“For the King” is a turn-based game developed by the talented group from IronOak Games. It is a challenging RPG and a roguelike adventure that is played out on a generated hex board. It requires you to use your brain to strategize how you’ll survive long enough to complete your quests.
Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.
It’s available for Mac and PC players, and can be played both as a solo adventure as well as multiplayer – online or couch co-op (though at the time of this review the multiplayer was still in beta).
Like many rogue games, one of the first things you need to come to terms with is that you will die, not just once or twice, but often and repeatedly. Sometimes it’s just one of your characters which will amp up your chaos rating, while others it is a full party wipe.
This is something which you’re kindly warned about at the beginning of the game. So at least you go in there somewhat prepared for this inevitability. Well, assuming that you’re not in complete denial and think that somehow you’ll be the one person that will beat the game the first time in (Good luck with that, by the way.)
Sure, the game looks innocent with all of these adorable graphics, it’s gentle music and unintimidating colour pallet. It sits there enticing you into thinking that this is going to be just cute and easy ride. But don’t let all that fool you into rolling your eyes at the challenge settings and go “I’ve got this. No problem!” Because that’s when you’ve fallen into a false sense of security due to your delusions of grandeur and signed yourself up for a nice serving of humble pie.
Trust me, I know, because that’s exactly what happened to me. The first, second, and third try before I swallowed my pride and knocked the difficulty level down a notch.
Now there’s no need to despair because these deaths aren’t pointless. Well, they aren’t so long as you accomplished a few tasks before you and your companions met miserable ends. There is certainly some value you can scrounge up from being slaughtered, so long as you met your demise strategically and gathered a few Books of Lore, which allow you to unlock some of the perks from the Lore Store.
These unlocks include other characters, items, encounters and bonuses for your future playthroughs. Each time you open a new class, you can test different combinations to see what suits you best and what will get you better results, provided that the next generated world will not completely counter your best-laid action plans.
Of course, before you can set out on your misadventures. You need to pick which three heroes you’re going to drag around and force to do your bidding before they die some miserable -though hopefully heroic- deaths. Keep in mind, there’s a lot to remember in this game, which makes me thankful that there is already a wiki started for it as well as an in-game Encyclopedia.
For my first few runs, I went with a few characters that a few of you may be familiar with where I’d got their inspiration from. As you can see Leliana – my minstrel – which like any bard class fights with music (which comes off as magic damage) and is a teensy bit on the squishy side. Then Cassandra, my blacksmith (a warrior), and lastly Duncan my token rogue class archer with his glorious beard.
There are a few character classes to choose from at the start of the game, keeping in mind that there are others that you can unlock later on. You’ve also got a bit of customization you can do with them as well, though it is limited to their colour presets. Not that I mind, I kind of find their grumpy faces charming. It’s as if they know that you’re likely sending them out there to be slaughtered. How soon they’ll die depends on how well you play, as well as the mercy or cruelty of the RNG gods. Did I mention the map, as well as many other things, are randomly generated? No? Well…they are. Which can be a mixed bag really.
On the plus side though, their outer appearances do change with their gear so their look will vary as you play. This is something that I was quite pleased to see, as I feel that that is something that helps with the immersion in any game. Sure, I had Duncan running around in a ludicrous hat at one point, which I’m sure would have better used as a serving dish, but the stats were nice and it’s not as if he could do anything to me about it.
Obviously, I like to stick to a certain meta in my games, a support/caster, a rogue and a warrior. I suppose this is hard wired into me and I hoped that it would serve me well. And in a way it did, as they each had their own type of damage and unique abilities. Abilities which would change depending on the weapon sets given.
Cassandra, the Blacksmith, started as a blunt weapon and board character. The shield giving her the ability to taunt, while the blunt weapon permitted her to have a chance at stunning opponents. Duncan’s base bow gives him +25% damage to flying creatures, which was useful against the crows that flapped around the beginning areas. Leliana’s weapon extends her support range, allowing her to jump in and assist on in fights which she would have otherwise been too far away from to give a hand. (Leliana was replaced with the Herbalist the moment I unlocked her since this world’s form of medicine seems to get increasingly more expensive as you play)
What do I mean by too far away? Well, unlike a lot of rpg’s, your characters can part ways even in solo play. This makes sense since in multiplayer you’d each control your own character and be allowed to explore the world as you see fit (within limits, do try to stick close to your party).
I was really pleased to see that the game used Mimics. You know, those creatures that feign being a wonderful box of treasury goodness, but really just want to eat your face off. I’m not sure why I’m keen on them, but I cheer when I encountered my first mimic while in a dungeon crawl. I should have been horrified, I should have been more worried for Leliana as its teeth came dangerously close to her face, but I clapped instead. I know, I’m awful. Of course the bitter sense of regret sunk in rather quickly when I realized how nasty mimics are in this game and that they will not only sink their teeth into my characters but into their inventory as well :(. That’s right, the oversized shoebox stole my healing herbs!
In short, this game is not for the feint of heart, nor is it for those unable to swallow their pride and graciously accept defeat. It is for strong and determined that can handle falling down, dusting themselves off, then getting right back up again.
If you’re among the brave and are up for the challenge (in other words, you’ve got stones), then this is the game for you. It is pretty reasonably priced at $16.99 (Canadian, which is what, 2 dollars American? Oh, sorry…$14.99 American), particularly for a game that is developed by such an experienced team.
Their Kickstarter page is still up so you can see the many exciting things they plan to include in the game’s future.