I know, I have a problem with badges. I played Feudalism II (review here), and I didn't really enjoy it, so why would I expect the original to be any better? Well, I didn't. But there were badges attached, so how could I not try it?
Anyway, Feudalism is not terribly different from its sequel (I always feel a little silly writing these reviews backwards like this). It's slightly smaller -- there's only four nations, so the world map actually fits on a single screen, and there's no skills for either yourself or your troops, so this takes out some of the already-paltry strategy involved in battles. You also can't enchant equipment like you can in Feudalism II, although random magic equipment does occasionally drop from enemies. Finally, there's no national champions, so once you've conquered a nation, that's pretty much all there is to do.
The basic mechanics are the same in the two games -- you hire an army, use that army to conquer cities, and then recruit troops from the new cities to continue your conquest. Better troops are found in more powerful cities, so you have to gradually work your way up the ladder, but once you've conquered one nation, then you have its most powerful troops available and should have an easy time with the remaining three. All the basic problems are the same in the two games, though. The battles themselves are so busy that there's really very little for you to do except stand and shoot your crossbow (or whatever ranged weapon you decide to end up using). You can use the occasional potion or scroll to help out yourself or your troops (tip: Scrolls of Rage are very useful). Much to my surprise, the gold is actually slightly better balanced than it was in Feudalism II; it was only after I had conquered four or five cities that I reached the point where I had so much gold that I could never possibly spend it all.
The graphics, sound, and lack of music are the same as in Feudalism II, and the interface is still riddled with typos and annoying features. (I was particularly nonplussed by the existence of a "forged bow". Maybe it was a cheap knockoff?) The autosave is still annoyingly squirrely -- once it completely failed to exist after I died, forcing me to go all the way back to my older manual save. This got me in the habit of regularly saving manually, which kind of defeats the purpose of an autosave. The game also has several glitches; dead soldiers occasionally remain upright and on screen after being killed, and dying on the second stage of a large city attack frequently froze my game entirely.
Overall, Feudalism was even less interesting than Feudalism II, but at least it went by relatively quickly. If you, despite having read this, are still interested in these games, at least try Feudalism II first; it is the better of the pair. This really has nothing to recommend it at this point.
(As an aside, it must be kind of an awkward situation for Kongregate when a sequel to a game that already has badges appears. Most games are sufficiently different that it's not a problem to give them both badges, but for games like this or, especially, Monster's Den (which I'll talk a little more about when I finally get the impossible badge), it seems a little silly to give out two sets of badges for doing essentially the same thing. There's no good solution, though; it's not like you can remove the badges from the old game, and simply transferring the badges to the new game also seems like it would be problematic.)