The first game we saw at this year’s PAX East was IronOak Game’s For The King. The charming and colorful aesthetic of the game is a bit deceiving of just how brutally hard this game is, and how much it revolves around the complete destruction of your party.
However, it’s probably one of the most enjoyable rogue-like experiences I’ve had, both as a single player experience, and a co-op multiplayer game.
For The King is a Procedural Turn-Based RPG that features Solo and Co-op play. Featuring a blend of Roguelike, Boardgame and JRPG Combat mechanics, For The King has a unique feel and aesthetic. Players must survive cunning enemies and creatures, wicked weather and brutal traps in their quest to solve the mysterious death of the king and bring order to the land.
For The King puts you in charge of a party of three adventurers (or if playing co-op with two others, you’ll control one of the three characters), called by Queen Rosomon of the Kingdom of Fahrul to investigate the dark goings on that have killed the king, and ended the lives of the realms old heroes. You’ll begin the game by being able to select one of four starting “heroes” (more on how unlocking other heroes works later on), drawn from the common folk who have been tasked to take up the mantle of hero. Thus, you’ll be choosing between blacksmiths and buskers instead of fighters and mages. There are some minor customization options, which I hope will be expanded as the game reaches full launch, but the variety of classes offers you plenty of choice.
Once you start the game, you’ll be given a quest and a certain number of rounds to complete it. This is the core loop of the game, get quest, complete it, get new quest, repeat, and while the quest is always the same, the world is procedurally generated each time you begin, and I’ve seen vastly different layouts, from poisonous swamps, to open plains, to sunny island chains. Of course, this whole questing thing is easier said than done, as the quests will be leading you towards insurmountable odds, see you delving into dungeons, slaying monsters and then getting mercilessly slaughtered by them.
Controlling your party or hero and navigating the world is incredibly easy to understand and is largely intuitive. The game is very clearly inspired by board games, and the world looks like a gigantic, very detailed field of hexes. These hexes are full of monsters, random encounters, and landmarks you’ll have to fight or interact with. Your chance of success in these events will be determined by your characters stats, you use of your focus stat, and when and where you choose to use the consumable items you’ll find or buy.
For The King pulls no punches. There will be times that you end up getting the raw end of a critical hit, or your party ends up in an unwinnable situation. As long as these things happen in the larger game world, it isn’t too bad, as you have ample chances to revive characters and respawn, but if it’s in a dungeon, it’s a lot tougher.
If you’re unable to complete quests in the number of rounds given, you don’t fail them, but the world’s chaos level increases. Similarly, if one of your characters falls in battle, this too increases the world’s chaos level one point. The chaos level can go up to five, at which point the game will become a grueling, hardcore experience where apocalyptic monsters roam the lands of Fahrul and deaths are far more permanent. While some might feel this dissuades exploration, I think it gives the game a wonderful sense of urgency. The Kingdom is in peril and is literally arming the beggars in the streets in the hope that throwing enough people at this problem will save them. This isn’t a time for side-quests.
Your party will die in For The King, but all is not lost. Completing major story steps will give you Lore Books, a currency that carries over between party deaths (additionally, all players receive the same amount lore books in Multiplayer, so there’s no need to worry about host preference or anything like that). These lore books can be used in The Lore Store to unlock new character classes, items to be added into loot tables, events and locations to encounter. It’s a fantastic system that makes it so that even when you die to a particularly unlucky encounter, you don’t feel like the attempt was completely worthless, and you always feel like you’re working towards something.
Online Multiplayer is in Beta, but works incredibly well. The only slight inconvenience is the fact that Inventory and UIs you’re able to interact with are player bound, meaning while your friends are taking their turn, you’ll be unable to interact with your own inventory of the world. There’s also no in game chat window enabled at this point, so you’ll want to bust out Discord, Curse or Skype. Not a massive inconvenience in any way, but something you should expect. For The King will certainly take a lot more coordination and communication if you’re playing with other people (In a game I played with friends, there was a fair amount of squabbling over who got to activate a certain powerful shrine, and who got an incredibly powerful sword that dropped. Vulgarities were exchanged), but that’s part of the fun. I had such a good time with it that it’s almost certainly my preferred way to play.
For the King is currently on Steam Early Access for $14.99.
Early Access is expected to run for around 6 months, but the game is in such a solid state I’d suggest picking it up now at the discount if you’re interested in it at all.
Want to learn more about the games we saw at PAX East 2017? Check out this page, which lists all the game’s we saw, and we will be updating with links to our coverage as we complete it.