Noble Fates is ultimately a kingdom builder, but there are some twists. The plane of existence on which you find yourself is currently being divided between three groups: gods, mortals, and demons. As a Kontra, you are a sort of demigod that has the ability to control mortals, and your goal, ostensibly, is to control a mortal and create a successful kingdom.
Your previous efforts apparently ended in disaster as the game begins with you occupying the corpse of a previous mortal host. Four reformed brigands stumble across the corpse, and you must choose which of these mortals will be the new mortal you will attempt to rebrand as a king.
It must be said that management games aren’t exactly my preferred gaming experience, but Noble Fates offers more than just the run of the mill resource management and construction issues. From the oddly cutesy graphics, one would assume that the game going forward would be lighter in tone than say, Tandem, and while it is, Noble Fates isn’t going to be an easy adventure. First, your subjects have memories, and hoo boy, those memories can and will last the entire game. I guarantee, a decision you make at the beginning is going to come back to bite you as you continue to build your kingdom. Second, the “random events” that often appear in these games to change the gameplay, are as likely to be famine as they are giant pig demons. That may or may not be a very specific issue.
Noble Fates does offer a guided introduction, which I found useful. Again, I am not the most adept at resource management, but I did find the tutorial helpful. The game’s user interface won’t wow you; it’s fairly run of the mill for these types of games. I did like the menu for time management, which is a key component of these resource management games. Noble Fates does allow you to shift between a top-down and a character perspective view, which is a nice feature as well.
Everything in the game will have some sort of value attribute attached to it, and you merely click the item to bring up the attribute menu. Noble Fates goes a step farther and allows you to select a larger area to streamline this process. You do that by drawing a box around your desired section of the screen, so it’s a nice, simple process. Even better, you can actually restrict the read-out to the elements about which you want to gather information, so you can streamline your decision-making a bit. Aside from that, the bulk of gameplay centers around building your settlement/kingdom and managing your resources.
The game does offer a social aspect; you have the option to speak directly with the other characters. That’s a thing you really should do because speaking with your subjects allows you to find out their opinions about things. Agreeing with them increases how much they like the current ruler. Considering you started the game as a corpse, it’s a good thing to keep your other two folks away from their pitchforks. In addition, speaking with visitors and convincing them to like your ruler allows you to invite these visitors into your kingdom, increasing your population size, which is the familiar double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’re getting new subjects with new talents who can do more jobs, but on the other, you now have to worry about keeping them happy.
Another value that’s important to gameplay is prestige. Each character will have a prestige score that’s juxtaposed with an ambition score. Keeping the two scores balanced keeps the characters happy with the current regime. As in real life, if the character’s ambition value is significantly higher than their prestige value, then, you get a problem. Also similar to real life, their possessions contribute greatly to their prestige values, so yes, you will eventually have to find a way to craft the Noble Fates equivalent of Louis Vuitton bags and Louboutin pumps.
I did really care for the “autonomous” command, which allows you to set job assignments to occur without your direct intervention, which is a nice touch. Yes, the game allows for enough micromanagement to make any ardent management fan happy, but Noble Fates clearly anticipates that there will be more casual players as well. For me, that makes the game all the more appealing because having the ability to toggle between the two modes means I can tailor the gameplay to what my needs are at a given time. You can also set the gather mechanic to occur at a more rapid pace, which cuts down on your wait times. That’s great for anyone who may be juggling other tasks or who has limited time to invest in gameplay.
Noble Fates also offers a “leveling-up” mechanic, meaning that your characters can get better at using their innate skills and also learn new ones. Their ability to learn offers you more flexibility in terms of how you use your characters to build your kingdom, which is nice. Plus, the mechanic offers an incentive to interact with your characters and to invest time into them, and doing so is pretty key to the success of your kingdom.
In terms of graphics, I mentioned above that the game angles for an aesthetic that falls more in the cute range, with some of your orcish characters displaying the occasionally artfully protruding fang. The designs work for the game, so I have no complaints there. The character designs felt very nostalgic for all their low-poly glory. The soundtrack is fairly innocuous, and it won’t bother anyone else in the house, should your headphones be on the fritz at any given time.
Generally speaking, there’s a lot to like about Noble Fates, particularly if you’re a fan of the genre. The game has a startlingly deep amount of lore to explore, and your characters will reveal more and more of that history through dialogue. However, the dialogue options frequently feel stilted and awkward. Noble Fates relies a great deal on interacting with the characters, so one would think that they would have worked through the various scripts a bit more. That said, you’re really playing the game to grow your kingdom, so the strange dialogue doesn’t detract much from the experience. The combat system feels more like a turn-based RPG, but somehow, it manages to lack that charm.
Noble Fates is still in Early Access, but feels more polished than that would necessarily imply. The ability to switch between the top down and third person modes allows the game to take advantage of both the city-builder and combat mechanics in a way that feels fresh and interesting, and for those that would prefer not to micro-manage their settlements, autonomous mode frees up players to be more casual about how they go about embarking on their quest to create the most prestigious kingdom. There are some issues, including lackluster dialogue options and strange-sounding faux languages, but if you’re into resource management, Noble Fates presents a pretty solid entry into the genre with enough differences to make it stand out.
Parents should be aware that the game does incorporate some stylized gore, so if you’re thinking about purchasing the game for a child, you should give it a playthrough or watch a walkthrough to see if it will be appropriate.
Noble Fates currently retails for $24.99 on Steam.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- I have to admit that I’d like to come back and explore the game a little more deeply after some of the projected improvements occur. It looks like the developers have big plans for the game.
- I did really like the story the game wants to tell, but I found getting at that story a touch frustrating as again, you have to go through all kinds of dialogue to get at it.
- I found some of the controls not to be entirely intuitive, but I place that observation here because that may be specific to me. Your mileage on that point may vary.
- The demons are actually sort of cute.
- There is a mechanic in which animals will leave…well, leavings around your settlement. I get that it adds realism, but also, cleaning it up becomes time-consuming.
- I am apparently the worst at aiming with these arrows.
- I’m not sure if there’s meant to be some sort of moral choice in the game because it feels as though there is, but it’s not well developed yet.