Do I understand correctly that when you draw a tile you must play that tile?
If you draw a tile, you must play that tile.
My opinion is that the Beowulf version really screwed up the tension in the game - precisely for the reason that you've described. In Beowulf, if you draw a lousy tile you can play a different tile instead. In Kingdoms, if you draw a lousy tile you have to play that tile. For that reason alone, Kingdoms is the better game.
It also doesn't help that the Treachery and Golden Statue tiles in Beowulf are pretty unbalanced.