For some people, the idea of ruling their own monarchy sounds pretty sweet. You have your own kingdom, your own subjects that love and worship you, and other Lords either envy you or fear you. Sure, on the surface it sounds wonderful, but the real question is can you handle it?
In recent years, games exploring Kingdom building/ruling have been on the rise. I know Civilization has been around for over 2 decades, but each recent game like it has had their own spin on the concept. A popular trend for Youtubers currently, especially with the recent release of Civ 6 , and since I’m rather horrible with making decisions that affect others outside myself, I decided to try my hand at one such title.
I heard I should check out GameJolt, a site that I just heard about recently, where I’m sure everyone else has known about this site since it came out. Don’t judge me, for I have lived a sheltered life. I looked for the free titles, or early access, as I don’t have the money to spend on Civ 6 on a whim. What I found was the game Sort The Court, which I had seen Youtuber Markiplier play, so I had some basic impressions going in and it seemed fun to try out.
Developed by graebor, Sort The Court starts you off as any Kingdom sim does and introduces you to your small but growing kingdom. Your royal adviser lets you know that each day you will be faced with tough decisions and be forced to make Yes and No responses that may or may not have massive repercussions on your kingdom. Your subjects happiness and well being as well as your massive pile of gold? Which will you favor in your reign? To be honest, these consequences will only be an issue within the first 20-30 in game days, but after that you could sacrifice people in order to gain some coin and not lose too many people or favorability for your carelessness.
During the beginning of your rule, you can visibly watch the kingdom grow and upgrade in the background as your population increases. Surrounding you Kingly self, your gold pile increases and decreases as your make financial decisions along the way, except when you reach over 3000 gold, then it just increases the Gold counter in the corner, where you can also find your Population and Happiness. By making the decisions to keep your gold rather than growing your populace, your kingdom will never be complete and reaching the end goal for the game becomes impossible. However, I honestly went back and forth in sacrificing money for people, and I still had a fully grown kingdom and hit the end game event at 67 days. If that says anything about if the length potential for the game, I’m not sure, but it does make me wonder.
The End Goal that I alluded to is simple; raise your kingdom to greatness and get the fabled Council of Crowns interested enough in you to offer induction into their ranks. It sounds great, and in theory it should be, but in my run of over 150 days I only dealt with one Council meeting after joining. In order to reach the end goal, you must hold court with in game days, each consisting of 4 or 5 requests which will shape what happens in the kingdom. Seems easy enough, however some choices are indeed damning, preventing you from progressing in certain quests. Banish a knight to the dungeon who failed to find treasure instead of being a forgiving king? This prevents the Knight from taking up a powerful weapon against a foe who threatens your kingdom later on. Decisions do carry weight, until late game play, which then basically just loops everything over and over for an indeterminate time. Some of these loops can get pretty humorous however many just make the game drag on.
Each character has their own unique style, both in dialogue and design. All characters speak in only text boxes, I’m fairly certain there is only one voice actor for the King’s “Mhmm” and “Nnnuh” for yes and no respectively. The way they talk is all special, humans do speak English, sometimes people like Little Timmy speak with an adorable lisp and make it clear that this child is missing a few teeth, even if his character model doesn’t show it. Even the animals get text boxes, however most of it is speculation from the King. The art itself is simple, it is reminiscent of Newgrounds art seen in games from years gone by. It’s charming though, it holds the nostalgia button down for me. However, the move cycles of each of the characters was that of moving cutout pictures, this works for games like Paper Mario and the like, but somehow puts me off the art just a bit. Just makes me think of a paper puppet show I could put on at home. I can’t blame the developer or artist if the budget doesn’t call for full animation, but doesn’t sit well with me in this case.
Along with the art style and unique dialogue, the since of humor follows suit with the Newgrounds the style. This is best shown in characters like Molder (and actual puddle of what I assume is mold), Skully the Skeleton, and my absolute favorite, Chester the Treasure Chest that eats people for money. I loved seeing pop culture references littered throughout like The Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, X-Files (mentioned above), and a few other things.
In the end, Sort The Court is charming in many ways, from the art and detail of the characters, to the hilarity scattered through the choices and the encounters. This game is a nice intro to Kingdom sims, but it is only a gateway sim, which is tempting me to play others. While everything is nice and I can’t complain much, I will say the long run of it becomes repetitive and dull since the structure seems unable to provide new encounters after a while. I am currently 156 days in and since beating it in day 67 and seeing one council meeting on day 85, I feel it would benefit from more of a longer game plan and maybe more encounters from far away lands programmed in. Not saying the game is bad, just replayability is quite low except for on nights I might be needing a zone out game. Also wouldn’t mind seeing this as a mobile game in the future.
You can download or play this game on GameJolt at this link here!
Great Intro to Kingdom Sims
Easy To Jump In Play
Lack Of Long Game Material
While Animation is Charming, Cutout Movements Off putting