By: Daniel Kendle
Welcome one and all to JOYSTiCK. No time for unfunny quips, we’ve got something more important on the docket – it’s the end! Not of the world, unfortunately, but the end of the first season of this little serial.
It’s been fun, honestly, and it’ll be nice to start up again next year. Whether I’ll be doing a season 2 or not is uncertain, but it’s been fun nonetheless. When I started in my journalism class I didn’t really know what to write about at first, and now, about 7 months later, we’ve reached the end.
There’s about a 50-50 chance I will or won’t do this again next year. I’ve been branching out into more types of content this semester, and it’s nice to have more of a mix of stuff to write about. To use a metaphor, the first semester was like a nice bowl of saltines, with the second a bag of Chex Mix. I mean, the saltines are good, no doubt!, but after a while you get a salty tang on your dried-up gums and it’s like you’re back in the Sahara or something. Meanwhile, the Chex Mix has lots of flavors, and you don’t get tired of eating it after a few minutes.
Dumb metaphors aside, I think that’s the future of my content: a mix of serial templates and random stuff I put out. I’ll write more down-to-earth, serious stuff like my UFO article, weird one-off projects like that gopher article, and JOYSTiCK. I think that’s a good outlook for my sophomore year of writing.
Anyways let’s move onto our final review, in which we’ll be discussing a mobile game! Yes, the toll booth ticketer that guards the entrance to the underworld has finally caught up with us, and it’s thirsty for the red Kool-Aid that pulsates through my organ structure. Thus is the life of a mobile game reviewer.
However, the game we’ll be discussing today is connected to another titan. A monolithic force that has skulked these ravaged lands for eons old and eons to come. It stalks these earthy plains with a taste of terror, with even whispering its name bringing a shudder of frosty fear.
Meandering aside, today we’ll be talking about the game ‘Reigns: Three Kingdoms,’ released by Nerial and Devolver Digital and published by Netflix in late 2022. The game is the fifth installment in the franchise.
Before we get into the meat-and-potatoes of this article, I’ll say that this’ll be a shorter and more laid-back review compared to our previous installments. Hopefully you take this in mind!
PART ONE: GAMEPLAY
‘Reigns: Three Kingdoms’ is like dating on Tinder if a.) Tinder existed in 200 B.C. and b.) if Tinder was a viable way of dating.
That being said, you don’t date people in the game. The comparison is through the game’s main gameplay. Basically, the set up is that you are a test subject in a laboratory that is being repeatedly sent back in time to ancient China to…I guess become a conquering warlord? You basically interact with different ancient civilians, swiping left or right on their questions and statements to say different things in response, lowering or raising 4 meters in return. These meters, while never really stated what they mean directly, are likely representing Money, Intelligence, Militarism and Civilian Kinship. Some are raised or lowered one at a time, some choices raise or lower multiple. Some can be raised and some can be lowered at the same time, and some can be changed more harshly with certain decisions.
If one of your bars reaches the top or bottom then that’s your lose condition, as a skull will appear above and you’ll meet some fate related to your current situation. I liked this system overall; it was fun trying to balance all 4 while keeping up with the various mini-stories you’ll inevitably encounter. You also don’t get to see if your choice on a person adds to or subtracts from a meter, so that provides some more intrigue by not knowing if your action will be good or bad; you have to look at the person’s dialogue and choices to see if they’ll keep your bars in check.
Now it’s time we talk about combat. While playing you’ll accumulate various people in the form of cards that you can add to your party, and when you enter a story battle you’ll choose 4 to use against the opponents 4. Basically, you continue your swiping pursuits as you swipe left or right on your allies to have them attack the opposing team, in which eliminating a fighter will open up a number inside the circle you and the other team each make, where you have to get that number to 0 to win. Here’s a diagram to illustrate:
Your team is the lowermost one, and you have a certain amount of actions each round, starting out with 2 until going to 3. These battles don’t give anything to you, they just progress the story.
