Thronefall: First Impressions

Making some plans, throwin’ some hands

You ride alone into a strange land on your trusty horse, with a little bit of cash and a lot on your plate. This isn’t the life of royalty you imagined, but you’ll make it work. 

It’ll be up to you to build your new kingdom from the ground up, starting with your castle. Maybe put up a few houses here and there, and a guard tower.

Image source: Grizzly Games

By night, you’ll be leading from the front in combat, facing waves of mutant enemies determined to destroy what you just spent all day building, not to mention kill you and your men.

“Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.” (Image source: Grizzly Games)

If that sounds hectic, don’t worry. Pretty much every aspect of Thronefall is quite simple: the minimalistic graphics and UI, straightforward controls, and a relatively small number of unit and building types. Strategy games often have a tendency to be overwhelming, and often have you poring over massive tables full of combat stats and upkeep costs. This game is very much not that. 

And that’s by design. According to Thronefall’s two-man dev team Grizzly Games (@_grizzlygames), they set out to “strip a classic strategy game from all unnecessary complexity,” and create something that was more accessible to people new to the genre. 

The good news is, it hasn’t been stripped of fun, and Thronefall offers up some seriously engaging and challenging gameplay. 

Building a kingdom by day

Thronefall’s gameplay follows a pretty standard recipe for the strategy and tower-defense genres: a combination of base-building, economy management, and combat. 

The first two of those happen entirely during the daytime, when you do all of your building and upgrading. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the different building types in your realm: 

  • Castle: Your castle is the first thing you build on each level, and is what you’ll be defending. You lose the level if your castle gets destroyed. It also fires projectiles at nearby enemies. 
  • Economic buildings: Houses, mills, and mines produce coins at the start of each new day if they stayed intact the previous night.
  • Defensive structures: Guard towers that shoot projectiles, and walls that slow down the onslaught of enemies. 
  • Military production buildings: You can build barracks and archery ranges to produce various types of units, each with different strengths and weaknesses.

The key to the base-building phase is striking the right balance between investing in your economy or defense. If you play it safe and spend too much on defenses early, you could end up too strapped for cash to build what you’ll need for the later waves.

On the other hand, if you get greedy investing in your economy, you could simply end up being overwhelmed by a wave that you underestimated. 

The base-building aspect is simplified by having predetermined spots where you can build certain structures. (Image Source: Grizzly Games)

You also won’t have to worry about maintenance, as any structures that are destroyed during the night are automatically rebuilt the next morning.

Tip: Pay attention to the enemy markers before each wave. 

Each map has multiple possible enemy spawn points. Before each wave, markers will appear indicating not only where the enemies will spawn, but also which enemy units. This is crucial not only for effectively countering them with your own unit types, but also for prioritizing where to build your guard towers and walls before the next wave. 

These markers tell you which enemies are coming next, and from which direction. (Image source: Grizzly Games)

Bodying those fools by night

Once you’re satisfied with your building for the day, or have used up all your money, then it’s time for battle. 

Once night begins (which you trigger whenever you’re ready), the wave of enemies will approach. 

You can control the units created by your barracks or archery range, and place them strategically where you expect attacks to come from. Be sure to keep your melee units on the frontline, and your squishy ranged units safely in the back providing covering fire. 

You can micromanage your units both before and during the battle.

You can select your units and place them where you need them. (Image Source: Grizzly Games)

Apart from your defensive buildings and your soldiers, your own character also deals a significant amount of damage, so staying alive is crucial! 

Weapons, perks, and tech trees

One element that really adds depth to this game is the different upgrade paths you can take for your character and buildings. 

As you gain XP from your battles, you level up and get a wider variety of options for buffs, building upgrade paths, weapons for your king, and unit types for your barracks and archery range. You can even choose to buff the enemies for that level if high-risk, high-reward is your thing. 

The buildings have their own upgrade paths. (Image source: Grizzly Games)
Before each level you can choose your loadout of weapons and perks, and even buff the mutators (enemies) for greater rewards. (Image source: Grizzly Games)

Which options are “best” will ultimately come down to your personal play style, and—unfortunately for your poor little soldiers—lots of trial and error. 

Overall impressions 

From its simplistic visuals and game controls, and even its unassuming Steam store description (“a minimalist game about building and defending your little kingdom”), it’s easy to underestimate Thronefall as another basic cutesy tower defense game with little to offer. 

While the gameplay isn’t anything groundbreaking, it’s the simplicity in its presentation that actually makes it a refreshing take on the genre. It’s easy to get into (but quickly gets challenging), and it’s fun.  

The game is still in early access so it is short—it only has four levels for now—but the developers plan to add more content within a year.

These four biomes represent the four levels that are in the game at the time of writing. (Image source: Grizzly Games)

The good: 

  • Fun and accessible gameplay
  • Plenty of potential for replayability and trying different playstyles 

The not-so-good: 

  • The controls for selecting your units can be unwieldy, especially in the middle of battle 

Tell us about your experience playing Thronefall in the comments section below!

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