First Impressions
Kainga: Seeds of Civilization

Developer: Erik Rempen

Release Date: 7 December, 2022

Platform: Windows

Genre: City Builder

By Chris Picone, 21 December 2022

Kainga is a city builder with quite a few differences. First, it’s based around a bunch of small missions rather than a sprawling sandbox. It’s also highly randomised, with only a small amount of buildings being available in each run. You aren’t alone; neighbouring villages are very close by and you will definitely interact (there might even be battles!). Finally, the world’s alive, and reacts to you.

Gameplay’s notably different to most city builders right from the get-go. First, your main character, “the thinker,” starts the game with some inspiration which lets you select a hut type from three possible options. This is a very important choice because, in addition to selecting the hut for the bonus you think will be most useful, you also have to consider the resources required to build them. Luckily, your starting point isn’t fixed; you have to place your campfire first, and you must select carefully because you can only harvest the resources inside its zone, at least initially. So you start collecting resources and building (all automated, although the AI can be a bit dodgy). To progress, your thinker needs more inspiration, so you will need to scout the area to find some as some of the inspiration lies very close to other villages and they might not be friendly. Inspiration from here-on unlocks different kinds of buildings depending on the symbol – either food buildings, military buildings, resource buildings, and so on. You can only select about a dozen buildings so you need to be diligent in your selection. This can be tricky as the building options are also highly randomised and not always appropriate. For example, there were a number of times when I was unable to build any of the new food buildings because I didn’t have access to any of the resources required. There’s usually a way around it but it’s often on the other side of the map or in an inaccessible area or you need to trade with or compete against other villages to get to it (who usually overpower you greatly at the start of each game). I like the idea behind this but think the randomisation really needs some tweaking. One way you can gain access to new resources is by claiming new land, but this upsets the other villages in the area and draws the ire of the planet itself, which might react by setting your village on fire. Oh - and there are strange gigantic creatures roaming the island which you can even tame! Each mission ends by building up enough to hold a particular festival; and your thinker grows between missions by taking ideas with him.

The verdict? Kainga looks terrific and is a lot of fun – when it works. Lots of really cool and unusual ideas that are mostly well-implemented. Unfortunately, I found much of my time was spent idling, either waying for what felt like an eternity for my villagers to drag some rare resource from the other side of the map while getting killed by enemy villagers or simply resetting and trying again because the building options presented were unfeasible, which is frustrating. But the game only launched a couple of weeks ago and I see the dev appears to be pumping out some big patches already so I’m pretty confident these niggling balancing issues will be fixed. So if you’re into survival-style city builders, it’s worth at least checking out!