For the King opened with a cheerful text box telling me that I’m almost certainly not going to win the first time I play. Alright then; this is definitely a roguelike. It’s a trendy phrase to throw around these days – “roguelike”. It’s like a big signpost saying “you can play this game forever!”. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, but For the King takes a very admirable stab at it. IronOak Games have crafted a thoroughly delightful fantasy romp; one that will have you coming back to have your arse handed to you on a plate over and over.
Gameplay in For the King
As far as turn-based tactical RPGs go, For the King is fairly standard. Your party consists of up to 3 adventurers, each with their own RPG class. For story reasons, these classes are “civilians” – hunters, blacksmiths, scholars, minstrels, etc. – but realistically, they all correspond to fantasy RPG classes we all know and love. For instance, the Blacksmith is your standard warrior tank, the Scholar is a mage, and so on. You navigate each character individually through the hex-based overworld, which is somewhat novel. As a result, not all party members will be present for all combats: they have to be within a certain radius to join in.
Once you’re in combat, it’s standard fare. That is to say, you and the enemy take turns whacking away at one another, occasionally inflicting detrimental effects like “Poisoned” or “Frozen”. If you have ever played a turn-based RPG before, like Final Fantasy, Pokémon or Persona, you know exactly what you’re getting in for.
On winning in combat, you loot gold and gear and gain experience points. This all allows you to grow more powerful, to fight more powerful enemies, to gain more loot, gold, and XP… You get the gist. Higher levels force you to choose between very powerful gear with some drawbacks, like reducing other stats, or more middle-of-the-road gear with no detriments. Like any good RPG, stats and gear eventually become a balancing act that it’s satisfying to get right.
For the King‘s Autumnal Chic
The kingdom of Fahrul has a decidedly autumnal feel to it, but even if that’s not your thing, it’s hard to find fault with the game’s design elements. There’s a lot of variety in the environments. The Burning Forest, for example, is very striking in comparison to the Golden Plains. The low-poly style is evocative, colourful and a great use of the genre. Each piece of equipment looks unique, making changing out gear feel more than just juggling numbers. The enemies are both delightful to look at and distinctive.
The sound design is, unfortunately, also quite typical of the turn-based RPG genre. In other words; the soundtrack is largely a series of repetitive earworms. In addition, the characters and enemies largely only make wordless, limp vocalisations when attacking or being hurt. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but don’t expect to be immersed by the game’s soundscape.
If, At First, You Don’t Succeed … Buy, buy again
Like any good roguelike, success in each playthrough contributes to the experience in the next. In For the King, this comes in the form of Lore.
Lore is a currency granted on completing quests. In-game, they take the form of ominous, purple-bound tomes. Lore that you accumulate in-game allows you to “buy” things in the Lore Store. These include encounters, gear, new classes, and locations. These are then added to the pool when generating the world, adding variety – and hopefully playing a part in furthering your success in the next run.
The combination of the procedural world, satisfying combat and loot feedback loop, and the Lore Store make For the King very re-playable. Add the multiplayer into the mix, and you’ve got wonderful longevity. Other than the base campaign that gives the game its name, there are several other campaigns and game modes available to extend your playtime. I played two campaigns with a friend, and we had a blast – although our first one only lasted about 25 minutes, embarrassingly.
Overall, For the King is certainly a game I’ll be returning to, both solo and with friends. Nothing about it is particularly new or exciting, but each individual element is executed very well. The combat is fun and tense, the design is charming, and the roguelike repeatability will have you craving just one more turn.
Now, if you’ll excuse me – I’m about to give the King’s Maze dungeon a go… For the 4th time. Catch you all on the other side!