Don't let the cartoony veneer fool you; while the stakes may not be as dire as defending earth from killer aliens, Kingdom Battle's slapstick skirmishes offer plenty of depth and challenge. Here are some spoiler-free tips to get you up to speed.
You can read my full review of Kingdom Battle right here, but if you're too lazy, here's the main takeaway: Despite the lackluster puzzles and light exploration that breaks up combat sequences, the battles remain fun and engaging throughout, and can be harder than you might think. As such I've compiled a list of some of the tips and lessons I learned during my playthrough, which will give you a good head-start on the adventure ahead.
Tip #1: Buy Those Secondary Weapons ASAP
Each character in Kingdom Battle comes with a secondary – and usually explosive – weapon. Before you can use it, however, you'll have to invest some skill points in the corresponding ability, and purchase the actual weapon. Resist the urge to spend your early coin stash on the first slightly upgraded gun that Mario comes across, and instead save up for secondary weapons for your teammates – the added flexibility in battle is more valuable than a modest damage boost to their starting weapons.
On a more general note, don't feel compelled to buy every weapon that you gain access to – weapons essentially unlock in different tiers, and the only thing that distinguishes a group of firearms is what Super Effect they inflict. If you want to try a different Super Effect, you might as well save your money and wait for the next upgraded tier to unlock instead of spending your coins on a "sidegrade" weapon. Coins are quite limited for most of the game, so don't go crazy on weapon purchases – prioritize upgrades for the weapons that you frequently use but are no longer cutting it, and be sure to anticipate when a new character might unlock (usually towards the middle of a world), as you'll need to get them up to speed as well.
Tip #2: Grab Those Coins
In order to buy those fancy new weapons, you'll need coins – a lot of them. You'll see coins scatter on the battlefield whenever you land a Golden Shot on enemies or break a brick (naturally). However, you don't actually have to move a character onto the spaces to collect them – simply moving Beep-0, the rabbit-eared Roomba that you use to plot your moves, over the coins is enough to hoover them up into your bank account.
It doesn't even have to be a legal move; you can move Beep-0 out of the movement boundary of your character and to locations that are impossible to get to (for example, up on ledges that only enemies can access). Enemies will also nab the coins if they run over them first, so make sure you collect them as soon as possible – if you can, you may even want to save one character's movement phase for the end of your turn just to ensure you can pick up any stray coins.
If you do miss some coins, they will stick around after the battle, so you can backtrack and pick them up the old-fashioned way.
Tip #3: Super Effects FTW
Kingdom Battle's weapons feature a number of "Super Effects" that are applied to an enemy when you land a critical shot. For example, Honey shots stick a character to the ground rendering them immobile, while Burn damage causes characters to run around erratically with their butts on fire (naturally). Characters are limited in which Super Effect weapons they can purchase, but even so, some are better than others. Which ones, you ask? I'll tell you!
Vamp weapons should be your top priority, as they leech off a good chunk of damage from your enemy and replenish your own HP, which is especially handy in some of the longer battles against a lot of foes. Stone damage has a Medusa-like effect on enemies, turning them into statues that can't move or use any of their abilities on the next turn – if that sounds pretty handy, it is! Bounce damage is also useful; these shots send enemies flying around the arena. If they go out of bounds, they're dealt extra damage – if not, they'll likely be left out in the open for future attacks. Ink, Freeze, and Push damage have their uses as well, but are outclassed by the aforementioned effects, so only go with them when you don't have any other options.
Tip #4: Respect The Respec
Each character in Kingdom Battle has their own skill tree with four different branches and a few unique abilities. The most important thing to know about these skills, however, is that you can respec your characters at any time without penalty. Take advantage of this: Instead of sitting on points to "save up" for a more expensive ability, invest them in whatever minor upgrade will help you in the meantime. Also, don't be afraid to rebuild your skills for specific challenges and/or boss fights. Does the current arena not have any sewer pipes? Then reinvest those "Pipe Exit Range" points in something you'll actually use. Even getting a few more coins for a Golden Shot is better than nothing.
That said, while you should frequently respec your characters, make sure you're doing it at the right time. When's that, you ask? If you'd stop interrupting me, I'd tell you! Wait to redo your skill trees until right before your next battle is about to begin – you'll know one is about to start when you find a pair of flags marking off the battlefield. If you respec after a battle instead (a natural impulse given that's when you get a shiny new batch of ability orbs), chances are you'll have to respec again if and when you come across a treasure chest in the ensuing puzzles areas that doles out more orbs.
The bottom line, however, is that your character builds should be fluid. Come across a mushroom after a hard battle? Respec Mario and max out his "Mushroom Mend" ability, snag the HP-replenishing power-up, then swap those points back out for something that will help in the next battle. It may be tedious sometimes, but Kingdom Battle is all about optimization, both on the battlefield and off.
Tip #5: Figure Out Your Order
This might be a no-brainer for strategy fans, but it bears mentioning: Your success or failure in Kingdom Battle's skirmishes all comes down to the order you carry out your actions.
All three of your characters have three separate actions they can perform in a turn: movement (which can include dash attacks, headstomps, and team jumps), an attack with one of their two weapons, and an ability (also chosen from two options). However, you don't need to do all three at the same time when you select a character, so you'll need to figure out how best to swap back and forth between everyone's actions.
I can't explain how to optimize your moves, since every battle and team combination is different (DUH!). However, here are some things to think about that will help you get everything in order:
Before you start moving characters around, make sure someone doesn't need a team jump to reach an enemy or safe spot before you move all of the crew members away from them.
If one of your characters is going to use an area-of-effect attack, move them into enemy territory first so you're not hitting your other teammates – or last if your teammates are already there (i.e. evacuate everyone else first!).
Pop your stat-boosting abilities before you start spreading everyone out – if you plan in advance for these moments, you can save yourself from having to invest skill points in extending the range of activation!
Use vamp attacks (like Rabbid Mario's shotgun or Rabbid Luigi's Vamp Dash) first – the status stays on enemies for the rest of the turn, allowing your other characters to soak up some HP as well on subsequent attacks.
Take other Super Effects into account – if a Bounce crit lands, will it knock the enemy out of another character's line of sight? Then shoot with the other character first!
Hero Sight (i.e. overwatch) takes effect immediately, so if an attack causes a foe to move (like Smasher enemies, or a Super Effect like Bounce, Push, or Fire), they'll trigger it. If you want to hit that enemy an additional time, activate it first – if you want to save it to stymie movement on the enemy's turn, trigger Hero Sight after everyone else has attacked.
These are just a few of the situations to consider when plotting your turn order, but to maximize your potential, you should ask yourself, "Is now the best time to perform this action?" for every move you plan.
Coming Up Next: Five more tips to improve your ground game…