The King is dead, murdered by an unknown assailant. Now the once peaceful kingdom of Fahrul is in chaos.
Simple yet straightforward, that is the plot in which you are plunged in For The King. We start a quest that aims to save the kingdom and, by extension, the world, from chaos. The kingdom has long been in an era of prosperity and calm, all the old heroes who spawned within this golden age are on the downward when it comes to form and vitality and, even virtue. What was supposed to happen happened: they were killed at the onset of the first threats of chaos. In short, the kingdom needed new heroes and it fell on us.
For The King, developed by IronOak Games, a Canadian studio, is a game that has found its funding via Kickstarter. The success of the campaign (more than triple what they initially asked for) allowed the studio to see that its ambitions came true: try to make something new with an old concept.
Indeed, for their first title, IronOak Games has been looking for old-fashioned game mechanics with the goal of giving them a facelift. For The King is a strategy/rpg game , but not that, because it also borrows rogue-like and JRPG mechanics, and reeks of the atmosphere and humor of basement tabletop RPG sessions. An anarchic mixture, but one that delivers.
As soon as you start a game, you must create 3 characters, which you will control (each player controlling one in multiplayer). These three characters must be selected from a panel of available classes. Some are already unlocked at the beginning of the adventure, while others can be acquired later via points earned in game. The game is played on a turn-by-turn basis, with a system of hexagonal squares for the world map, for movement. On these squares are various points of interest, ranging from towns or villages, forests, caves, dungeons, random encounters and, of course, monsters that roam the land. A day/night system is also present with the consequences that this implies, such as the risk of ambushes and stronger enemies.
The three characters are successively moved on the map towards quest objectives or points of interest. If a character gets attacked, or attacks an enemy, while his companions are out of range (more than three or four spaces away), they will end up alone in combat with their friends being too far to help. Thus, it will be necessary to carefully plan each of your move. This is especially true in multiplayers, where everyone will probably have goals of their own. Cooperation and communication will thus be essential.
The characters also possess their own stats and are usually built towards specific goals (tank, healer, dps, etc). And while the concept of Mana isn’t present here, there is the “Focus” system. Think of Focus as a currency that is used to increase your odds in certain actions that have a chance to succeed or fail (displayed as a percentage). The most common use for Focus is within combat, where it increases the accuracy of your attacks. The interesting think with Focus is that it doesn’t recover naturally, and can only be restored when resting, meditation, through certain abilities, through map encounters or with items. So as you’ve probably guessed, they should be used sparingly.
When one of the characters runs into an enemy is, several choices are available to the player. He can face them, stop moving to avoid combat, try to sneak through without being seen, or try to ambush them to get the initiative, but also to make it so that nearby enemies cannot help (because monsters also have a range within which they can battle together). Once the choice is made, if you picked sneak or ambush, a dice roll/system determines whether the action is successful or not. Of course, players can use their Focus to increase their chances.
Once the battle starts, the game throws us into an old-school JRPG system: turn-based with an initiative bar at the top of the screen (where the faces of our characters and those of the enemies are displayed and determine the order of action during combat) various options available between physical or magical attacks, items to be used, and the possibility to escape. In short, very classic: we easily find our benchmarks and the game extremely intuitive to take in hand.
So yes, with For The King, we have a game that is easy to take in hand and has a gameplay seems accessible, although, and not considering the fact that I personally enjoy the challenge a lot, the same cannot be said when it comes to the difficulty balancing.
Indeed, the high point of the adventure is the invasion of chaos in the kingdom and to stem the chaotic flow, we must complete missions in a given number of game turns. This simple fact completely breaks the gameplay that we thought we had acquired because taking your time to explore isn’t always an option. Even in the “easy” Apprentice difficulty, taking too much of a side trip can punish you harshly. And even when you do stick to the adventure and complete your quests, it isn’t uncommon for you party to get wiped out because you end up undergeared and underleveled, even more so within long dungeons. This is mostly due the the RNG nature of the game, where the quests rewards, loot drops and encounters (good and bad ones) are all left to your luck, which means that you won’t always get the gear you need.
But like I said above, the challenging aspect is one of the charms of the games for me, and like-minded players will surely enjoy it a lot. For the rest, it may end up being slightly frustrating, especially if it ends up in a game over.
The aesthetics of the game is strange and may displease some, but it is elegant and colorful. From a personal point of view, it is pleasing to the eye but I would just regret, if necessary, that the appearance of the characters is less neat than that of the monsters.
For The King is currently in early access, and February 28 to be precise, but you can forget your usual fears, because apart from a few balancing concerns, the success of the Kickstarter has allowed IronOak to produce a solid game with an excellent finish. If anything, the game being in Early Access only means that it will be getting better.