While gameplay isn’t that complex, it’s still fun. It definitely has the “mobile game-ness” that means its simplistic loops don’t have much to them in terms of how the user interacts with the game’s mechanics and controls. If I had to give some critique, it’d be that the actual fighting doesn’t really do much for me, and I feel like it would’ve been better if controllable. Like, you don’t fight super often and only when the story permits it, and I found it kind of forgettable in the long run.
That said, I feel that the game works well on your phone; since this game isn’t on other consoles I can’t really test it with a controller, though I feel like the game’s simple swiping mechanic is perfect for the platform of your phone. It’s good in that regard. So in the end, while gameplay isn’t the most complex or deep, it works well for the role playing structure it presents. Speaking of presentation…
PART TWO: GRAPHICS
‘Reigns: Three Kingdoms’ is perfectly fine in the regard that its graphics are…okay.
The game has a very geometric style, with rare rounded textures. This is cool, but the pictures of people are very simple, and after a while the artstyle get’s kind of dull, and somewhat dull to look at. Like, I get there not being much in the way of animation due to this being a digital card game, but the simple art doesn’t change over time or do anything very exciting; the consistency makes playing through the game a monotone experience.
Progression isn’t something that’s very prevalent in the game, with conquering the different regions coming through the different people you’re forced to interact with. However, the further I went into the game the more desensitized it got. I’m not a terrible fan of the game’s look, which is a bit sad.
CONCLUSION: (PLUS AN EXTRA SURPRISE)
Yeah, I told you it’d be short!
I didn’t have too much to say on this game; I just felt like promoting it. I had a solid time with it, and I felt like spreading the word about it.
Granted, part of me feels like this game isn’t as good as many of the other games I’ve reviewed. On the other hand, this game is much smaller and simpler in terms of gameplay than any others, being comparable to ‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ in terms of the amount of “playing” to do, with both being basically interactable stories with brief sprinkles of combat (not that this game is anywhere close to the former game’s lunacy).
Overall, I’m going to give ‘Reigns: Three Kingdoms’ N/A/10, since it’s so different compared to my other entries here that I can’t really put it alongside other JOYSTiCK games. I enjoyed most of the other games more, but this game isn’t trying to be a deeply-woven system of gameplay and progression. It’s trying to tell a story. This is similar to the same mindset behind ‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ in that it’s not comparable to other games. Granted, I gave that game a bad review because the thing that made it not comparable to the other reviewed titles sucked.
Now, this is normally where we’d end the article and wish you a good day, but not this time. THIS time we’re going to be ranking all of the JOYSTiCK games, and see which comes out on top. I mean, how else am I going to get my weekly sellout quota? What’s next, donating to those in need? (laughs). Anyways, let’s begin, starting with the worst and ending in the best.
And as I’ve explained above, I can’t really rank ‘Reigns: Three Kingdoms’ alongside these others, but if you’re curious, I enjoyed it more than ‘Minecraft Dungeons.’
7. ‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ (3/10)
Winner of the “Most-Likely Cause of Skin Disease” Award
Yeah, this game still sucks. Like, keep in mind that I was being dramatic in the holiday special when talking about having a midlife crisis when first playing it, but it’s not like it’s gotten much better.
Granted, I would like to say that I find ‘Minecraft: Story Mode’ as more of a fun kind of bad, rather than a bad kind of bad, for lack of a better phrase. This game isn’t a ‘Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’ or ‘Destiny’ where playing is the same equivalent to carpal tunnel, but more like reading a cheesy romance novel. Like, yeah, it’s really dumb, but in a cute way! I’ve thought more about this game this school year than I have any other game on this list, so hopefully that paints the picture I’m trying to tell you. I have more to say and discuss about this weird title than all of my other entries.
6. ‘Splatoon 3’ (6/10)
Winner of the ‘Strangest Opening Monologue That Wasn’t About an Apocalypse’ Award
Aside from the skeletal remains currently in my garbage bin outside, there’s just so little I have to say about ‘Splatoon 3’ other than the obvious: it’s okay. For a number of games I’ve reviewed I’ve changed my opinions on them later, and this is one of them.
