Developer: Norsfell
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.8.36
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Complaints about unoriginality on the App Store are, at this point, pretty unoriginal themselves. It would be hilariously ironic if it wasn't so depressingly accurate. But for every mild success of WinterForts: Exiled Kingdom's light strategy gameplay, the crushing familiarity of it all still remains the biggest takeaway.

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Stop me if you've heard this one before. In WinterForts players split their time between managing a growing home base and using their resources to fund strategic skirmishes against the computer or other players online. If it's not broke don't fix it, and considering the massive success of Clash of Clans, WinterForts decided that formula definitely did not need fixing. Players send workers off to gather raw materials outside the city's walls, train soldiers and erect defenses to stave off barbarian hordes, and patiently wait as freemium restrictions throttle everything from upgrading buildings to digging up "tightly packed" snow floors.

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Fortunately, WinterForts doesn't do anything that renders its cribbed script any less addictive, albeit in a kind of grinding way. It's still satisfying to watch a headquarters expand as enemies fail to breach its walls. Later on, players can even pledge allegiance under one of several banners for added support. Meanwhile, the real-time strategy battles feature some clever tactical objectives like drawing opponents out into the open making them easier to slaughter. As players make their way through a foe's base, they'll open up new entrances for remaining units to pass through. It's a trick as useful as it is sneaky, especially during the full-on boss encounters. But as for the game's Vikings look, while it is a semi-unique aesthetic, the artwork just feels like a passable skin trying in vain to give the game an actual identity.

It's not that WinterForts: Exiled Kingdom does anything flagrantly wrong, it just does so very little that we haven't seen again and again. A winter setting is no excuse not to have creative fire.