Thronefall Hands-on Preview – A small game packing a big punch

Posted on August 7, 2023

Thronefall is a minimalist strategy game developed and published by Grizzly Games. In Thronefall, you play as the ruler of an unnamed kingdom, and your job is to defend your land from enemy attacks. In its current state, Thronefall features four different levels, along with 37 unlockable weapons and perks.

Fans of the 2019 casual citybuilder, ISLANDERS, might find that some of Thronefall’s graphics feel familiar. Thronefall features similar colourful and minimalist visuals, and in some ways, the design philosophy behind Thronefall aligns with that of ISLANDERS too. With Islanders, the Grizzly Games team set out to make a citybuilder without the stress of resource management; similarly, Thronefall is a strategy game without the complexity of managing troops, resources, and supplies.

Thronefall playthroughs take place on a small map. The only resource at your disposal is gold, which can be used to build and upgrade buildings and infrastructure on dedicated spots on your map. Broadly, all upgrades sit within one of two categories: economic upgrades or military ones. While economic upgrades result in buildings that generate gold, military upgrades result in better defences – like walls or watchtowers – or more armed forces that can help you during enemy attacks.

Practically, the game has two stages: daytime gameplay, which allows you to build up your base and position your troops, and nighttime gameplay, where you’ll need to defend your base from waves of enemy attacks. Each map has multiple areas where enemies can spawn at night, and while you’re building up your base during the day, you’ll see little red icons signalling how many enemy units you can expect at a particular spawn point by nightfall. You also get to see what types of enemies to expect there, too! In this sense, the aim of the game is simple: survive each night and ensure your castle is still standing by morning. The night only ends once you’ve defeated the last wave of enemies, and if your castle falls before then, you lose the game.

“…the future looks bright for Thronefall.”

You choose when night starts; once you’ve positioned your troops and spent all your gold during the day, you can hold the space bar to transition to nighttime and see the first waves of enemies appear. Much like Vampire Survivors, your king or queen’s attacks happen automatically every second or so, and you can keep an eye on your health through a health bar floating above your head. The only way to speed up attacks is by using your special ability, which allows you to attack at a faster rate for a short time. If you die, you’ll have to wait for ten seconds before you respawn. As you progress through the game, however, you do receive some simple upgrades for your hero unit every time you upgrade your castle. These upgrades range from increased attack damage and health to passive bonuses like healing nearby friendly troops.

All buildings, enemies, and friendly troops in the game have a health bar as well, and come with a set number of health points. A building can be destroyed by enemies if the number of health points falls to zero. Luckily though, any building other than your castle will automatically be rebuilt once the night ends. As you progress through the game, you’ll have the option to upgrade existing buildings, which will result in a higher number of hitpoints. If you decide to upgrade your barracks, you’ll get more troops at your disposal, too. As you progress through the game, you’ll see different types of enemies appear. While at first, you’ll have to defend your base from the attacks of a handful of bowmen, for example, the last wave usually consists of enemies including horsemen, catapults, and bombs.

While currently, Thronefall looks a little simple in its Early Access state – the UI is understated, visuals are fairly plain, and there’s no in-game glossary – it still succeeds in being compelling through its straightforward premise. Thronefall meets the developers’ goal of creating short and engaging gameplay. It’s remarkably easy to wrap your head around the core game mechanics, and individual games don’t go for longer than twenty minutes. In addition to this, having to strike a balance between building structures that generate gold and building military structures still means you have to use your brain throughout a game, only without the intense learning curve that complex strategy games often require. While Thronefall may seem like a simple game, the large variety of enemies and the increasing difficulty of unlockable levels offer an enjoyable challenge. Each level comes with several different achievements to unlock, too, meaning die-hard players can get stuck into more difficult gameplay scenarios if they want to.

Overall, Thronefall is a small game that packs a surprising punch. Since it’s in Early Access, it’s clear that there are still a lot of updates on the horizon for the title. Considering that the game is already highly entertaining in its current state, the future looks bright for Thronefall. If you’re a fan of minimalist strategy games and are looking for a casual title that’s straightforward yet challenging, Thronefall is not to be missed.

Thronefall is available in Early Access on Steam now.