Do you like adorable, 3-D pixel graphics? How about simulation games like Banished? Do you have a lot of free time on your hands? Then The Kindred will look and sound like just the perfect game for you! The Kindred attempts to combine all three of those aforementioned elements into one package, complete with full creative reign to build just about whatever you want. But currently the game is also in Early Access, so does it actually achieve what it’s trying to do well enough to be playable? Not yet exactly, and I’ll explain why.
First off, though, I’ll mention the visuals. They’re cute, but not exactly original. You’ve most likely seen more than enough of these kinds of pixel graphic visuals, some of them done better. Minecraft certainly wasn’t the first game to use them either, but it’s indisputably the game that kickstarted the trend of games trying to emulate it. However, it’s understandable why many of these games attempt the style, not only to capitalize on the success of games that have done it before but because it’s arguably easier to develop a crafting and building system around graphics that accommodate the grid-like gameplay. Structures you build will be blocky and square, so it only makes sense to have visuals that match it. That being stated, I did also say it’s been done better. It serves well though since the game isn’t about graphics.
No, the game is about building and crafting, another element that Minecraft certainly didn’t invent, but did well enough to garner a lot of attention. However, unlike Minecraft, The Kindred uses a “god” camera view, allowing you to see the land and its creatures from overhead. It also isn’t about taking direct control over one character, but rather directing many characters at once to accomplish several tasks. When you begin, you can start directing your “Kindred” by either simply clicking on something such as a tree, and then selecting the task you wish to be done on that tree (such as harvesting fruit from it, or just chopping it down altogether) or you could individually select a character and tell them what to do specifically.
At first, it seems to work just fine, while your little people go off to do what you asked them to, but if you’re not careful about how you ask them or what you ask them, their AI will show that they truly aren’t the brightest and will likely get stuck. For example, I was attempting to build my first little home, and after finishing the first level of blocks, I told them to start on the second level. Everything went just fine until it came to the last two blocks needed to finish. Instead of placing one block, hopping down, and then placing the last, they placed both of them from the top of the structure and stopped moving because they were stuck, and since they don’t have the ability to jump down there was nothing they could do. I had to instruct one of my other Kindred to demolish a block so the other could get down, and then figure out another way for them to place the blocks appropriately. In fact, the AI as a whole seems to be non-existent currently. You can have chests full of food and they will refuse to eat it and die, or the beds can only be assigned to one character while the rest complain that they have to sleep on the ground (even when there are empty beds).
Placing blocks in the first place isn’t the most convenient either. How I like to play is clicking for each block I want placed, but the game wants you to click and drag out a line for how many blocks you want placed all at once. This made it very frustrating, especially during times where I absolutely only needed one block placed, since the game’s clunky nature made me place blocks in odd patterns completely opposite of the direction I wanted to place them, forcing me to have to cancel the action quickly enough before my people put the block up incorrectly. I could get around this by angling the camera in a better position, but it’s just incredibly inconvenient to have to constantly adjust the camera to accomplish each task, and that’s if it even works in the first place. There’s also sometimes a lack of visual feedback to your actions, such as rotating an object’s orientation before you place it. Objects you select to place do appear as a ghost item first, so you know exactly where you want to place it and how much space it will take up. But the ghost item does not rotate when you press the appropriate button, forcing you to place the item first to get an idea of how it is orientated. It’s Early Access though, so these small problems should hopefully be fixed soon, and the developers do seem to be quite involved in the communities voices. It’s just a shame that the game is as awkward as it is sometimes.
However, it can be fun. While the tutorial feels inadequate at properly explaining anything you can do, once you figure it all out yourself you’ll get into a groove. Assuming you overlook the game’s clunky moments, you’ll start building your Kindred their own homes, gardens, fences, and gather your own herd of animals. I did mention though that this game is for people who have a lot of time to spare, and I meant that. It took me quite a few hours to accomplish anything early on, I couldn’t even gather resources to build my people one small home in 4 hours of play time. There’s also so much to do and at first so few people to accomplish it, that it makes the early game feel very much like it’s taking far too long to be enjoyable, though the variety of things to do is nice.
You can shear sheep, hunt animals, herd cattle, grow crops, build enclosures, mine resources, and craft the land. Basically, it’s all the fun of Minecraft, but you’re telling other people to do the work while you watch, which can also be fun. However, I find that it lacks any of the engaging elements of other crafting games simply because of the way you have to play. Don’t be fooled by screenshots, the camera angle that makes it appear you will be playing the game from ground level is really just a toggleable camera mode where you can admire your work and take screenshots, but you can’t actually do any gameplay in this mode. To be fair, it’s obvious that the developers wouldn’t want to just copy the same formula one to one, so it’s nice to see someone take a new perspective for this kind of game, but this early on it lacks any sort of investment.
But when it comes down to it, is The Kindred worth checking out in Early Access? It depends; do you literally want a crafting game where you just tell other people what to do? If yes, then perhaps invest in the game now to help further things along and enjoy a game you’ll probably like. If no, then maybe wait a bit to see what the developers add later to spice things up. What we have right now is certainly playable, but a bit tedious. It needs more polish and love, which the developers have demonstrated, at least in the community, that is what they intend to do.