For me, the most important part of city-builders is the plop. Plop is that feeling when a prefabricated building hits the ground, and it takes a great animation design to really sell the feeling of a godlike hand descending to drop a building onto the ground. Kingdoms and Castles really sells that plop.
Plop isn’t just about game feel or the power fantasy of doing important things in city-builders. No, the sensation of the plop, of the thing you are building clonking into the ground, has to do with making the game world feel real. It makes all these little simulated creatures seem like they’re real people doing real things instead of small agents of microchange that represent tendencies in a system.
Kingdoms and Castles has some of the best plop that I’ve experienced in a city-builder. It’s a subtle kind that’s first noted with an audio cue. Then you slowly watch the thing you have plopped turn into the building it’s meant to be. When it’s finished, there is an aggressive whoosh of air that flies out from underneath, a delayed plop that tells you that, yes, this thing that you have built is now in the world.
It’s just a perfect, satisfying little bit of user experience design, and I love it when a game really delivers the goods when it comes to making the smallest, most basic interactions feel crunchy and significant. Kingdoms and Castles is a game that’s doing that in almost every moment of play, and it’s a delight to watch a harvest happen or see a tree get chopped down. But the plop of a building is really just apex stuff.