In June, 2021, Erik Rempen completed a major milestone. He had secured the backing of 994 people, including myself, to raise over $23,000 in a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. At the beginning of November 2021, Kainga: Seeds of Civilization, was launched on Steam in Early Access.
What is Kainga: Seeds of Civilization?
The first thing that you will appreciate in Kainga, an ancient village builder set in a very unusual fantasy world, is the gorgeous and colorful art style spread throughout the game. The environment, technology and the choices you make, in some very unusual settings, will all directly affect how your culture grows. There is much to contend with: hostile weather, even more hostile tribes and an array of fabulously weird and wonderful beasts. This gives you an addictive and challenging village building game where your strategy play is the king.
Each game is designed to last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, with specific challenges to overcome. After throwing you into a map of your choice, the game will then use any of its resources to do all it can to stop you from completing the challenge and winning.
There are many demands on your skills, you must: manage your tribe, see off the threats discussed above, select the right technologies in order to beat the challenges you face. If you do not succeed, then simply restart and try again.
The Thinker and Braves
The Thinker is the beating heart of your game; as quite literally, if their heart stops beating, you lose the game. In short, you cannot let the Thinker die. However, this could in itself prove to be a difficult task as it would appear that they could probably lose a fight against their own shadow.
So why is the Thinker important? The Thinker is the leader of your tribe. They investigate insight to discover more technology, which we will look at later. Each Thinker starts with its own type of population and bonus technology. You will face other Thinkers within the game; however they might start out with a much different set up to yours. A key feature of the Thinker is that each one has a number of slots where they can retain technology that they have unlocked in previous games. An example of this is that I have made my Thinker retain the Barracks Technology. This means that in every new game I start, this will automatically be available.
You also have an expandable general population, these are the Braves. They can only be spawned if there is enough housing and food to support and sustain them. They are the key component of the game, as they form the foundation of all that you do. They will: build your villages, fight off raiders, catch and tame beasts. They can also upgrade into anything, from Warrior to Beast Master.
This is the Heavenly meeting place, where all the games Thinkers can meet. Here other Thinkers will happily ridicule or congratulate you on previous games. Throughout the game, you can earn points called Karma, as a reward for unlocking new technologies. It is in the Hall that you are able to spend your Karma. Here you can also make other choices, such as change your tribe’s colors and select your next challenge from the world map.
This idea of the Hall resembling the heavens is highlighted by the way that you start a new game. Once you have selected a challenge on the world map the doors of the Hall open and you ascend the stairs, through the clouds to the surface.
Technology is spilt into 8 categories: Shelter, Food, Resources, Passive, Protection, Movement, Combat and Festivals. The first, and probably most important lesson when you are dealing with Technology, is that choices matter. Every interaction you will have with technology will involve making a choice.
The lectern, in the hall, is almost like a menu. Here you will see every technology you have already unlocked, whilst also being able to view those still to be unlocked. The only way to unlock new Technology is by spending Karma, earnt in game play. You must visit the shop, which you must first unlock in a challenge. It should be noted that, despite having multiple technologies available, you have no control over which 3 the shopkeeper will offer you. The shopkeeper appears to have the upper body of a wise old man, but the legs of an insect. This encounter can therefore be seen as a precursor to the dramatic and exotic ‘life forms’ that you will encounter in the game.
Challenges/Quests and the game map
While you are in The Hall you will be able to access the ‘world map’. This map shows you all the areas that have been unlocked and are therefore available for you to play. You will be given a brief description of the terrain in each available area and the quests that are available to play. To win the map you must complete the given quest. You also get the opportunity to undertake additional quests to acquire more technologies. On the completion of 3 quests, you will receive your prize. The prizes vary, it could be an additional memory slot for your Thinker, allowing him to carry over more technology into the next challenge, or even the ability to unlock an entirely new Thinker. Once you have selected the quest you ascend the stairs through the clouds to begin your adventure in the game map.
Technology in the game map
As I mentioned earlier, once you are in the game map you will discover how to unlock technology to use in the game itself. Dotted throughout the map you will see bright lights on the ground highlighting a particular area, these are called Inspiration. Each of these will have a symbol that will indicate the Technology branch. You then simply dispatch your Thinker, if it’s safe, to study and unlock the underlying technology. This then presents you with 3 different choices from that branch, for example 3 different house types, each needing different resources and offering 3 different benefits. The choices you make here will have a direct effect on the success or failure of your game.
Threats in the map
The challenges you will face during the game cannot be underestimated and will provide a constant thorn in your side. These challenges can be split into 3 groups: Nature, Rival Villages and Beasts.
- Nature – Whether its fires burning everything to the ground, floods overtaking your settlement, storms starting wildfires or windstorms scattering your Braves far and wide, nature will constantly try and derail you at every turn.
- Rival villages – Every map will see you spawn alongside at least 2 other villages that will already be established. You will experience many different interactions with these ‘neighbors’. They will arrive at your village and effectively demand a tribute by expecting you to provide them with whatever they want. Failure to meet this demand will often result in an attack. However, these raids will also happen as you expand. They may, in the most part, be small and frequent so they will cause you problems.
- Beasts – Kainga is populated by an array of weird and wonderful beasts and leviathans. Currently you can encounter huge ocean based creatures, some of which will have rival villagers actually living on them! These resemble either huge turtles, or giant octopus type leviathans. Trying to describe and do justice to these wonderful creations is actually very difficult. Huge land crabs also make an appearance and promise to be interesting when we get into the road map.
While these will, on their own, pose you no threat, there are several others that will both passively and aggressively cause you a considerable amount of damage. The passive threats will come from leviathans simply walking through your village looking for food, as they can often destroy buildings in the process. The aggressive threat will involve creatures that will actively attack the moment you cross their path. An example of this is best described as a large, angry and insanely hostile acid spitting snail. Excitingly, this acid spewing snail can be captured. At the moment, this is the only one that can be captured and once you have it under your power it can be turned into a Brave carrying, killing machine.
Roadmap& Kickstarter stretch goals
The Kickstarter page is your first port of call to get an idea of the possibilities that this game offers. Take a look at the additional stretch goals that are awaiting funding. Examples include: the possibility of an in-game encyclopedia, sandbox mode and the ability to tame the huge leviathans. The in-game road map features five distinct development phases. The most fleshed out one is the Trade and Travel update which, like other phases, offers: a new map, trade, caravans, imports, markets, two new thinkers and much more. On top of that we will also see updates for Inventions, wildlife and clothing and stone.
Kainga offers a challenging and enjoyable village builder experience. While at times it can be very unforgiving, it offers you so much: a fantastic art style, original and imaginative beasts and leviathans. Its sheer potential will have you coming back for more.
Interview with the developer
Have a listen to an interview by Flash Trouserman with the developer of Kainga, Erik Rempen.
I am a typical gamer, & member of the Indie game collective, with years of experience trying to make the most of the limited time that work and family life presents me with. I mainly play Strategy and City Building games such as Foundation and Suzerian. I also like to try and cover/play indie games such as Ambition: A minuet in Power and Kainga: Seeds of Civilization. My Trouserman Tries series sees me try to cover less well-known indie, in the main strategy, simulation and RPG games.