My first introduction to For The King was while looking for a cooperative RPG for my friends and I to play together. Surprisingly enough, there weren’t as many options in our price range as I would have expected. So when we saw it sporting an incredibly modest price tag of $14.99 as well as having online cooperative play, it was an easy sell for our little group.
Right from the jump, the game warns you that not only is it in early access, but you will not succeed on your adventure. Foreboding, but as we would come to find out, painfully accurate. Ignoring all warnings the game threw at me, especially the one that said not to jump right into cooperative play, I set up an online match in the barren server browser and invited two of my friends to play. You only start with 4 of the available classes unlocked, so we weren’t exactly spoiled by choice, but we were eager to throw ourselves into the fray.
We selected our classes, changed our character names, and utilized the very basic customization options, which are just color swaps, and dove in. We were greeted with a stylish world map made up of hexagonal tiles filled with towns, structures and enemies. A dialog box popped up and told us that our quest was to go to another town, and get a quest from there. It also indicated that there was a time limit to accomplish these tasks that would tick down after every turn the party took.
From movement, to combat, ambushes and opening doors, everything is determined by a dice roll. These dice rolls are based on your character’s traits and skills, but can also be modified by finding various structures in the wild as well as items you collect. You also have something called, focus, which is a resource you regain when you rest that can heighten the chances of a successful dice roll. Or, they can make you feel like 97% is a really good chance for an attack, only to realize that you still failed it and missed your enemy anyway. That was a fun experience. What I’m saying is, in For The King you need to do everything possible to make your character stronger or else you will die. A lot.
Dying, however, isn’t a simple “Game Over”, but rather a chance for the developers at Iron Oak Games to really rub your failure in your face. You have five chances to fail, whether it be death or an objective or a really unlucky dice roll. Every failure results in something called “Chaos” increasing. Every time that Chaos rises, a new challenge gets thrown your way. A first it’s things like certain tiles will poison you or just do damage to you as you pass through them. Fail enough times and you’ll lose the ability to revive downed teammates or all of your rolls will most likely never be perfect again. This is really handy when you face off against enemies who dodge everything that isn’t a perfect roll.
These are mild frustrations however, and I know that For The King is currently in active development, which is reassuring because there are some rough edges here. The interface is a little clunky and isn’t streamlined in a cohesive way. Exiting inventory and character menus operate differently than interacting with the menu at a town for instance. I wasn’t able to find a good way to compare an equipped weapon to an unequipped one aside from just unequipping them both. Status ailments are unclear in their effects and duration leaving you wondering if it’s worth using an item to cure it or not. There are a ton of these little grievances I have with the state the game is currently in that I’m sure are being worked on at the moment.
And working on it they most definitely are. In the latest update to For The King, Iron Oak Games addressed some of my biggest grievances with online functionality. Specifically fixing issues with a lack of clarity on how to continue games in progress, as well as being able to manage your inventory when it wasn’t your turn.
Entering early access in the same week as blockbuster titles like Zelda and Horizon Zero Dawn may have not done For The King any favors, but if you’ve got some time and are in the market for something new, I absolutely recommend checking it out.