I know a lot of people love these games, but I find the hectic gameplay dull, strangely-enough. When matches basically come down to the last minute of shooting ink and whatever, you can’t expect me to be engaged beyond my mind. It’s fine; I’ll pick it up again at some point, but whenever that may be, it’ll be a year or so until then.
5. [TIE] ‘Minecraft Dungeons’ & ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land’ (7/10)
Winners of the ‘Games that Embody a Collective Pleasant Shrug’ Award
While I enjoy playing ‘Minecraft Dungeons’ more than ‘Kirby and the Forgotten Land,’ I’ll group them together because of their ranking reason, in that they’re good games with a number of small issues.
For the former, its main problems stem from simplistic gameplay and frustrating progression, and the latter’s awful UI, weird difficulty spike towards the end and forgettable level design. They’re both good packages overall, but definitely not the pinnacle games of their respective franchises.
On that note, another ‘Minecraft’ spinoff called ‘Minecraft Legends’ released exactly a month ago as of writing this, and might I say that it’s, like, amazing? I’m going to be reviewing it for sure, don’t you worry about it.
4. ‘Cuphead’ (7.5)
Winner of the ‘Most Aggressively Anti-Porcelain’ Award
This game’s great! I’m likely going to be roasted on a human-sized spit by the end of this school year because of the unfathomable concept of opinions, but I don’t think this game is a perfect specimen like many others do. Granted, the art-style is one of the best in modern gaming (ironically-enough), the combat is snappy, and the music SLAPS. But there’s always been some issues spawned from the game’s hand-drawn graphics and shooter gameplay rubbing against each other. Still, a work of art that (hopefully) no one attempts to shamelessly replicate.
3. ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ (8)
Winner of the ‘Best-Playing pile of Sawdust’ Award
Yes, the graphics are bad. But honestly, this game is great, being the only previously-reviewed game that’s score has gone up over time.
The music? Great. The gameplay? Masterful. The deformed animal designs? Deformingly-strong. Overall, it almost makes up for November 18, 2022, otherwise known as the day of pain by many across the globe, and otherwise otherwise known as the day ‘Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’ released. Haha, I love the feeling of burning flesh! That’s what I felt when being subjected to that piece of filth.
But anyways, I’m glad ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ restored my faith in Gamefreak, at least for a little while.
2. ‘Wingspan’ (9/10)
Winner of the ‘Most Times I had a Desire for Birdseed’ Award
I like ornithology. Therefore, I like ‘Wingspan.’
What I love about this game is that it’s decidedly a “calm” experience. Out of all the games on this list I find myself going back to this indie title due to its more serene qualities, and I find that important in gaming. It feels like we always get games that are very flashy, very dramatic, but it’s nice to have a complex system of challenge in a kinder experience. A title that rewards relaxation and serenity.
1. ‘Metroid Dread’
Winner of the ‘Most Times I’ve Asked Myself “Why Didn’t This Win Game of the Year at the Game Awards 2021?”’ Award
‘Metroid Dread’ is the oldest review I’ve done, and also the one that I remember the least about. At least, besides it being a masterpiece.
The first mainline ‘Metroid’ game in 19 years was obviously going to be at least a bit good, but man, THIS great? Like, I don’t think it’s as good as ‘Super Metroid’ but got very close on a handful of occasions that made me know that this was a masterful title that deserved all the praise in the world. While not my favorite game, it is decidedly the best game of JOYSTiCK’s 2022-2023 season.
…and that’s all I have for you this year. Minus one more article before summer, this is it for now. It’s been great having an outlet for all of my opinions and whatnot, and whether I do this all over again or begin a new serial or series, it’s been great fun having you along for the ride, disembodied viewer o’ mine.
Thanks for reading, have a good day, and for now, I think it’s time I step out of the spotlight and back into the shadows.