Even if they weren't originally released on the platform, some games are just made for mobile. Kingdom Two Crowns is one of them. The inherent simplicity of the side-scrolling strategy game fits the platform perfectly, as you ride the length and breadth of your realm, tapping to give gold and build yourself a worthy king or queendom. As you explore the mysteries of the world with your trusty steed in tow, a relaxing soundtrack lulls you into a sense of security—farmers farm, hunters hunt, and your way of life persists.
But Two Crowns is, unsurprisingly, a game of two sides. By day you restore your realm, but by night, monsters known as the Greed come to steal everything you've worked on. The world may seem simple but, again, it conceals hidden layers. There are few tutorials in Two Crowns, so you're left to muddle through yourself—to play around with that weird monument in the forest, to work out how to get the materials to build better defences, or to find a way to get off your island.
This formula has served Two Crowns well in both its base version and its two expansions: Shogun and Deadlands. But now we're taking a trip northwards with Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands. As you might have guessed, this expansion is themed around Vikings and sees us swap the bamboo jungles of Shogun, and the blasted hellscape of Deadlands, for lush pine forests and bearded men with axes.
What Norselands offers is a game that utilises Two Crown's existing formula while providing an alternate playstyle based on its Viking theme. First off, your barriers are much weaker since, historically, the Vikings built mainly with wood. Norse Lands makes up for this by allowing every villager to fight. When you expand your realm and citadel far enough, you can even equip them with shields. This means that if a barrier falls, they retreat in a defensive formation to the previous one—a great change from the original, where you'd be liable to lose a great deal if the Greed ever broke through.
As always, the soundtrack and visuals are both excellent.
This change means that Norselands is more about shifting borders and battlelines, as the Greed smash your cheapo barriers while you attempt to rebuild them before the next night's attack. It wouldn't be a Viking-themed game without Berserkers, either. But while these warriors can plough through the Greed, similar to Shogun's ninjas, they lack the self-preservation to be cost-effective. You have to recruit a worker for three coins, then turn them into a Berserker for a further six—and this warrior might not even last the night.
In terms of other additions, there are plenty of fun new mounts, including a Lynx-drawn chariot, a reindeer, and a nightmarish horse that can set the ground behind it on fire. The chariot is my personal favourite since it gets a speed boost that sends it rocketing across the map, though I was disappointed that you can't use this to mow down the Greed as well.
While riding through the Norse Lands on your flashy new steed, you might also spy some of the new puzzle monuments. I couldn't get them to work, personally, but I've been reliably informed that they can grant you god-like abilities to use against the Greed, representing the favour of that deity. There are also the usual architects who you can recruit and bring back to your town to build better farms and towers.
One welcome change, however, is that the drifter camps where you recruit villagers can now be rebuilt as houses after you've cleared them. It costs more, but this means you can still recruit new villagers even after you've expanded your borders and flattened the camps. It also feels like areas are cleared of foliage a lot faster once you've chopped down the trees, which lets you build walls quicker and get that little bit of extra expansion before night rolls around.
Burying the Hatchet
Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands does come with its fair share of frustrations, though. As in the previous games, villager AI can be a bit dreadful at points. One example is when you create shields and villagers come from the opposite side of the map to collect them, meaning they often don't arrive back in time to defend their own wall.
I do applaud Norse Lands for trying to create a playstyle that's so distinctive from the original.
Equally annoying is the fact that you have to pay a single coin to have your soldiers form a shield wall and move in front of the barricade, and it's nigh on impossible to do this on both sides of the map simultaneously (unless you're playing co-op). If you don't, it's basically a sure thing that your barrier will be destroyed. The fact that there are no spearmen, catapults, or top-level sentry towers as in the original really decreases your ability to defeat Greed from behind your walls. In this sense, it seems a little unfair that you have to manually activate a barrier defence every single night.
That said, I do applaud Norse Lands for trying to create a playstyle that's so distinctive from the original. I don't think it's entirely successful, but it's fun to try out. As always, the soundtrack and visuals are both excellent, and it'll definitely offer an enjoyable reskin for those who've played the earlier games. However, if you've never delved into the madness of Two Crowns, I'd definitely recommend grabbing the base game before going full-on Norse.
Reviewed on a Samsung Galaxy S10.