It has been ages since I have found a game so enthralling as IronOak’s first release. For The King comes jam packed with content and with five different game modes, there is a ton to do and even more to explore in the randomly generated worlds. And thankfully, this is all supported by a solid framework. While some aspects work better than others, For The King is more than worth the entry price.
For The King is a roguelike game, meaning you will find yourself thrown into the world repeatedly, with the goal to save it. In the main game mode, aptly titled “Battle against Chaos”, you are tasked with solving the King’s murder, defeat chaos and return the world to balance. This is the ideal starting point for any first time adventurer, since this game mode has zero gimmicks. The story has you bouncing between locals in the randomly generated world, allowing you enough freedom to explore the lands while also keeping your journey focused enough that you never feel lost. While the story is functional, there aren’t any characters you encounter that you will particularly become attached to, or even remember which is a shame. What it does well however is get you comfortable with all of the different mechanics, of which there are a lot.
To start off, chaos is spreading. After a specific number of turns, if you don’t complete certain quests or destroy chaos generators, you will gain a Chaos token. These tokens are incredibly important to keep track of because just one can seriously impact your chances of survival. Every token gains adds a Chaos hex on the map which can afflict your party with random effects if crossed. Once you gain three, the world will be flooded with chaos and you will be terrorised by the Chaos Beast. The best way to avoid this is by clearing out the chaos before it has the chance to ruin your run. If you haven’t acquired any of these tokens whenever you clear a generator or specific quests you will clear chaos from the timeline. This forces you to carefully weigh which quests you want to take under your wing, as towns only generate one quest for you. You have to decide whether you want a powerful item, bonus group experience, gold, or to push the chaos back further.
On top of Chaos tokens, there are also scourges that you are tasked with clearing out across the large world. These are essentially bosses for you to challenge in order to gain rare and powerful loot. Often when you find them they can be a level or two above you and, while that may seem small, it can easily spell the difference between life and death. It’s important to seek out these scourges because, like the Chaos tokens, after a certain number of turns if they aren’t cleared out they will activate and create negative effects that can be felt across the world. In one run I had a pirate managed to evade death long enough to create a hold on the economy, raising the prices in all of the stores. Effects like these are hard to live through so it’s in your best interest to seek them out, and you get heavily rewarded for your efforts.
And finally we get to the combat, the meat and bones of For The King. This aspect is very much a traditional turn-based RPG affair, with some tabletop aspects thrown in. Before you start your adventure you get to choose up to three different classes; each one has their own starting gear, passive abilities and stat rollouts. While you start off with a couple, many are unlockable through the progression system. Each class feels different from the other, with my favourite being the herbalist due to their ability to heal the entire party with the use of one healing item. As you defeat enemies, finish quests, and explore the world you slowly gain experience buffing your various stats. Your party’s hits are all satisfying, with death blows – particularly those given by spells or blunderbusses – throwing enemies rag-dolling out of the fight. There is a satisfying depth within the combat system allowing for a wide range of strategies, and you are free to equip your team with high armour and resistance at the expense of speed, or to make all of your characters glass cannons. Whatever build I found myself going for I always enjoyed the combat immensely, mainly due to each weapon you find highlighting a specific stat, meaning if you are high in intelligence you probably want to give that to your scholar. That’s not to say you can’t mix and match – if you find two warhammers that you want to equip your party with but you only have one person with adequate stats, you can do that! You will be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to your accuracy, but that can be made up for with focus.
Focus is yet another resource that you have to keep a watchful eye on in For The King, using it with almost every skill check in the game; whether that is in combat to make your fighter more effective with their weapon, or to increase the chances that you disable a trap that saves your whole party from getting damaged. This is quite possibly the most important resource in the game, as each character is severely limited in the amount of focus they have. Thankfully, it can be increased through different equipment, by pledging yourself to a shrine or replenished with herbs found in the world. Just be aware that you won’t make it far in a dungeon without this.
But while focus can be something to stress over, it also makes the game a lot more rewarding when you succeed without it. Do you risk using it all on a mysterious event that you may find on the way back to town? Or do you use it to your advantage in a tough battle at the end of a dungeon? Both decisions are valid choices that you will find yourself stuck making throughout your time with For The King. And with both chaos and scourges looming over your head, it’s difficult to make time for both.
As you can see, there is a lot going on with For The King on Xbox One. The tabletop RPG roots definitely show and, while all of these aspects make for an interesting and engrossing experience, it can also be seen as one of the major drawbacks. The biggest issue I found though is in the incredibly long game lengths that are needed. Depending on your style of play and how risky you like to be, sessions can easily last hours making the prospect of the many playthroughs that a roguelike game demands a steep order. There is a sense of attachment to your characters despite the fact that they have no personality, and the idea of investing all of your time into these guys who are meant to be throwaways can be annoying to deal with. Luckily at the end of each playthrough you are likely to have collected enough lore books allowing you to unlock even more content, whether events, characters or items. These are found frequently by killing scourges, clearing dungeons and other events, with the rate at which you get them friendly enough that you never feel like your progress is being prevented.
For The King is quite frankly one of the best games you can get for the price range. With five different game modes, all of which include their own enjoyable gimmicks such as survival elements and a focus on seafaring, there is more than enough content to find yourself going through. Supported by fantastic depth in the combat and systems that tie the game together, what few setbacks it has can easily be overlooked. If you have been looking for a turn based RPG, it would be an absolute shame to skip out on For The King.