I find it difficult to put into words what Sort the Court is: it’s a complex yet simple resource management game that’s so straight-to-the-point and yet still indescribable. Its straightforward plot and 3-button controls ([Y]es, [N]o, and [Space] to advance text) leave quite the misleading first impression; it’s much more than simply choosing a yes or no response. The success of your kingdom is determined by a series of yes-or-no questions, but every decision has a consequence, and the purpose of the game is to weigh your options and gamble against the future of your people.
The ultimate goal of the game is to do well enough to be invited to join the Council of Crowns, the game’s equivalent of the UN. You play the ruling monarch of your tiny kingdom, and as its king or queen, your role is to keep the people happy and balance the kingdom’s books. The kingdom thrives based on the number of people living there, the cumulative happiness of its citizens, and how many gold coins are strewn about around your royal throne. You sit in the same place, day after day, responding to the requests of your people and handling incidents as best you can with the little bit of money you earn from past investments. Occasionally, some weirdo may pop into your throne room and ask you if they can perform some arbitrary task, and the likelihood of these requests leading to something positive happening is usually 75% (such as allowing a red-robed wizard to perform a magic trick or allowing a certain tiny vampire to read your spooky fortune). On the other hand, refusing or being unable to give into what may seem like an unreasonable demand has an equally high chance of making your life difficult later on, but these negative consequences thankfully don’t last very long (like that time my kingdom’s logging industry murdered a large portion of the sentient tree population, and when I wasn’t able to pay reparations, the ensuing war lasted about a week and claimed the lives of a dozen or so of my people. The survivors were not happy). It doesn’t take long to learn which requests to agree to (give Boots EVERYTHING his furry little heart desires) and which ones to always refuse (Eyeballs are never good), so the game can get a bit repetitive after a while. After certain population and happiness quotas are filled, however, new characters will appear and the overall plot moves along ever-so-slightly.
Once you’ve completed the tasks necessary to join the Council of Crowns, the game informs you that you’ve won and that you can continue to play if you so choose (it took me 70 in-game days of choosing options that were conservative in terms of money spending but valued the lives and happiness of the many rather than the few to beat the game on my first playthrough). While I can’t speak for the game’s replayability, it’ll still give you enough content to, at the very least, see your way into the Council. The characters are equal parts odd and cute, and the artwork is reminiscent of the Edna & Harvey series (though not nearly as dark) with little tidbits of humor strewn about. The game has either several songs expertly sewn together or one long, continuous track that is nice but will grate on your nerves after a few in-game days. Your monarch voices his or her choices in a male or female tone (although it’s a short “mhm” for yes or a closed-mouth mumble of “uh-uh” for no). Finally, the city slowly growing and expanding in the background is an indicator of the city’s progress outside of the royal advisor popping up every few days with a request or update. All in all, it is a fun little time waster that forces you to commit to all of your actions (the game auto-saves after every decision) and I recommend it for anyone who enjoys simulation games with resource management and perma-death.
- 3 buttons, so it isn’t complex
- Tests your ability to plan and compensate for bad or unexpected consequences
- Cute artwork
- Allows you to continue after the main story is finished
- One long, continuous track that, although mutable, grates fairly quickly
- The repetitiveness of certain interactions
- The utter meaningless of other interactions (no apparent positive or negative consequences)
- Decisions that are necessary but require a lot of gold sometimes appear in rapid succession and early in the game, when you can’t possibly have the money yet (the tree people declared war on me somewhere in my second week, but the requests with bigger pay-outs didn’t appear for another month or two)