdom For Keflings 1.5, or could NinjaBee successfully churn out a full blown sequel?
When you first load up the game, prepare to be assaulted by a number of pop-up messages. A World Of Keflings rewards you if you’re an avid XBLA gamer. Instantly I was notified with several notifications telling me I had unlocked various in game rewards for having played certain XBLA games. I received rewards for playing games like Cloning Clyde, A Kingdom For Keflings, Outpost Kaloki X, some Twisted Pixel games, Raskulls and a few others. It was a nice way to start the game and a welcome reward from NinjaBee.
For the most part, A World Of Keflings works well as a full blown sequel. For those unfamiliar with the premise, it’s nearly identical to the first one. NinjaBee President Steve Taylor told us in his interview that the game could best be described to newcomers as the following.
It’s fundamentally a city-building simulation, but you directly interact with the inhabitants of the kingdom through your giant avatar character. Collect and manage resources, assign Keflings to work, build pieces, assemble them into buildings (following building blueprints), and make a happy kingdom! That’s it in a nutshell.
I think that just about sums it up. You play as your Avatar (which isn’t as cool as it was back in 2008), and your goal is to help a race known as the Keflings. They’re tiny little people and they need the help of your big strong Avatar to build things for them. They’re willing to help by harvesting, mining and collecting resources, but you have to do the building part.
Each building has a blueprint, clearly outlining which parts you’ll need to build and put together in order to create the desired building. For each part, you need a certain amount of resources, which your Keflings harvest and collect for you. For instance, you may need to build a kitchen as a part for a house, and the kitchen requires 2 pieces of wood. To get the wood, you would assign a Kefling to the lumber job and he/she would harvest and collect wood for you. You would then assign another Kefling to take the wood from the forest and put it in your factory, and you would then be able to use it to build. Also, if you keep a Kefling on a job long enough, you can upgrade them, allowing them to perform their job more efficiently.
The number of buildings you can build is enormous, some examples are houses, schools, factories, sculptor’s office, town hall, castles, keeps, looms, machinists, nurseries, lumber mills, inventor’s labs, chillshop, snowman shop, shaman shop etc. There are a ton of things to build. All buildings also have a purpose, any given building you build is for a reason and it will benefit you in some way. For example, houses populate the city with more Keflings, schools educate your Keflings so they can perform more advanced jobs, sculptor’s office makes statues, looms convert wool to cloth, lumber mill converts logs into planks, the witch’s cottage cooks up potions for you to upgrade your Avatar with etc.
Now this may all sound simple but it gets complicated, trust me. It starts off simple enough, but with any game of this nature, once you start building up the kingdom, it becomes a lot more of a strategy game and you definitely have to think and plan well in regards to how you want your kingdom set up.
This is where the Keflings come in, they can’t do much but you can assign a task to each one. They can either work in the buildings (nursery, machinist, town hall, sculptor’s office etc), they can be transporters (transport cloth to the contractor’s office, transport rocks to the rock factory to be turned into cut stone etc), or mine/harvest the resources (in the sheep field harvesting cotton, in the forest cutting trees for lumber etc).
As your kingdom builds up, the managing gets intense. Let me paint you a picture of some things going on in my current game. I currently have three Keflings cutting down trees for lumber, they put the lumber in a pile, than I have assigned one Kefling to bring the lumber from the pile to the basic workshop and another Kefling to bring more lumber from the pile to the lumber factory to be turned into planes of wood.
At the lumber factory I have one guy waiting for the lumber to be turned into planes of wood and his job is to transport planes of wood from the lumber factory to the carpenter’s office. That is how I have set up my lumber/wood sector. And that’s just one area of one kingdom. Trust me, this game definitely requires some strategy.
The game is all about managing and micro-managing. It is not a question of beating the game, you will beat it, it’s hard not to. The question really is how well you beat the game, how quickly and efficiently you beat it. If someone is not efficient it may take them 4 hours to get enough materials/build enough to get blue prints for the keep and it may take someone else only 2 hours if they’ve set up their workflow correctly.
That is the fun in the game, setting up your kingdom to work quickly and efficiently. As I have stated before as each building gets built the game gets more complex and more levels of management are required. You have to use your Keflings wisely and make sure they are all working together to benefit each sector of the city.
That is essentially the whole game, assigning Keflings to various tasks, getting the necessary items to build the building and then building it. It may seem repetitive, and it is but it’s addicting and fun. The best part is playing the role of manager and developing a system to get the city built. That is really the meat and potatoes of the game. It’s awesome to watch your kingdom grow and see all the Keflings walking around, performing their tasks and everything coming together.
