Before going into this review, there’s needs to be somewhat of a disclaimer. Whilst we pride ourselves on finishing almost all the games that come out way, we were just unable to do it with Rising Lords. We absolutely intended to, especially as we’re suckers for a medieval theme, but this game is just so broken that the campaign constantly freezes on a regular basis thus forcing you to replay huge chunks over again in the hope that the freezing doesn’t reoccur – which it often does. It’s a frustration that made progression in the campaign mode impossible, thus meaning we can’t actual comment on a lot of the actual content.
As such, this will be more of an overview with our impressions of the content we did experience. We hope to provide enough information to help determine whether or not the game is worth you adding to your wishlist in the meantime whilst the development team work on the patch that is supposedly coming a little later down the line. Once that releases, should it make much difference, we will revisit this review in order to give it a re-evaluation.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
After the tutorial shows the king being killed in battle, it is up to you – a young nobleman – to raise up in the ranks into the Lord of your house and take control. It’s a solid enough premise that fits the medieval setting well. It’s very light in terms of actual narrative (at least from what we experienced), but the focus seems to be more on the strategic gameplay rather than weaving a compelling tale.
The actual gameplay of Rising Lords is twofold, and is designed to resemble to the format of a tabletop game. The primary strategic element plays out on a grid based map, and sees you managing the land by assigning buildings to areas, and then moving your peasants to said areas in order to get to work. Doing so will allow you to harvest resources that can be used to construct weapons, food and the like in order to grow your community. There’s even a merchant you can buy things from, and even trade routes to neighbouring areas to make sure you stay on top of things.
It’s a bit of an unusual system as there’s not a lot to it, yet it still feels slightly obtuse in many ways. A large part of that is down to the awful UI that makes managing your town a bit of a hassle. During the tutorial when you’re told where to go isn’t much of a problem, but when left to your own devices it can feel rather fiddly and confusing. There’s not much in the way of time constraints as everything you do falls within your given turn, but it’s still rather unsatisfying nevertheless.
To make matters worse, selecting options is a bit of a nightmare as the cursor is very difficult to manoeuvre – especially since the options you need to click are often microscopically tiny. It’s clearly designed for mouse usage, and there has been no attempt to make it work well on consoles. You can use the touch screen, which is slightly better, but even then it can be troublesome due to how small and clustered the different options are.
The other main gameplay element is the combat, which somehow feels even slower than the management sections. Using the army you have amassed, you can set out to conquer neighbouring land in order to expand. There’s theoretically some level of strategy involved as you’re encouraged to place certain units in certain areas to gain a tactical advantage, but I generally found that it’s more of a numbers game more than anything. The team with the most soldiers will most likely win, and little you do will really change that. Even the cards that you can use to give you special moves are almost pointless, and their effects do little to sway the battle in either direction. It feels like they attempted to add some level of depth to the rather bland combat, but failed to make it have any effect whatsoever
The worst part of the combat really is just how tediously slow it all is. Your large characters take ages to do anything and move anywhere, which is partly by design and partly down the absolutely godawful framerate on Switch that plagues the entire game. It’s ever-present throughout, but it’s these combat sections where you feel it the most. It makes a game that isn’t all that fun to begin with into something that is an absolute slog.
What helps redeem the title is that it comes with a surprisingly competent and extensive Map Editor that allows you to create your own missions. There’s little in the way of tutorial, but I did find most of it to be self-explanatory. Holding down one of the tile types will allow you to choose one of the variations, which you can then place as you see fit. Even mission structures can be created too with objectives and win conditions you can set to create your own little narrative. There’s not that much choice available, and your creation will no doubt feel identical to every other scenario in the game (with the same amount of lag), but it’s still a welcome addition regardless – even if there’s bafflingly no way to share your creations, as far as I can tell.
What is an admittedly a fascinating premise is let down by tedious gameplay, a horrendous framerate, and constant freezing. In its present state, it’s barely playable on the console – but at least a patch is in the works. Whether or not that will make a huge amount of difference to the overall enjoyability remains to be seen, but at least it can’t get any worse.