Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit is a point-and-click graphic adventure that is not shy about wearing its influences on its sleeve. Clearly inspired by venerable classics like the Broken Sword series, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit takes players on a journey through a part of the world not often seen in contemporary multimedia. It is clear that a lot of love was poured into this effort, but the question remains and comparisons arise: Can it stand alongside the classics it was inspired by?
Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit stars Milda Kovas, a twenty-something Lithuanian-American woman residing in Chicago. One fine day, Milda receives a mysterious letter saying that her grandfather recently died, she inherited his house in Lithuania, and has two weeks to get there and claim it before it goes up for auction. With the help of her best friend Dana, Milda manages to get to Lithuania only to discover that nefarious nasties ransacked her grandfather’s house, threatening to steal family secrets she doesn’t even know about. Milda is not the type to let this stand and, armed only with her wits and her well-traveled friend Joris, seeks to find the truth. Lithuania is not a setting seen often, if at all, in contemporary multimedia, so I appreciated exploring its capital city of Vilnius and being exposed to its uniquely interesting cultural and historical lore.
My major caveat with the story is that, aside from some encounters near the beginning and end, Milda never hears from her antagonists for most of the game. Despite the narrative clearly saying Milda’s life is threatened, it never seems so. As a result, the game feels devoid of the looming danger and foreboding urgency it needs. The relaxed pace and the fact that Milda can’t die further strip away any much-needed tension. Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit can be completed in under 10 hours, and the ending wraps up the adventure while leaving open the possibility of sequels.
Gameplay is a classic point-and-click endeavor where you examine hotspots, gather items, and use them creatively to solve logic puzzles. Puzzles are generally well designed, challenging, and require lateral thinking without being too nonsensically obtuse. What’s remarkable is that some puzzles have multiple solutions depending on a few core choices made at the game’s outset. The most prominent example is the “library puzzle” that needs to be solved differently depending on what profession you chose for Milda initially.
A few puzzles are a little obtuse and fiddly, but none are ever as maddening as the infamous rubber duck puzzle in The Longest Journey. There were also a few moments of vague direction where I found myself going around in circles looking for the next plot trigger, but some might say that process is part of the genre’s appeal. Once I actually used my brain and thought more deeply and patiently about my in-game circumstances, I had those lightbulb moments that genre fans live for. Unfortunately, some of my least favorite puzzle types are present as well. I dislike timing puzzles, Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit has several, and they’re all needlessly finicky.
The interface and mouse-driven control scheme are expected and familiar for this game type. I liked that pressing the spacebar highlights hotspots, eliminating the need for pinpoint pixel hunting. Sometimes clicking and dragging an item to combine with another item felt slippery, though. One of Milda’s most valuable tools is her smartphone; while it dings to indicate someone messaged her, that ding is too quiet and the interface contains no visual indicator alerting me to check Milda’s phone. A little green dot (or something) appearing on the interface’s phone icon when Milda gets a message would have been great.
Vibrant and colorful visuals make even foreboding locations feel surprisingly bright. Character designs have an appealing east-meets-west look with expressive faces and reasonably smooth animations. I enjoyed changing up Milda’s outfits and hairdos; she certainly has style. I only wish more puzzles utilized Milda’s hair and wardrobe. The music is just as vibrant as the graphics, and the sprightly instrumentation features stronger melodies than I’m used to hearing in graphic adventures. Voice actors bring the characters to life and the acting itself is not bad. Main characters play their parts well, but some side characters play their roles a little too cartoonishly.
It’s difficult for me to say this, especially with so many positive elements in the game, but I found Crowns and Pawns: Kingdom of Deceit to be mediocre. It doesn’t do anything inherently wrong, but there is nothing very memorable about it either. My lasting impression is that the game played it too safe and colored too neatly inside the lines. Clearly, a lot of love, effort, and resources went into creating this game. I wanted to adore it, but I have no interest in playing any future games in a hypothetical Crowns and Pawns series. I suppose players looking for a classically-styled point-and-click game will definitely get something out of it, but it’s not a game I would recommend buying unless it’s on sale.