So the core game is more or less the same as what we saw in A Kingdom For Keflings. That being said, there are a number of tweaks, changes and new features, that justify A World Of Keflings as a proper sequel.
For one, instead of just one kingdom, we now have three kingdoms to explore. We get the Forest Kingdom, the Ice Kingdom and the Desert Kingdom. The best part is, each one has their own unique resources and building parts. This gives each kingdom its own feel and look and you won’t grow tired of building the same things over and over since each kingdom has a different set of resources and buildings.
In terms of story, NinjaBee promised that there would be more of a story here than in A Kingdom For Keflings, but I’m not sure they made good on that promise. It’s still fairly simplistic and really isn’t terribly involving. Like in the last game, you’ll carry out various quests for various Keflings but none of it really amounts to much of a story. Quests usually consist of building ‘X’ number of a certain building, converting X number of one material into another, building something specific for someone etc. You’ll meet some colorful characters, but it doesn’t really add up to much of a plot. There’s a flimsy storyline trying to tie it all together, but don’t go in expecting much. It isn’t a big improvement from the first game.
And that’s totally fine, I honestly don’t care about the story in a game like this. I was just a bit disappointed since NinjaBee did promise us more of a story since A Kingdom For Keflings literally had nothing in the way of plot.
One big addition to A World Of Keflings is local multiplayer. As Steve explained in his interview:
It features a dynamic split screen system that lets two players play on the same screen if they’re near each other, but it dynamically goes to split screen when they’re far apart. A second local player can join and leave on the fly, just like in LIVE multiplayer.
I’m not a huge fan of local multiplayer but if it’s your thing, you’ll probably be pretty pleased with how the game handles it. When it comes to XBOX Live, the game has players joining other players’ worlds and helping them build, or alternatively you can have someone join your world and help you build.
Sharing collectibles is another nice feature that was added on. Basically collectibles are decoration pieces that you build in the various kingdoms, they can be used to customize and decorate buildings. Sharing collectibles means that you can send your collectibles to friends and vice versa, essentially you can trade collectibles, in hopes of eventually gaining them all. There aren’t a lot though and I unlocked 99% of them in just a few hours of play, but still, it’s a nice addition.
Much has been made about the special cross game features between Microsoft’s Games For The Holidays. The features aren’t groundbreaking but they’re a welcome addition nonetheless. Having played Raskulls, I was able to build a special Raskull house and have Raskulls inhabit my kingdom, which was kind of cool. Another example of these cross game features is in Raskulls, if you own A World Of Keflings, you can play as a Kefling which is also kind of neat.
Like I said, the features don’t really change the game, they’re just nice little perks. Having not payed ilomilo, I can’t comment on the cross game features it includes, although I believe if you have ilomilo, you can build an ilomilo house in A World Of Keflings and the characters from ilomilo will inhabit your world.
If I had to voice a few complaints about the game, they’d probably be the same complaints I had with the last one. As you build more and more, the kingdom becomes really crowded and congested. Not only is it tough to walk around and navigate between buildings, but it also leads to a lot of instances where you will select or pick up the wrong thing, especially because the Keflings themselves are so small and hard to pick out.
Another complaint that carries over from the first game is that with so many buildings, in such a small area, it’s hard to remember where all the buildings are. Most of the buildings look pretty similar and their names only show up when you go up to them. It makes finding specific buildings a bit annoying. Of course the main buildings will be easy to find since you’re always using them but occasionally you’ll get a quest that asks you to find a building that you don’t use often. You’ll have to walk around the kingdom checking all the buildings until you find it. It’s not a huge deal and doesn’t happen often, but it’s just a little annoyance that didn’t need to be there.
Anyways, at the end of the day, just like A Kingdom for Keflings, A World Of Keflings is an addictive, fun and interesting game. The managing and micro managing is a ton of fun and seeing your kingdom come to life and all the Keflings working together is awesome. NinjaBee has improved and tweaked a number of features that improve the game. A lot of them are just little things you’ll notice in the gameplay if you’ve played A Kingdom for Keflings, but overall, they do make the gameplay a lot smoother.
At 800 Microsoft Points, A World of Keflings is easily worth the price. A Kingdom for Keflings was great and the sequel is an improvement. It didn’t fix all the shortcomings of the first game, but it fixed enough of them, and with the new features, gameplay improvements and general tweaks, A World of Keflings turns out to be one of the most satisfying XBLA games we’ve seen in a long time.