Thronefall Early Access: Build Your Own Kingdom, Then Defend It!

A minimalist tower defence where you build and defend your kingdom from nighttime invaders? Thronefall Early Access is out now, and a must!

Thronefall is one of my favourite indie games of 2023 so far. Mixing up tower defence, city building, and instant pick-up-and-play ease of use, this is, and will be, one of my go-to titles for the foreseeable future.

GrizzlyGames’ (featuring Jonas Tyroller and Paul Schnepf, creator of The Ramp) minimalist title has popped up in my inbox plenty of times, and every time I looked at it, I had an inkling that this would be something that appealed to me. Upon receipt of an early code for this Early Access, I wasn’t desperate to play, but by the time I’d finished the tutorial, I couldn’t put it down.

Set in a medieval environment, Thronefall throws you – a lonesome hero – into a handful of biomes where you build a settlement while fending off invaders every night. It’s reminiscent of The Bonfire 2: Unchartered Shores (another game I adore), only much more simplified with minimalist UI and clutter. Lovely!

Thronefall Early Access - Sandy
Sandy. Source: Steam

Thronefall Early Access

We often play these games and are introduced to convoluted lore that’s often irrelevant to gameplay, go through walls of text, or even options, that prevent us from getting anywhere fast. Thronefall knows you’re busy, so instead of all that faffing about, you move the cursor over a tiny little square, and you’ll be able to build a pre-determined building.

Wait a sec – pre-determined? That’s right. Aside from choosing the features of a building or the type of unit it’ll produce, everything in the game has its place. That sounds incredibly restrictive and, worse: boring. But that’s far from the truth. Once again, there’s no dawdling, and you can concentrate on the gameplay rather than your amateur feng shui skills of placing turrets so they face southeast as it brings fortune…

That initial tutorial for Thronefall Early Access was excellent, but it gave the impression that this game was super easy. It was. As much as the chill vibe is welcome, starting your first level is a reality check as the game still applies the conventional wave format, and with increasing hordes, comes far more difficult foes, leading to resource management and placing your structures in the correct place.

Thronefall Early Access - Snow joke
Snow joke.

My Castle, My Castle

It all begins with your castle. This is the hub, and should it fall, it’s game over. Residential buildings can be placed to increase the gold that you obtain from each wave (in addition to those awarded for kills), windmills for added fortune, barracks for melee and ranged soldiers, turrets, fisheries, and walls.

All units and structures can be upgraded, pending you invest in your castle – which increases the areas you can build on and the tech. So to speak. What’s so refreshing about Thronefall Early Access isn’t just the ease of use and the build mechanics. If any of your structures fall in a wave, they’ll be rebuilt immediately the next day (at your expense!), except for the castle. Superb!

But it isn’t just your units and structures you rely on, as your hero has a significant part to play. They are the only unit on horseback, so you can confront waves head-on through three different styles of play (ranged and melee), even running down enemies with your horse if you have the perk. And we all know that perks mean prizes.

My Kingdom For A Perk

As a rogue-lite(?), Thronefall awards you with each run with new abilities. And, as stated before, the difficulty curve spikes (a good thing), and through XP awarded at the end of a run, you will unlock new perks that can be anything from stronger walls and turrets to receiving extra gold per turn. At the time of writing, there are 37 unlockables, practically making the game a unique experience.

Besides unlocking all the above, another reason for replaying the game would be for bragging rights, as you get a score for each run. In addition, each level has several challenges to complete, such as using specific perks, weapons, and modifiers that can increase enemy health but award more XP. This game is a must for anyone into tower defences with a minimalist aesthetic.

Thronefall is currently in the Early Access stage, but the sheer volume of goodies to unlock, challenges and hi-scores, variety of play, and ultimately – fun make this, in my opinion, an essential title. I absolutely love it.