King of Dragon Pass Review

I’ve had a string of bad luck choosing games lately, so I was looking for something to review that I knew I’d end up liking. King of Dragon Pass seemed to fit the bill, resembling a choose-your-own-adventure book in a lot of ways. Truth be told, I picked this up knowing next to nothing about it beyond that. It may not have ended up being what I initially expected, but it’s definitely one of those special games that far too few people have heard of.

My first impressions weren’t great

The first thing I noticed was that the music seemed to be in mono. I didn’t check it to see if that’s the case, but it definitely sounds like it. Truth be told, this was a turn-off at first. Even worse, there ended up being an element of micromanagement that’s crucial to the game, that of course being something I’m horrible at. It’d be fair to say that I wouldn’t have picked this game up if I had known more about it. That being said, I would have made a huge mistake by passing it up.

Once you learn its rules, it’s amazing

I jumped into this game without reading the manual or trying the tutorial and did pretty well, all things considered. Beginner’s luck is funny like that, yet it all came crashing down on me as I eventually starved my tribe to the point where it was forced to disband. Again I tried, my second time as a more warlike clan, trying to force my way through the game without learning what all those fancy sliders actually did. I had even less luck that time and eventually starved my people again. By the third time, I had finally picked up some important information from the manual and managed to make it all the way to the end, and you know what? It was amazing how much fun it was.

You don’t have to know everything about the game’s rules, though; you have advisers that often provide you with helpful information on each screen, whether that be with random events or managing your fields. Actually listening to them is a great way to learn all the game’s ins and outs, though reading the manual is probably the fastest way to pick everything up. Still, you can get surprisingly far just by listening to your advisers, and you’ll quickly come to trust certain advisers with certain subjects to the point where you value their opinion over everyone else’s.

King of Dragon Pass

The duck people make me want to watch Darkwing Duck.

There are lots of things happening

There seem to be a huge number of factors at play at any given time, yet that’s not really anything you need to concern yourself with. All you need to worry about is keeping your people happy by keeping your food supply up, spending “goods” on things to help you defend against enemy raids, and acquiring enough cattle to be known as a rich clan. Eventually you’ll branch out and befriend other clans, explore distant locations, build temples to ancient gods in exchange for blessings, go on hero quests, acquire magical items, and with any luck, become an incredibly diplomatic leader who unites a number of different clans into a larger tribe. All of this is less complex than it probably sounds, because by the time you really get involved with that stuff, you’ll likely have your food and cattle situation squared away to the point where it’s practically on autopilot.

Randomness is a virtue

Random events pop up all the time. They’re probably not random so much as driven by stats that exist behind the scenes, but still. Almost anything can happen during these events depending on your choices, and despite the art and situations being similar sometimes, there are often completely different solutions to any given problem. That’s to say that there’s rarely a “right” answer, though some answers can be especially profitable while others can lead to you having to deal with curses, feuds with other clans, and any number of other bad things. Listening to your most trusted advisers and weighing their advice is usually the best way to avoid making a stupid mistake, though it’s worth mentioning that they’re not always right about things. Since all of this talk about gameplay probably sounds overwhelming, here’s a gameplay video of my first clan (before I knew anything about the game). In it, you’ll see some advice from my advisers, a few random events, a hero quest, and my horrible mismanagement of the land that leads to the death of several animals almost immediately:

Don’t raid in Sea or Earth seasons

One of the most important things to know is that everything happens during “seasons.” You get two turns per season, turns basically meaning you can change/do two things if you want to (you’re also free to just skip ahead), and it’s important to recognize what’s happening during specific seasons before you act. For example, the Sea and Earth seasons are important for planting, so if you raid an enemy clan during those two seasons, you’ll end up with less food than you’d have otherwise. It’s a great way to starve. I would know.

That being said, you have certain members of your clan who specialize in fighting—weaponthanes—and they can often steal cattle during the Sea and Earth seasons so long as you don’t send more than one or two foot soldiers with them (since those foot soldiers are the farmers). Because other clans are planting and sowing their fields during that time, I found this to be a great way to acquire livestock without negatively affecting the harvest, though cattle raids can sometimes turn into full-on battles. It’s always important to weigh the potential consequences before doing anything.

KoDP is great, but not perfect

All of the stuff I’ve mentioned ends up being incredibly fun, and that’s coming from someone who typically hates having to balance a bunch of different elements. That being said, the game isn’t perfect. Though there are a dizzying number of random events, you’ll often find yourself dealing with several similar events in a single playthrough, and this can feel a bit repetitive. Additionally, there are occasional annoyances, like music overlapping when you close out of a window. It was also quite annoying when my farmers continually got sick at one point, though I suppose it’s possible that I completely missed a good reason for this (maybe one of the gods was mad at me or something). Still, I sacrificed to the healing goddess Chalana Arroy twice, only to have my people get sick again immediately after she healed all of them:

That was annoying, but probably my fault

There are little annoyances like that while you’re learning the game, but this is just part of learning a new game that has a lot of moving parts. Once you start to understand what’s happening around you, however, you quickly learn how to deal with problems like that. It’s possible that my god-talkers told me at the beginning of the year that there’d be sickness, and I simply forgot to allocate clan magic to healing. Once you start to learn how the game works, however, details like this become enjoyable rather than frustrating. I really do recommend reading the manual, because that’s the fastest way to pick all of this stuff up.

It’s pretty, but kind of cartoony

It’s really hard to peg the graphics. They’re nice, but they seem to alternate between darker themes and lighthearted, cartoon-ish stuff. The craziest thing is that they do this without changing their style at all, and the shift from lighter stuff to darker stuff isn’t jarring. It’s a really unique style, and I have to admit that I really like it. Very creative and weird, in a good way.

Mono is your friend

Again, I’m not sure that the music is mono, but it sure sounds like it. While this was a negative point of the game at first, I discovered something crazy once I had finished my first attempt at a clan—I could remember the music from the game. Not just one or two songs, but the entire soundtrack to the game. This was after just one or two days, mind you. There’s a good deal of repetition as far as the music goes, meaning you’ll hear a lot of the same themes throughout the game, yet it never becomes annoying. The music may not have a ton of fancy stereo effects, but it’s still incredibly well-written to be so ridiculously memorable.

Here’s what you should do:

King of Dragon Pass

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