OPINION | GAME ON: Feed (or eat) your enemies in ‘Noble Fates,’ kingdom simulator

A scene from the video game "Noble Fates," a 3D fantasy kingdom management sim with intelligent characters and Ruler Mode. (Xobermann LLC)
A scene from the video game "Noble Fates," a 3D fantasy kingdom management sim with intelligent characters and Ruler Mode. (Xobermann LLC)

Given the chance, would you rule by fear or favor? Kingdom simulator "Noble Fates" puts the power in your hands to do with as you see fit.

In this fantasy-like land, you are a demi-god tasked with possessing a mortal, turning him or her into a ruler and creating a powerful, prosperous nation.

Similar to other colony-management games such as "Rimworld" and "Oxygen Not Included," your procedurally generated kingdom starts with three people and grows from there. Your companions will build, craft, farm, mine, hunt and battle for their lives, fighting other bandits, other kingdoms and even demonic invaders from another plane of existence.

Rather than issuing commands to units directly, you instead give each job a priority and set each follower's favored jobs. After queuing up a series of tasks, your people will then carry them out automatically. Each ally has jobs they like and dislike, as well as greater or weaker potential. Ideally, their highest priority jobs will be ones they enjoy and are good at.

Characters learn by doing: Crafting makes the crafting skill grow, building increases that skill, and so on. Their schedules can also be managed, setting shifts for eating, working, sleeping and free time.

In a nice touch for more casual players, however, there's also an autonomous option for schedule and job priorities. Check a box, and characters will sort themselves according to their own preferences.

While most of the game takes place in a top-down, isometric view, players can take direct, first-person control of the ruler they possess — useful in combat situations and other emergencies. (In isometric-view games, the art changes angles to convey a 3D effect.)

As the game progresses, players will find that other kingdoms will declare war on them, leading to occasional raids. But even these are opportunities. I knocked out the leader of a rival kingdom who attacked me, then I imprisoned him in a room and started feeding him his favorite foods. Within a fairly short time, he grew to like me and I was able to recruit him.

Much of the game involves managing relationships. Each member of your kingdom has a unique personality — a long list of likes and dislikes — and the happiness of each citizen must be carefully managed.

Other kingdoms will also visit to trade, and those characters can also be interacted with and possibly recruited, if they like you enough.

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Your kingdom might start with humble beginnings, with your people living in ramshackle huts and sleeping on straw beds, but given enough time, your people could number in the dozens, living in a stone castle, managing crops of fruits and vegetables and tending pastures of cows and pigs.

The art style could be described as low-polygon and marshmallow-y, but it's a cartoony veneer over serious happenings. For example, should you choose to do so, you can execute people and then butcher them, make armor from their skin and eat them. Just be warned that rumors spread, and other kingdoms might not take kindly to that kind of behavior.

"Noble Fates" is still in Early Access, but it's in active development with frequent updates. The user interface can be a bit clunky, and if you aren't already familiar with semi-automated colony simulators, it might be tough to pick up at first, although there is a very helpful guided introduction that presents game-play features one by one. I still had to spend a fair amount of time on the game's Discord chat and watching YouTube tutorial videos to figure out fairly basic game mechanics.

There's a lot to like here for fans of the genre, and it's entirely possible, as is, to sink dozens or hundreds of hours into the game. That said, the dialogue and minimalist voice acting (mostly various grunts) is a bit stilted currently, and combat mechanics could use some refinement, so this might be a title to wait on for a while.

‘Noble Fates’ (Early Access)

Platform: Windows (Steam)

Cost: $24.99

Rating: 13+ for fantasy violence

Score: 7 out of 10


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