For the King Preview

For the king, the journey, and the glory! Choose your class and set forth on a quest to rid the world of complete destruction via swarming chaos! Whether solo or online co-op, the fun evolves the farther one reaches. Be wary, however: the goal is not one for those devoid of perseverance.

For The King Preview

Introduction

If there were ever an introduction more perfectly suited for a game like this, For the King has topped it. Upon booting up the game—before one even makes it to the main menu—the game will outright warn you of the game’s difficulty. In close to twenty years playing video games, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a video game so concerned about losing out on potential players due to its trial-and-error nature. True to its word, For the King is commendably challenging; even on the lowest difficulty, I still have yet to make it past two or three hours on a single campaign. But is it of suitable quality to put your valuable time into mastering? That may all depend on one thing: taste.

The game is currently on Steam Early Access and can be bought for your regional price.

For The King Early Access Trailer

Story

A tale as old as the hags one is given the chance to slaughter without mercy, the king of the land of Fahrul has been murdered by an unknown entity. The once calm kingdom has erupted into a state of constant violence and destruction. In a desperate attempt to keep the calamity quiet, the queen employs whoever chooses to step forth and take down the chaos at its core, wherever it may lie.

 

A placeholder setting for the adventure that is to come. Sounds pretty simple, because it is pretty simple. Narrative prowess isn’t really the “point” or the draw of For the King, though I’m sure I wouldn’t need to convince many of that. What is to come with any campaign is a constantly evolving—yet inherently monotonous—step-by-step process of upping the stakes with every heroic triumph. With the presentation of a tabletop aesthetic, there isn’t much to the game (as of now) in terms of cinematics: no cutscenes, no focus on character building or relationship forging, no genuine attempt to build the story outside of event-triggered announcement queues. What an incoming player should expect is a more straightforward world of uniformity. Start from one service point and travel another service point. Kill some baddies, rummage through some mines, then continue similar activities in a more difficult, expansive area of the map.

For The King Preview. I hate these big cubes of slime

 

Though trying to incorporate anything more than a placeholder setting would be rather difficult within the chains of this game’s strict play style, but more on this later. It wouldn’t be really fair to try and chastise this game for trying to build on more than it’s already accomplished, especially with something that smaller fantasy-medieval RPGs typically don’t pay much attention to. After all, I don’t need to feel emotionally connected to these characters to enjoy the abundance of gameplay quirks available to me. Still, it’d help motivate me to continue after my sixth wipe.

Gameplay

Time

Allow me to be somewhat forthcoming with this personal preference of mine, as I feel it would be beneficial for the reader to contemplate how I handled it within this title: I enjoy playing games at my own pace. When I feel pressured by a game to beat it faster or slower than I prefer, I typically get turned off enough to drop it entirely. A notable example of this is One Way Heroics, a game that has a looming shadow of death creep closer with every move the player makes. For the King is similar in this capacity, only instead of imminent death, the quantity of “chaos” increases upon the map the player’s heroes travel upon. Health of enemies increase and the map becomes generally more full of havoc and hurdles. If the player doesn’t do something to combat this upcoming chaos, which is shown in a time slot at the top of the screen, it will become increasingly stressful to handle all with which the game can throw at one. This chaos does not stop coming, either, and on top of that, special characters will also cause mischief for the player should they be left untouched. This makes every turn the player takes pretty important, so one can hardly afford to flirt around with casual exploration or grinding.

For The King Preview. It's a nice staff

 

What is allowed is stacking of treating upcoming chaos by means of overcoming important events or destroying “chaos devices.” This creates a decent window of opportunity to play the game at a semi-calm pace, which was among the most enjoyable parts of the game for me. It’s nice that the developers may have taken my preference to heart and created a way to make the game feel more lenient in that regard. And for those who share my disposition, take note that For the King is not only difficult, but a never-ending quest fest of tasks to ward off chaos, equipping items and armor, and managing one’s finances.

Return of the RNG

Nothing in life is guaranteed (except maybe taxes). Nothing, too, is guaranteed in the chaotic world of Fahrul (except maybe death). For the King’s battle system is made up of a slot-roll system, which randomly rolls a success or failure rate dependent on a character’s weapon and statistics. For example, a hunter’s standard bow could have an 80% success rate per attack slot, so once the player chooses an enemy to attack, depending on the number of attack slots, each slot has an 80% success rate of fire. If all three (let’s say) are successful, the attack attains its full efficiency. If one fails, the attack becomes considerably weaker, and even more so if more than one fails out.

 

This is yet another thing that I don’t personally care for in video games: leaving things to chance. I was somewhat irked by A Robot Named Fight!‘s randomly assigned items with each playthrough, which increased or decreased overall difficulty based on bosses faced and what the player’s arsenal consisted of at that point. In this case, it is something that can never be controlled. It is a core mechanic of the game and what makes the adventure even more difficult. I’ve always been a control freak when it comes to video games, so to leave the stakes out of my hands feels a little isolating from a more personal experience. I’ve always liked to live or die by my own skill, if that makes sense. However, this works on both ends, as enemies have that same slot-roll system that can either make their attacks stronger or weaker dependent on RNG. (Random Numbers God, for those unaware.) I can count a number of times where I was on the verge of death, only to have the RNG save me from yet another wipe. Every decision is a gamble, whether for your sake or the enemy’s.

