Renaissance Kingdoms – So You Want To Be a Renaissance Man?
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF), OnRPG Journalist
Renaissance Kingdoms is a browser-based MMORPG set in the European Renaissance era. It is developed and maintained by Celsius Online, who have developed other, similar games based on the Aztecs and ancient Japan. Celcius does their best to present the players with a deep and diverse gameworld that simulates the Renaissance while staying fun. You are capable of doing just about anything you would be able to do in the real Renaissance. If you are looking for a great browser-based role play experience, this is the place to look.
The Cash Shop
Renaissance Kingdoms is a free to play game. Unfortunately, as with all things, nothing is truly free and there is a cash shop that funds the game. You can buy in-game money, skill boost, special packages that give bonuses, clothing and many other items that you would expect to find in a cash shop. Some would take a look at this cashshop and instantly label it as pay-to-win and that is quite understandable. A majority of games that offer this kind of cash shop are.
However, I personally would not say that the cash shop is over-powered due to the nature of the game. While there is PvP, and having high stats is good, it would cost you a decent chunk of change if you wanted to buy your way into the game. This leads me to believe that it is not done often, as most people who are willing to invest large sums of money into games do it for instant gratification, and the design of Renaissance Kingdoms does not allow for that to be possible.
The customization in Renaissance Kingdoms is not very extensive. In fact, it is almost non-existent at character creation. Later on, you can purchase custom portraits in the games cash shop, but you are stuck with what you get for your avatar when you first make your account. As you progress through the game, there are many different paths that you can take in terms of professions. Unfortunately, the lack of meaningful customization at player creation really retracts from the score I will give the game in this area.
Renaissance Kingdoms has recently gone through a bit of a user interface overhaul. While it wasn't bad before, this enhancement is definitely a welcome thing and really what encouraged us to give the game a look. Besides the interface, the artwork in the game is superb. The cartoony nature of the art style fits well with the game. While I have nothing but compliments for the current graphics, it would be nice if some of the menus that lack artwork got some.
Community plays a big role in Renaissance Kingdoms. Everything is player driven, and I mean everything. The town you join as a peasant is ran by a player mayor and council. Even the new player tutorial is attached to a real player, even if the responses and task are pre-generated. The bread you buy is made by a baker, who bought the flour from a miller, who bought their wheat from a farmer, who hired another player to work his farm. Everything is part of an intricate system that requires people to rely on each other, just as you would need to do in the real world.
The community itself, from what I have seen, is great. They are extremely helpful to new players. But keep in mind, the game is split up into different kingdoms, and each kingdom has several cities. A majority of my interactions with players are from the other citizens of Glasgow, a city in the Kingdom of Scotland. Which reminds me, a majority of your player interaction will happen in the tavern, where people go to chat, hear news, and buy drinks for each other.
Renaissance Kingdoms is one of the most complex browser games I have ever played. Heck, it's one of the most complex games I've played in general. I do not mean that it's hard to learn – it's not, though it will take a bit of research in the beginning. What I mean is that the game has so many different things that are required to be done to keep society moving, that players are forced to work together out of necessity. This is something that, at least in my opinion, even the most advanced sandbox games to date fail at.
The game is played from the perspective of someone living in the renaissance. You have to feed yourself, work for money for food, keep your character happy so that they will be able to work optimally. The game is also very slow. You won’t become King of Scotland right away, no. It will take probably a year or two of developing your character and making relationships with other players to get to that goal.
When you start the game, you are nothing but a peon. You will work the mines, saving up your money and gaining the trust of your fellow citizens. Eventually you will have saved up enough money for your first field, but the only thing that changes is that you will have a bit of side income and you will get to start hiring other people to work your fields. Getting to the point of having your first field can take anywhere between two weeks and a month, depending on how you play the game.
The progression is done with a combination of raising your personal wealth and raising your stats. Stats are raised by eating certain foods that are produced by other players. These foods are usually expensive to eat. Though the game has levels, they mean little in the face of stats. You can be on the same level, stats wise, as a player who is level three at level one. And speaking of levels, there are very few of them and they are used for little more than marking your progression. It can take you months to get from level 0, where you start, to level three, for example.
In all honesty, actually playing the game only takes a few minutes each day. A majority of the fun, and the time consumed, comes from the interaction with other players and planning your advancement through society. While it only takes a few clicks to feed myself and set my character to work in the mines, it can take thirty minutes to an hour, spread out over several days, discussing with the inhabitants of your city, trying to figure out what the best crop would be for you to grow.
I already mentioned this before, but the game makes you rely on other players. The butcher can't get meat without the pig farmer, and the pig farmer can't raise his pigs alone (well, he can, but it's not very efficient), he needs to hire another player to help him out. This is the part of the game that is truly interesting and attracted me to it the most. That interdependence that a whole virtual city of players have is wonderful.
The biggest negative to the game, maybe even the only, is the lack of readily available knowledge. It took me a bit of searching on the forums to finally figure out where I could find the player guides that would explain important things, such as how to raise your crop to get the best yields. Things would have been a lot easier had the developers put a link to that section of the forums in some sort of pop-up when you first log in. But then again, I am sure some people will argue that part of the fun is trying to find all the information and I might be inclined to agree.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the developers of Renaissance Kingdoms have done a great thing. They were able to make a detailed simulation of life during the renaissance. Beyond this they made a text-only title still be incredibly fun. Initially, I came in to the game dreading the thought of it taking so long to progress, but here I am two months later enjoying it. For me, this just reinforces the idea that games do not need amazing 3D graphics to be fun – graphics pale in comparison to interesting an innovative gameplay. It has been a complete pleasure playing this game, and I believe I will be playing it for years to come.
Graphics: 2.5/5 – Decent artwork, nice interface. There is room for improvement, however.
Controls: 4/5 – The buttons work well. Not much more you can ask for in this type of game.
Customization: 2/5 – Not really much there, but then again there is a lot of things you can do.
Community: 5/5 – Great people make up the games community.
Features: 5/5 – All the options available to players is superb.