Little King's Story should be something I'm pleased to have in the cupboard. On a certain level it is, but on many other levels it's an irritant. As someone who would rather play obscure survival horrors and RPG-esque mishmashes (not least Harvest Moon) this one should be right up my street.
The game is well presented, has some cute characters and the music is competent, but like everything else in my experience there's always a fly in the ointment. For all the box art and promotional materials focus on the little folk about their business, the view is zoomed so far out you can't even get a good look at them. The music is mainly classical tunes (Bolero, William Tell overture etc.), delivered well enough but with a twee edge to it and a total lack of any ooomph. Anyone who's played Parodius knows that there are any number of things that can be done with classical to kick it up a gear.
Managing the kingdom resembles nothing more than a static screen from any flash game you can play free at Kongregate. You increase your population by buying buildings, then you assign them jobs. Ho hum. Buildings go in preset locations, you just buy them and they appear, interaction is non-existent.
Combat resembles a simplified version of Overlord's system - something I didn't think could be stripped down any further, wrong again. You send your minions over to enemies one at a time, said enemy gives a grace period then attacks, before which you must recall your mindless followers before rinsing and repeating. Seriously, that's it.
The constricted kingdom management goes alongside the flawed open-world aspect. Though you are free to potter around the game's large play area, there's little to do except build bridges in preset areas, indulge in grinding combat and collect items. Items convert into random sums of cash when you return to your kingdom, allowing you to buy further upgrades and buildings. It's little better than grinding levels in an MMO. Another 'freedom' is the ability to wander into boss encounters whether or not you have the right personnel with you which are needed to defeat the boss. You are also 'free' to take on time-limited requests (basically fetch quests or 'kill this') which you are physically unable to access due to being unable to train the type of unit needed to bypass a particular obstacle (again nothing more complicated than having coloured keys to open matching chests).
TBH I'm suprised at just how negative an experience it's proving to be, I am managing to perservere in small doses but I'm really not getting any enjoyment out of the game after several hours trying. Watching a small army of followers hacking away at rocks for extended periods of time and the hideously repetitive combat is seriously having an impact now.
I would have traded it in before now but I'm still trying to find the probably non-existent hidden switch which is suddenly going to turn the game into a pleasant experience. While it's certainly true that everyone has different tastes, this game is every inch the sort of thing I love but it's just not coming together at all.
To rent or buy? Well worth a rent if it's the kind of game you enjoy, quite possibly worth buying (there's no shortage of gamers who are really enjoying this), but I can't recommend you rush out and buy it on the strength of other folks' experiences. For me this something which needed a much better-designed combat system and a lot more thought into the adventuring aspect, particularly as the kingdom management is so shallow. It fails in different areas and as a whole.