Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit on PC
While it may appear that the heyday of the good old point-and-click adventure is over, the genre is inching its way back into mainstream consciousness as independent titles continue to make their mark. The recent bombshell announcement of a Monkey Island sequel has certainly stoked the flames, and with the release of Thunderful Publishing and Tag of Joy’s Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit, it is a good time to be seeking puzzle-solving adventure.
Inspired by some of its illustrious forebears like Broken Sword, it is clear that the developers have an idea of what constitutes a solid foundation for an adventure game, and for good and for bad, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit wears its inspirations on its sleeve.
Sending Chicago native Milda on a journey across the oceans to Europe, it will be up to players to aid her on her quest to guard a precious family secret that is shrouded in mystery. Epic adventures have been had for less, and with a focus on the history of Europe, a subject matter that has not exactly been explored extensively in the genre, there is even more added incentive for players to dive right in.
The legendary stories of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania bring much color to the proceedings, so does dealing with the KGB’s meddling, and as you solve puzzles and explore the narrative, those who enjoy conspiracy theories are going to have a field day with the way the story develops. That is to say, the writing is generally engaging and interesting, giving life not just to the story, but also to the significant characters that star in the game.
Ultimately, a point-and-click adventure like this lives and dies by its puzzle designs, and Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit definitely fulfills this side of the bargain with great quality both in variety and execution. The game is not one for hand-holding, and paying attention, even to the tiniest of details, may make the difference between progressing further or getting stuck. The options of multiple solutions influenced by the job you choose for Milda at the start are also a pleasant surprise, lending an added replay value to the game depending on the choices made throughout the adventure.
If you are ever stuck, clicking in on the mouse wheel helps highlight all the different interactable parts in any given location, providing a slight hint on how to move on in the game. But, as is always the case with the genre, the devil is always in the details, like the right order of conversations or actions will lead to new discoveries. Of course, there are occasions where improvements can be made for a better experience, such as puzzles with time limits that can be just a little too strict or highlighting more prominently a new message on Milda’s phone that is vital for progression, but overall, the time spent puzzling in Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is largely enjoyable and challenging enough.
On the visual front, the hand-painted style for the backgrounds is quite easy on the eyes, and when coupled with the 3D models, the scenes maintain enough visual fidelity and the clarity needed for details to shine through — just don’t stare too close when the perspective is zoomed in. Audio quality is also on par, with the voice acting particularly excellent, helping to increase the immersion for players excited to be on an adventure into the unknown, while solving puzzles becomes more pleasant when you have a nice soundtrack for company as you sort through your thoughts.
Spending about six to eight hours in this version of Lithuania is most certainly a trip worth having, even if it is clear that Tag of Joy is setting things up for a sequel. While the narrative rushes through the endgame in a somewhat haphazard fashion, it does not necessarily undo the great work that has paved the way forward to its conclusion. An intriguing tale of adventure that does not necessarily reinvent the wheel, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit pays homage to its predecessors while creating a modern experience that should appeal to fans, young or old.
More quality-of-life tweaks will make a big difference.