For the King is a strategic RPG that blends table-top and roguelike elements in a challenging adventure that spans the realms. Or so says the description in the Xbox store. IronOak Games and Curve Digital have done a fine job of crafting an easily accessible, fun to play turn-based quest, complete with exploration, looting, player customization, combat, and some light gambling elements scattered throughout the expansive map.
While not insanely detailed, the art design of For the King puts you in a rich and vibrant world with a hefty variety of realms and landscapes. It’s large, hexagonally tiled map does indeed remind me of some classic table-top games. Colorful and almost cute character design is marred only slightly at the start of the game, with only a small number of customization options available, but, fear not, for there are plenty of unlockables to discover and earn in the Lore store. This is were you exchange lore earned in-game to unlock special items, places, events, and characters.
Upon initial startup, you have four character classes to choose from. The Blacksmith is equipped with a shield and hammer. The Hunter has a bow. The Minstrel plays on a lute or guitar, and the scholar, well, you get the idea. Additional character classes are unlocked in the Lore store. Interestingly enough, all of the weapon types are able to be equipped by each of the character classes, regardless of specialty, so experimentation is possible, but be sure that your character can use it well. If your character stats aren’t up to snuff for a particular weapon, all you’re going to do is swing and miss. This goes for magic attacks as well.
The overall sound design is very tastefully done. Environmental sound effects change with the locale. You have the standard grunts and cheers from player characters and the usual snarls and screams from the enemies and beasts you encounter. This is all complimented by a nice medieval sounding soundtrack. Not an epic musical score that you might find in large titles like The Elder Scrolls, but a pleasing jaunt nonetheless.
Now let’s talk about gameplay. At the title/menu screen you can start a new game, load an old game, resume from your last save, start an online Co-op, check out the Lore store, or dabble with the options menu. In the options menu you can check out the help screen, toggle different game options, adjust the audio settings, and get a handle on the control scheme. There are no alternate controls as far as I can tell but that’s OK. The default (only) scheme is perfect for this style of game. You can even check out the game credits if you care to know who put in the work to deliver this diamond in the rough.
In the Lore store you’ll see a whole lot of padlocks of varying color. These locks are unlocked through accomplishing various deeds or achievements throughout the game. Once unlocked you can then use Lore points to add revealed items into the game. Keep in mind that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll encounter a specific item, event, or encounter during your play through, just that you may. Things to unlock in the Lore store are locations and points of interest, character classes, special items that can be equipped, mini encounters, and character customization items that are just for appearance’s sake.
Upon starting a new game, you’ll first have to choose your adventure. For the King is the main story as you attempt to bring the King’s murderer to justice. There is also the Frost adventure where you try to survive the frozen wasteland searching for treasure. Into the Deep takes you out for adventure on the high seas. Dungeon Crawl tasks players with locating and destroying Chaos Generators within five deadly dungeons. Hildebrandt’s Cellar is an endless dungeon with plenty of loot to discover. How deep will you go? Finally, Gold Rush is a multiplayer only competitive mode where the winner is determined by bringing back a pre-determined amount of gold in a crazy scavenger hunt.
Difficulty levels are Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master. Obviously, the higher the difficulty, the more rewarding the loot. Finally, the three gameplay modes are Solo, Local Co-op, and online Co-op. Now that you’ve setup your game, you must choose your character party. You may control up to three characters, and can build your party as you see fit. The four starter classes are the Blacksmith, the Hunter, the Scholar, and the Minstrel. You can name each member of the group as well as customize color and appearance, albeit this is limited at the start.
Once your party is finalized the game will generate the world map. Note that every play through will be different as the world is procedurally generated. The names of the locations will remain the same but the map will change for every new game you start. Much like a table-top game, character movement on the world map is determined by random rolls against the player’s stats. Move your character to the desired tile to begin an interaction or battle. During battle, player and enemy characters take turns attacking, casting spells, or supporting your teammates. There is a pre-determined attack sequence at the top of the screen, again based on a random rolls against character stats.
Once the battle is over and you collect your loot, you will be returned to the world map and have to take your next turn. On the world map you can choose to send your characters in different directions to cover more ground or stick together for strength in numbers. Along with the main quest, various side quests can be obtained by visiting towns and settlements.
As I said earlier, the game is procedurally generated and as such it does come with the dreaded permadeath. You start the game with a limited number of lives shared between all of your characters and once your party is wiped out (no more lives in the life pool) you must start over from the beginning on a fresh new map. But fear not. It is possible to earn extra lives by completing side quests and other such things. Just be aware that the number of extra lives you can carry through the game is limited. Even on the easiest difficulty you can only carry six lives to start with. Now, you may find ways to increase your life pool but you’ll have to make tough decisions too. Is that extra life worth not removing a bit of chaos or a scourge from the world map? Hmm.
Well there you have it. While a bit rough around the edges, For the King could be, with a little more polish through the magic of patches, a real gem of a game. The one complaint I can give it as of the time of this writing is that the game constantly crashes to the dashboard, which can be quite frustrating only for having to load up the game again. It auto saves after every turn so you shouldn’t lose progress but it is vexing. I have every confidence that the developer will resolve this issue and if they do, then this game will be good as gold. Plus, as a game pass title, it should not be missed.
For the King is undoubtedly one of the most distinct, intriguing, and fun RPG roguelikes in recent memory, and what’s more, the content value is through the roof. Despite the odd technical hiccup, the game succeeds in blending so many mechanics together without making a mess, and yet respectably manages to remain accessible and exciting throughout. If you’ve even a smidgen of interest in this game, you owe it to yourself to pick this up.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.