Lost Kingdoms II - Staff Retroview  

Lost Allies
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

8-15 Hours


Rating definitions 

   A dark mist has descended upon the land. 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 magical 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 the 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 appears as a type of weapon for a limited number of attacks. 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.

Just sit back, watch, and try not to get in the way Just sit back, watch, and try not to get in the way

   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 before dying and there are a few difficult places here and there, the game is still somewhat easy to complete 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. While these features are nice, there isn't much to make it really stand out in the crowd. The localization is also decent, but the dialogue is so minimal that it's hardly impressive.

   As one would expect from an action-oriented game with minimal dialogue, the story of Lost Kingdoms is severely neglected. There are very few important people, 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.

Even he's computer-controlled Even he's computer-controlled

   The story is nothing new, card games have been done before, and the majority of the game's 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 having to fight with the aid of summoned allies rather than taking on enemies directly 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 add to that 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. Some of the enemy designs are decent, but most of the game is very jagged and plain. While they're not awful, 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, a number 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.

   Lost Kingdoms had the potential to contain an excellent and innovative 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 on its own, especially since most other aspects of the game are below average. Lost Kingdoms had a lot of potential, but the finished product isn't very good at all.

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