For The King: A Roguelike Strategy RPG (Review)
Every once in a while a little gem of a game releases that Graev and I buy on a complete whim and then end up really enjoying.
For The King is one of the games.
This one was one of those 9pm purchases before you log off the computer for the night. Graev mentioned “hey this looks fun and it’s cheap.” We’re always looking for little games we can pick up to get in some co-op time together. These days so many games require massive commitments on time or money, or simply don’t have any multiplayer component at all.
For The King is a roguelike game. Roguelikes are a subgenre of role-playing games, typically with dungeon crawls, perma-death, and occasionally turn-based gameplay. For The King checks those boxes nicely.
The official website describes the game accurately as thus:
For The King is a Strategic RPG that blends Board Game, JRPG, and Roguelike mechanics into a unique re-playable adventure. Play either solo or co-op campaigns with up to 3 players as you attempt to discover the mystery surrounding the King’s death and bring Order back to the realms.
I’m going to touch on a few of the key points for you guys. There’s a lot of depth to the game that I won’t cover. For that you are best served by watching some gameplay videos on the Steam product page or the official website.
The Map & Exploration
I have to start with the world because right from the first moment of gameplay you get a feel for what this journey will become. The world is procedurally generated, but you’ll see oceans to cross and different realms to explore. You’ll see dungeons and forest and monsters galore.
The map reminds me so much of a tabletop game. It’s laid out hexagonally and you traverse it through a dice roll to determine your move.
In general, the map invites adventure and exploration. That’s both wonderful and horrifying for a roguelike.
Much of the game reminds me of traditional tabletop RPG or Dungeons & Dragons gameplay. Combat is turn-based which means you’ll take turns based off your combat initiative/speed. There’s a meter at the top showing the turn order and you’ll get a feel for how you can influence that with slows and stuns.
I like turn-based combat in roguelikes over real-time because it gives me more time to think about my decisions and their consequences. If I had no time to think, mistakes become much more immediate. Do I use this potion now or save it? Can I survive that next hit? I like those thoughts.
Abilities and skills complement the combat style as well. For example, in my current play-through I’m an archer and my bow has various shots. All of these are based off of rolling several dice to determine if I hit. The more successful rolls, the better my damage modifier. So I can choose an ability that does less initial but modifies greatly upon successful rolls, or I can choose a higher damage shot that won’t gain as much damage from good luck. The RNG is strong, but that’s traditional RPG.
You start off with Hunter, Blacksmith, Scholar, and Minstrel. When you earn “Lore Points” you can spend those before your next game to unlock other classes like the Herbalist, Trapper, Busker, and Woodcutter. Each of these classes have special abilities whether it’s trap detection, party heals, inspiring buffs, or door bashes. Combining different classes together yields a nice bonus to replayability especially since the world is procedurally generated.
Very few of the classes I have tried feel traditional to me, save for maybe the Hunter. However, even traditional characters feel different when using a new weapon that drops which may have different skills. For example, Graev was playing a Minstrel but used a magic wand item that just obliterated enemies quickly. Unfortunately, that item broke quickly and he went back to plucking away at his strings to inspire the group.
Permadeath & Difficulty
You are meant to lose this game. In fact, before you can play you basically have to click a button that says you acknowledge the fact that this game is difficult and that you won’t beat it your first time through. I couldn’t help but chuckle because the first time I saw the warning I thought of a podcast I was listening to on my commute that basically said, “Hey millennials, you’re not going to win at everything you do the first time and you’re going to have to pick yourself up and try again.” So true times two.
We failed quickly our first two games. We didn’t account for how important it is to forgo opportunities. We’ve grown accustom to getting what we want when we want it in games. If I see a dungeons and a quest to go there, I’ll assume I can do it and find a treasure. Oh what a horrible idea it is to quickly go into any old dark hole you find in For The King.
Since death is practically unavoidable, you learn to embrace it. The better you do, the more points you earn. You can then take those points and buy new characters, items, etc., to aid you on your next play-through. Kind of a cool system to encourage you to get back in there and play more.
If you can’t embrace the fact that you’re meant to lose a lot, then For The King is not for you.
Flawless thus far, and in our opinion crucial to For The King’s appeal. You can have up to three people playing online co-op or local. You can play singeplayer if you prefer, but this experience shines with friends.
When two people play (like me and Graev) then one of you controls two players. It works pretty well in a turn-based game.
Thankfully the game was built from the ground up to be a co-op experience. And true to tabletop or traditional RPG sense, you can get loot and pass to other players and interact with the world uniquely with each player.
The decisions made by other players definitely will impact you. If you’re not all communicating or on the same page then you’ll be hitting that “start new game” button a whole lot more.
Overall Thoughts on For The King
I like it — a lot. This will be our “game night” go-to game for a while. It’s not our “play every night” game or “play on a whim” game. Those are best reserved for something like Diablo 3 or Fornite — games with a little more ‘jump-in-jump-out’ appeal. For The King is much more of that type of game where you imagine getting a group of friends together to play. It’s the special occasions that last several hours and require snacks.
For $15 you simply can’t go wrong here.