FOR THE KING
Long live the ki… oh, he’s dead
This turn-based RPG is certainly upfront with its intentions – before you even reach the title screen, it pops up a warning that you’ve got a punishing journey ahead, with failure just part of the experience. But it’s the game’s preoccupation with difficulty that undermines its best aspects, making what could have been a lovely adventure oddly dispiriting.
For The King sees you picking three adventurers for your party and setting out across a procedurally-generated fantasy land. Your quest is thinly sketched – the story amounts to little more than a few text boxes pointing you in the direction of an evil wizard – but suffice to say it involves scrapping with monsters, seeking out treasure and exploring dungeons.
The hex-based map has a nostalgic hint of tabletop RPGs gone by about it, and despite the relatively generic setting, the game’s invested with a surprising amount of personality by its low-poly artwork. Heroes and monsters look like chunky little puppets in motion, and there’s a pleasing impact to their blows in combat, with defeated combatants ragdolling to the ground.
It makes for a charming first impression, but your initial few hours with the game are likely to be spent digging through menus more than appreciating the sights. For The King is dreadful at explaining itself, to the point of burying things like the effects of your character’s special abilities several layers deep in the help section. This collection of dense lists must be consulted constantly if you’re to have any hope of understanding what your equipment does, what’s happening in combat, and more.
But it’s complexity for complexity’s sake. Fights, particularly, are poorly explained but actually very simple in play, often boiling down to just repeating the same handful of attacks and keeping an eye on your health. There’s little depth to be found, leading most battles to feel like they were essentially decided before they even began, with your remaining supplies, equipped gear and current health having more impact than your turn-by-turn choices.
It’s symptomatic of a game that wants to be difficult and punishing, but has little grasp on how to make that fun. The game isn’t hard because fights offer a tricky tactical challenge – as in the likes of XCOM or Divinity:
Original Sin. It’s hard because of all the random nonsense thrown in your way on your journey to that fight, from unavoidable random events that steal your XP, to brutal shortages of vital healing items, to mechanics you’re never fully made to understand.
And if you die you have to start the whole thing over. Permadeath has its place, but it’s a poor fit for For
The King’s time-consuming outings – especially when you lose hours of progress to something that feels out of your control.
It’s a game that feels smothered by its urge to ape the rock-hard roguelike trend. In its best moments, when you’re able to look past those layers, there’s an endearing RPG hidden underneath. When the randomness comes up in your favour and For The
King stops poking you with sharp sticks long enough to let you just enjoy an old-fashioned dungeon delve, it’s a surprising treat. And then a man pops out from nowhere and steals your favourite item, and suddenly you feel more like snapping your pad than rolling a D20. ■
“Permadeath has its place, but it’s a poor fit for For The King”
left Action takes place on the world map, but zooms in for fights and dungeons.