The King's Dilemma: Chronicles Review
The King’s Dilemma: Chronicles is an interactive narrative, strategy-RPG developed and published by Big Trouble Game Studio in association with Horrible Guild; based on the legacy board game of the same name.
Mixing the ‘Sword of Damocles’ formula of kingmaking, you play as the Head of the Council that’s responsible for diplomatic and national disputes as you spend the entire campaign preparing for a prophesied uprising. While it sounds rudimentary, King’s Dilemma: Chronicles follows closely to its source material by weaving multiple story arcs that will affect and be affected by your vote and the vote of your neighbouring noble houses when dealing with dilemmas.
Not to mention the evil cults trying to influence your people with fear, multiple factions warring around your borders, a secret golden city in the mountains, and grey wheat. I will not tell you what I mean by ‘grey wheat’, you’ll have to play the game to find out.
Before beginning a campaign, you’re given a short survey to best match you to a kingdom by answering yes or no; or rather aye or nay, similar to voting in the game. Once introduced to your chosen kingdom, that’s where the fun begins.
After a detailed summary of your kingdom, selectable issues called dilemmas — with a short brief of the conflict as well as what type of resources will be affected to alleviate the problem — will pop up on your maps: the capital city Lybra, the kingdom Ankist, and the continent of Lywik alongside your neighbouring kingdoms; all brilliantly illustrated like a page from a fantasy atlas.
The kingdom you select has a list of tasks to complete, which I didn’t realise I had to do until halfway through my first campaign. If establishing a separatist movement against my kingdom was needed to win, the game should have reminded me of it. In hindsight, I can just play the kingdom again and complete it.
Once selected, you read through a few sentences explaining the context of what's happened and a question to vote on. What makes it different to the survey is the houses of the kingdom also vote; mostly with one of them voting differently to the others, forcing you to lose favour with one each vote. You can also go against the popular vote, but doing it too much will lead to the house revolting against you. Like plot-points in a choose your own adventure, the choices you make further the story with unforeseen consequences that will come back to bite you on the butt.
The other houses also have their own secret campaign goals that you can uncover with gold coins alongside paying for alliances to help better the odds when deciding on issues that benefit your ideals.
All decisions made also affect the kingdom’s resources, either gaining or running down the stocks that have to be maintained. Keeping the supply of your kingdom’s resources balanced is key to maintaining the current king’s reign and saving it from being cut short. Balancing the constantly swaying chart is easy to do but if they deplete or escalate too much, the king will suffer for it, abruptly ending the current reign.
A ‘reign’ in King’s Dilemma: Chronicles is roughly eight interacted dilemmas before the king dies. When seeing a red background with the words “The King is dead” for the first time don’t fret, you’re now passed the tutorial and get to choose your new king’s moral alignment and purchase much-needed preparation projects that will benefit you at the end of the game.
The end of a reign re-adjusts all resources, coins used to pay off a house’s vote or to access special scenarios, as well as rewards you black and white crowns to use in the preparation page depending on how well you balanced the stock.
The tutorial dilemmas are one of the best tutorial missions I’ve seen in a while. Starting with establishing lore and world-building, the convoluted backstory of King’s Dilemma: Chronicles’ kingdoms are explained to the player without talking down to you or requiring prior knowledge. The game holds the player’s hand when it needs to while letting them make mistakes, which happens often.
While writing this review, I’m listening to the sounds of King’s Dilemma: Chronicles in the background. The blend of harps with the sounds of nature is soothing, only it doesn’t change when shifting from the country to the city map, losing a bit of immersion when you’re paying attention. Other than that, the soundtrack is very powerful and fits seamlessly to how well your kingdom is going.
The King’s Dilemma: Chronicles is a must-need for fans of games like Reigns or table-top fantasy RPGs, however the game is not perfect. Similar to the board game it emulates, there are too many things to have to keep track of. The eclipse that marks how long you have left until the uprising, accumulating enough crown tokens to buy you more time; plus having to appease everyone around you bloats the game after a while, ironically eclipsing the main plot with filler arcs.
Besides the smooth gameplay and enthralling storylines, there’s a lot in the campaign that cannot be done in one playthrough. I don’t want to spoil anything from the story as the twists and turns that occur from your choices are best left to experience for yourself.
The King's Dilemma: Chronicles (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
The King’s Dilemma: Chronicles is a must-have game that expertly immerses you into the issues of your people, other factions and the murderous cults and beings that wander into your lands. If you have the time and remaining Christmas money, get this game.