Saturday, 25 March 2017 00:00

For The King Early Access Review

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For the King is a strategic RPG that features procedurally generated maps, so each playthrough is palpably different from the last. Before embarking on your journey, you can play solo or cooperative mode (both online and local), and have the option to create up to three characters. There are four classes available, with four additional classes that you can unlock. The map is structured in a tactical grid, but instead of each space being a square, the shape is that of a hexagon. Given the way the game plays and how the maps are, the hex-grid system works rather well.

For the King provides three difficulty modes: easy, normal, and hardcore. The easy difficulty might provide for a more casual experience, as expected. Normal difficulty, however, is unforgiving at best but promises an enjoyable experience.

If you're looking for a real challenge, though, look no further, and play hardcore difficulty.

Completing quests produces lore, a sort of currency that allows one to unlock various features (additional classes, locations, or items that can appear in the world, for example) for future playthroughs. The quests are time-sensitive and must be completed in a certain amount of turns, or else chaos increases, which, in turn, increases the difficulty level. Chaos can be reduced, however, by completing the main quests. Chaos depends on which difficulty you play: easy difficulty will allow five slots for chaos, while hardcore difficulty allows only for three. Each town hosts a quest board, from which the player has the option to select one of many available quests. Selecting one will cause the board to be empty until you complete that specific quest. Completing side quests does not contribute to the lore, but rather rewards you with items and gold.

I don’t necessarily recommend randomizing your party and rolling with whatever classes you get unless you desire some added challenge. I did this the first few times and, needless to say, didn't make it too far. I advise selecting classes for your allies and testing out various combinations. Have one blacksmith on the team when starting out, as they cause the most damage, but be forewarned: the blacksmith’s starting gold can be less than the cheapest item in the starting town's market. You can revive fallen allies, but you must reach that fallen ally first. When moving towards the ally’s hexagonal cell, a group of monsters may appear, more or less forcing you to face a battle where the odds are stacked against you; one by one, more allies fall, and a quick game over ensues. The first main quest provides one lore, though, so all is not lost! The combination with which I had the most luck included two blacksmiths and a hunter, and this was even on hardcore difficulty. Hardcore prevents you from reviving fallen allies but pays out more lore. Hence, this is a sort of risk-reward calculation. I was able to get further on hardcore difficulty than on normal and gained four lore (instead of the usual one) in a run. If you find yourself dying rather quickly, give hardcore difficulty a chance, since it increases your lore income for each run.

Locations and random encounters can also appear, such as dungeons, merchants, or trainers. This adds even further variation to each run and yields more content to explore and uncover. You must complete a dungeon in its entirety, so ensure that your party is ready. The dungeons harbor enemies that are typically a couple of levels higher, or more, than the starting levels of your characters, so exploring them may ensure an untimely death.

Combat itself is turn-based, but damage output results from a "throw." For instance, if an attack relies upon strength, your standard attack will "flip" two-to-four coins (depending on the attack), and the chance of landing heads depends upon that stat: if one's strength is seventy-eight, the chance for each to land as heads will be seventy-eight percent. The more heads rolled, the higher the damage output shall be. You can invest a “focus” point to ensure better success, as each focus point will guarantee one head. You also use focus when sneaking by an enemy – along with many other actions. Characters begin with three or four focus points, depending on the difficulty, and you can restore these in a town for a small fee, or at various points along one's journey (you can also increase the max amount of focus a character has). A perfect roll (where all coins are heads) on a special attack can additionally add some extra special effects, such as ignoring armor, but the chances of heads for each roll is ten percent less than that of a standard attack roll.

Overall, the pace and overarching element of luck can make a run unfair: the monster appearances, and the rate at which they increase in difficulty over time, makes some runs over extremely quickly.

Additionally, the lore unlocks, aside from extra character classes, only prove helpful if a run affords you the opportunity to make use of them. The Dark Carnival, for example, has appeared multiple times throughout my playthroughs – but I don’t know what to make of it since I have never had a carnival ticket. The game can be unhelpful in this sense. For example, there are many lores that are ‘locked’ when you begin, and the store does not provide details on how to ‘unlock’ them. And, of the ‘unlocked’ lores, none improve a class, or your allies in general, by boosting stats – an effect that would come in handy in any run. The easier the difficulty, the higher your starting stats (such as armor and evasion), and certain items permanently increase a character's stat, but the buff doesn't spill over into subsequent runs, dampening replayability.

The music in the start menu is particularly noteworthy and fitting. It evokes the feeling of regality, but also has a full and inspiring tone. There seem to be no major differences between the solo adventure and local cooperative, except for the fact that in the latter, the characters do not switch position. Instead, when it's another's turn, they stay in place and come into (camera) focus (that is, become larger or more prominent on the screen). I find this to be an easier way of keeping track of the character for the current turn. Another difference in cooperative mode is that after a battle, any loot is automatically evenly split among all those who participated. Although you can have one character give rewards to another character, I prefer the solo option, where you get divvy the loot up yourself, choosing whom to give an item and worrying not about inventory management among your characters.


The Verdict

For the King won't appeal to every RPG fan – only those that enjoy an unforgiving and unjust mechanic will be able to play through numerous runs and have enough patience to continue exploring all that this title has to offer. If you are on the fence about this, but enjoy a bit of strategy in an RPG, try this title.

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Chris Hubbard

A fan of RPGs above other genres, Chris has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. Some of the games that had the most influence on his gaming preferences have been the Final Fantasy and the Diablo series. More recently, most of Chris' gaming time has been going toward Gems of War and Clicker Heroes (give it a try, it can be addicting), along with open-world RPGs such as Skyrim and ESO. He's also dabbled with RPG Maker software, and it is a goal of his to someday create an RPG.