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Thronefall: kingdom building, hack-and-slash, and the spirit of Lumines?!

For the last few days I’ve been trying to understand what it is exactly that Thronefall reminds me of. This is the follow-up game from the small team that made Islanders, a brilliant minimalist city builder that I properly love. Although Thronefall has its own city building elements and a breezy deftness when it comes to conjuring a sense of nature, it’s not Islanders that keeps prodding at the edge of my memory as I play. Thronefall’s a sort of tower defence game too, but it doesn’t put me in mind of anything from that blessed lineage, either.

Last night, though, after a busy day of Thronefalling, I woke up at four and I suddenly had it. Spectral cubes were falling all around me in the night air and I could almost hear shifting, shuffling beats in the distance. It’s Lumines. Thronefall really reminds me of Lumines. And yet Lumines is a block matching puzzle game. What’s going on?

We’ll get to that in a minute. First, some basics. Thronefall’s out now in Early Access. It’s a game about building a kingdom during the day and defending it from waves of attackers at night. And spoiler: it’s a treat. Every day you spend coins turning little nodes in the landscape into structures: arrow towers and walls for defence, say, houses and mills and farmlands to grow your economy. Some structures straddle the line between defence and economy, rather brilliantly. You can choose, when building a mill, whether you want extra coin production or a mill that explodes when attacked causing damage. It’s clever stuff and it’s filled with little choices like this.

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