For The King Preview. There may be a reference somewhere

Focus System

A less infuriating aspect of For the King comes in the form of the focus system, which embellishes a number of different capabilities possible for one’s player. Each class is given a set amount of focus slots (which can be improved through various equipment or events) to use in and out of battle for different purposes. Much like stacking the chaos repellent, it’s nice that the developers gave a little boost in terms of improving chances rather than constantly hampering one’s freedom for the sake of extra difficulty. Whether improving the chance of an attack’s success rate, gaining an extra move per turn, or improving the chances of succeeding at a map event, focus can be the difference between a risky venture and smooth sailing. Careful not to use it all up at once, though.

Character Customization

This was an aspect I was pleasantly surprised by, as I expected a base class with no changing parts and that’s it. Instead, one has the choice of changing the class’s clothing, skin, and hair color, and even naming them. Gives the experience a bit of a personal touch, y’know? On a more practical level, the number of classes available (at the moment, including unlockable classes) gives a fairly distinct style of team-building, with some classes more focused on magic damage or speed or what have you. The game is smart enough to test you on various fronts, throwing out enemies that are more susceptible to various types of attacks and elements, such that certain classes are more capable of than others. Most of it is straightforward and easy to digest, with only basic math and an uneducated eye for detail being possible hazards to confront. This much is true: the more you play the game, the more situations you face, the better you become based on familiarity and experience. Being able to keen in on a class one is most comfortable with, and alternative classes to pair them with, makes an immensely hard game into a continuously less stressful journey.

For The King Preview. Watch out for this guy. He smells

Overall Musings

Up to this point, this review may seem a little gloomy in tone. Let it be known that what I chronicled above is only a list of things I find necessary for potential buyers to be aware of before putting themselves within the fire, along with my own personal takes on them. I don’t find these things to be in any way “flaws,” as the incorporation of these mechanics have a polish I would expect from a major AAA company. My own denouncement of some of these qualities to the game such as its insistence on time or chance are only of personal indulgence, and things about the game that make the game less enjoyable for my sake. I understand its desire to make the game more challenging or meticulous through its atmosphere of constant danger and tension, and I can only applaud its effort by grinding my teeth whilst facing it. My desire to continue the game has not diminished much since I started, though the starting area has grown tiresome to traverse through at this point. The game is one exuding potential to be great; it’s already fairly good despite being early access.

Graphics & Audio

Everything looks pleasantly current-year-indie. A balance between retro blockiness and high-definition care. There’s a certain cartoon aesthetic that makes the game look both distinct and carefree—how devilishly ironic. What isn’t difficult about the game is showing what is and isn’t a considerable threat to the party, with portions of the map littered with pits of fire, poisonous gas, big baddies, or friendly towns with big, bold letters in front. Quality of animation is also pretty fluid, with only very few occurrences where a character’s attack animation bugged out on me. The tabletop aesthetic isn’t one that interests me personally, but thinking back to games such as Fire Emblem or even Mario Party was interesting to compare this game with. The general design of characters (humans specifically) may not be the best fit on the eyes for some, but the imaginative force behind the world is nothing short of inspirational.

For The King Preview. My personal favorite class

 

What may be the weakest part of For the King is its overall impact through sound. Tracks played during fights, important events, or on the map simply aren’t very memorable. It’s appropriately medieval, with high-pitched stringed instruments in check, yet I can’t find myself even remembering any tune from the game as I’m typing this. Some audio triggers are memorable, such as the sound of a specter shooting curse beams at the player (about as vividly as I could put it), though that doesn’t go for much when all is said and done. Some grunts here and there when attacking or taking damage. There’s no voice acting or anything similar; For the King’s pretty simplistic in this aspect, almost as so with its overall narrative. Should this get a pass for lack of importance? Perhaps, though I find myself more encouraged by the musical merits of a game that gets by on atmosphere and the lust for adventure, and all the romantic flair attached. Music becomes far more essential than any intricate story, since gameplay can pick up the slack for the latter.

Conclusion

It is a game that plays by its own rules. Should one not care for them, they have no choice but to abandon hope for adventure. For the King has enough care, effort, and artistic merit to carry one through a fortune of time spent within its grassy fields, murky swamps, or ominous seas. Yet it is its unyielding desire for challenge that makes it a very stressful, albeit addictive foray into a genre already rich with history. Much like a true adventure, it has its ups and downs, but the most memorable stories are ones of dramatic triumphs, unrelenting spirit, and pushing further than one thought possible. For the King presents the platform to write those stories. I’ll happily write until my blood begins to smudge the words.

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