Review: For the King

For The King

The King was loved by many

IronOak Games got the attention of the indie scene during their first Kickstarter campaign, getting over three thousand backers to triple their initial asking amount. The result is For the King, a rogue-like, low-poly, hyphen-infested, turn-based, strategy RPG. The game starts with the assassination of the King. With his death, chaos begins to assault the land.

And the only people the Queen could find is you and your semi-pro buddies.

“. . . . Ladies.”

Unfortunately for the Kingdom, the Queen doesn’t have much choice but to call on the local not-soldiers and not-adventurers to help her find the assassin. Classes include Woodcutters, Minstrels, Herbalists, Huntsmen, Scholars, Blacksmiths, and Buskers.

Buskers. And that’s an unlockable class. You don’t start with them. You have to earn Buskers.

The rounds play out over the course of a day/night cycle. There are randomized map and timeline events along the way. The map lays out encounters with monsters, merchants, and environmental hazards. The timeline indicates when the Chaos level increases, as well as when Scourges begin to awaken. Get three Chaos

A wild Scourge appears!
Challenge Level: This friggin guy

levels and portals start appearing everywhere to dump out bad guys. Scourges, on the other hand, create specific effects to screw over the hapless greenhorn gumshoes. Chaos can be dealt with by shutting down machines and completing main quests or specific side quests. Scourges, however, have to be stopped at their source. The Scourges are unique high-level bosses that also, mercifully, drop unique loot to help your party.

My favorite gameplay mechanic was definitely the Focus meter. Right-clicking on any of the PCs actions would spend a point of Focus to increase the RNG percentage on their actions, thereby increasing the odds of pulling off critical moves. Some adversaries can only be hit by 100% success rolls. Unfortunately, keeping Focus available is just one more spinning plate in the resource management element.

Bye Bye Bye

For my first round, I grabbed the Minstrel, Blacksmith, and Huntsman. Despite their lack of badass credentials, they proved to be adept at on-the-job training. Unfortunately, I made it only a few levels in before the combination of Chaos and Scourges dropped my group faster than an aged-out 90s Boy Band.

If at first you don’t succeed, you’re definitely on the right track.

But that’s okay, because along the way my party earned Lore points. Lore points are the currency used to unlock more gameplay options. The Lore unlocks included new, more useful(?) classes, unique items, and map events.

A Leaguer, a Big Lebowski Reference, and not a licensed property walk into an Adventure.

For my next go-round, I swapped out the Minstrel for a Scholar, and swapped the color palette on my hunter. Maude got the Snowball treatment, because she was the damage sponge of my last party. Despite how much fun I had listening to sick riffs from the Minstrel, the Scholar proved to be a better fit in the party. Even with some setbacks, my new party managed to (barely) make it to the end game. The thing that proved the greatest challenge for my group wasn’t the opposition; it was resource scarcity. In the beginning of the game, campfires (needed to rest outside of town) and healing herbs (needed to heal during combat) were plentiful. But as the game progressed, I didn’t see any campfires past the midpoint, and the cost of item upgrades outpaced how much my party was earning on their encounters. The final boss took out my damage sponge in the second wave, and I limped through the last part with only two members of my party. Alas, Poor Maude2. Maude3 will pick up your banner in the game plus.

We, uh, should probably dodge that.

For the King’s Stretching gets cramped.

During early access, we weren’t able to see all the promised stretch goals in action. The Ice Realm and Pets, specifically. However, the aforementioned Minstrel class is a lot of fun, and a great support character. The foes that mimic him have deadly synergy with agile creatures. The Airship stretch goal became more of a central plot point for the end game instead of a game enhancement.

Final Verdict

Your skill at understatement is underrated, Hildebrant.

The low-poly art style has become a staple of indie games. But some of the charm of the game is in this chunkiness. The devs also included a tight depth of field enhancing the stylized 3D. The combat is brutal, with fallen foes catapulted back on extreme hits. For the King has a tangible presence that makes it feel more like a board game playing out in front of you.

For the King has been in early access since February of this year. And while the game has charm, there is still an overall feeling that it is incomplete. A lot of the drama is artificially amped up, as the timeline events make you race to the end instead of absorbing the setting and exploring. The resource management is a frustrating exercise in unbalanced scarcity and cost of living, instead of a strategic part of the game.

Like any good fantasy setting, travelling at night is not the wisest decision.

Despite all that, there is a lot to enjoy about this game. The combat gets a boost to its flavor with the Focus and Splash attack mechanics. The change in map events and challenge difficulty from night to day is another bonus. Finally, the replay value will allow for extended game life, if you are rogue-like veteran. At the Early Access price point, For The King is worth a try.

For the King is available now for Early Access on Steam.


For the King Grade:

Willemena: Yeah, definitely should have dodged that.
Hawkeye: You okay, Maude?
Maude: *BARF*

Graphics – A

Gameplay – C+

Sound – B+

  • Pros: Lots of replay value. Chunkiness. Satisfying Combat.
  • Cons: Short game. A lot of guesswork. Resource management.

Overall – B+

About The Author

James Lee

Resident Dad gamer. When he isn't building Lego robots with his 4-yo twin boys, James enjoys the finer points of sequential art and games design. His favorite titles are the Mass Effect series, Cities Skylines, Shadowrun, and Overwatch. You can find him juggling between Dad76 and Jazzio on the PC servers as Backburner.

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