Royal Roads 2 Review

Of all the indie franchises that repeatedly release on the Xbox Store, the ‘Gnomes Garden’ franchise – including all of its spin-offs, Royal Roads 2 being the latest – is the one that we find the most inexplicable. We’ve played more of these games than we care to count, yet we can’t pinpoint what people love about them. Someone is buying them. 

Our confusion comes from a few sources. First of all, these games are near-identical. Every last one follows the formula. They’re fifty-odd levels of single-screen city management, as you start with a tent/hut where your workers hang out, and you use your cursor to tap on resources for them to pick up. Those resources are needed to pay for clearing obstructions – bringing you to new resources – or to construct buildings, left as ruins by the side of the road. Upgrade them, and resources will trickle in over time. Eventually, you will complete objectives, and when the last one fades away, the level is done. 

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The usual 8floor Games stuff awaits in Royal Roads 2

Royal Roads 2 very much grips, koala-like, to the formula. It’s a struggle to find anything that it does that 8floor’s other games, from Gnomes Garden to Garden City, doesn’t already do. It’s more notable for what it doesn’t do based on that formula, actually. The maps feel slightly smaller and less convoluted than its brethren, but also more straightforward and – whisper it – boring. There’s no way of hurrying production, either, which has become a bit of a staple.

There’s a half-heartedness to the level design, too. While some are puzzles that require you to choose the right path or risk getting stuck without needed resources, they almost all devolve into waiting. The final moments of the level are spent doing nothing, as you urge your sawmills and quarries to produce resources faster. It’s not exactly high-octane.

Our confusion about the series’ popularity also comes from the clumsy, bug-riddled state of the games. Almost every one releases with a new issue. Royal Roads 2 bucks the trend, not by releasing bug-free, but by reintroducing old problems rather than new. The save glitch is back, meaning that you lose progress whenever Quick Resume tries to kick in. You have to manually quit the game from the Xbox menu and hope it has saved, or you will lose valuable hours of progress. 

It doesn’t end there, as the greatest hits of Gnomes Garden glitches are back. A couple of levels have important resources and blockages placed under the game’s UI, which makes spotting them and removing them a challenge. It’s entirely possible to be blocked from a path because someone put a power-up over the top of it. And click-areas are borked, with the sawmill in particular being clickable only in very specific places.

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How many levels do you want?

Royal Roads 2 is formulaic and buggy, but it’s also charmless too. 8floor Games dearly need to employ a narrative designer, because their stories are always a toss up between incomprehensible and bland. Here, we have the drab princess Layna, bouncing from magical being to magical being, hoping to open a box of all things. Elves, wizards and ents are all box-teases, offering to help for a price, only to push Layna onwards once she gives them what they want. Does the box-opening plot change over the course of the fifty levels? Does it heck. 

Royal Roads 2 goes a step further into dismalness by stripping the world of colour. There’s a medieval fantasy theme at play here, and that translates into lots of browns, greys and greens. It’s a bland wash over the game screen that actually makes it hard to pick out individual resources or ruins. More than once, we were stuck with no clear and obvious direction, only to realise that one of the wooden carts contained something that we should have clicked on. 

Most bizarrely, all of the interesting characters are reserved for between the levels. Those elves, wizards and ents don’t actually appear in the game. A dragon does, twice, and that’s about the limit of anything fantastical. It’s utterly bizarre, mostly because the other 8floor games make a big thing of chucking Egyptian jackal gods and goblins onto your path. Royal Roads 2 can’t rummage around and find a single one. 

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The characters are hardly used

How it manages it, we don’t know, but Royal Roads 2 emerges – comfortably – as the worst of the ‘Gnomes Garden’ city builders. It looks at its companion games and their lazy storytelling, buggy progression, unremarkable worlds and formulaic gameplay and says ‘hold my drink’. 

We’d suggest this should be a wake up call for 8floor Games and their increasingly repetitive resource management games, but we know the truth. They will be releasing another title in another couple of weeks, and the story will be exactly the same. If Royal Roads 2 is anything to go by, it may even be worse.



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