Lost Kingdoms - Staff Retroview  

Lost Potential
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

5-10 Hours


Rating definitions 

   A dark mist has descended upon the lands. Many kingdoms have already fallen to its effects and those that have survived will likely soon follow. In this time of crisis, one of the kings has gone on a journey, but his daughter, the heroine of Lost Kingdoms cannot sit idly by and watch her kingdom suffer. She takes up a rune device that will allow her to summon allies using magic cards and leaves in her father's footsteps.

   Battles are fought in real time and are definitely the primary focus of the game. In them, the princess has in ability to use cards to summon creatures to her aid. There are several types of cards that determine whether the summoned monster appears as a direct ally that fights alongside her, appears briefly for one quick and powerful attack or as a type of weapon. Since she cannot fight on her own, it is very important to choose a deck carefully. While this setup has a lot of possibilities, it is almost entirely ruined due to poor AI. It is often very important for allies to fight alongside the princess and protect her from attacks while she uses other cards. Unfortunately, these summons are often so stupid that they will commonly wander off, fail to even notice the enemy, or even stand around doing nothing while they are being attacked. Since the game relies heavily on AI, it is almost impossible to ignore this huge flaw that ruins what might have been a good battle system.

It's best to avoid fighting enemies directly when possible... It's best to avoid fighting enemies directly when possible...

   Luckily for the player, poor AI is present for both ally and enemy, though it isn't as bad for enemies most of the time. This makes the game a lot easier as enemies will often not bother chasing the princess very far, giving her plenty of openings for attack. Though she can only take a few hits without dying and there are a few difficult places, the game is still somewhat easy with a carefully constructed deck.

   Though there really isn't much that the princess can do in battle, the battle interface is still pretty good. It's easy to quickly throw cards without using menus and control the direction they are thrown with a decent degree of accuracy. There are also several convenient deck manipulation and organization features outside of battle to aid players. There isn't much to make it really stand out in the crowd though. The localization is also decent, but it doesn't really stand out either since dialogue is minimal.

   As one would expect from an action oriented game with minimal dialogue, Lost Kingdoms' story is neglected. There are very few important characters and character development is almost unheard of. To make matters worse, the storyline is very linear and cliché. Backtracking isn't even allowed for the majority of the game.

...too bad summons are as dumb as bricks. ...too bad summons are as dumb as bricks.

   The story is nothing new, card games have been done before, and numerous cards are pretty much the same, but this particular combination still features a decent amount of originality. Real time card-based battle systems are new to the genre, and being unable to attack directly without the aid of summoned allies is a rarity.

   One of the more surprising aspects of Lost Kingdoms is that the entire game takes only five to ten hours to complete. This includes gathering pretty much all of the game's cards. There are very few sidequests to slow the game down and, since backtracking isn't even an option until the end, not a lot to do besides the main quest.

   Visually, the game doesn't have much content to offer either. Many of the enemy designs are pretty good, but most of the game is very jagged and plain. While they're not bad, the visuals fall very short of the bar placed by other games that came out at the same time.

   Much like the visuals, the music is also below average. Despite the short nature of the game, many of the game's tracks get old fairly quickly, though there are a few good ones here and there. The sound effects are also generally lackluster, though they do their job.

   Lost Kingdoms had the potential to contain an excellent battle system, but it didn't work out in practice due to poor AI. The story is severely neglected for the majority of the game, so the flaws in the battle system really stand out. Deck manipulation is a draw, but it isn't enough to hold the game together, especially since most other aspects of the game are below average. While it had a lot of potential, the finished product isn't very good at all.

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