For the King by IronOak successfully combines the genres of a tactical turned-based, rogue-like, and board game experience that offers five different and randomly generated scenarios that can not only be played by yourself, but with others both locally and online.
You (or your friends) control a party of three characters consisting of eight classes (four of which have to be unlocked, more on that later) on an adventure for gold, glory and saving the kingdom. The “For the King” scenario has you figure out a mystery of who killed the king and get revenge before Chaos takes over the land. Chaos plays a major factory in terms of gameplay. If you allow Chaos to reach the end of your day, the game gives you a random penalty such as permanently buffing the enemy with more health. Allowing three chaos symbols to pass summons a dangerous Chaos Beast, but luckily, not only completing quests allows you to remove these signs, but a Chaos tower appears, giving you a chance to keep the land from succumbing to Chaos. A “chance” being a key word.
For the King’s board game roots come in the form of dice rolling with only two options: success or failure. As an example, say you come across a fountain that gives your character a chance to gain more health. You will get four (or less at times) rolls to either have the fountain either punish you for your unsuccessful rolls or having enough successful rolls that grant your character a boon. All attacks have multiple rolls, where you can either score a hit or miss, causing you to completely whiff your attack, do less damage, hit or strike a critical hit. Luckily, your characters have a limited resource called “Focus”, which guarantees a successful roll. But you have to be careful about when to use it, as it can only be recharged by sleeping in town. Will you save your focus to finish an enemy where your party is in danger of wiping in a dungeon, or on a random encounter involving with a deadly trap that will greatly weaken your character?
Each day comprises of 10 turns. One turn consists of every character in your party performing an action, whether it be moving, fighting, visiting a town for a side quest that rewards you with various goodies such as gold, items, or removing a chaos token. Each town offers only one side quest, so you must choose wisely on which quest to undertake to help further your goals.
One of the reasons why For the King is such a great game is because of the tactical decisions you have to make. For example, since each character in your party take turns with moving on their own, positioning becomes important if you want all members in your party to assist in taking down a monster, making the battle easier, or fighting with just that character, so they can receive all the gold, items, and experience on their own.
Knowing what type of weapon a character uses is also very important. Each weapon offers a different set of skills to attack with. Will you use the sword that allows you to attack all the enemies but with lesser damage during battle, or will you use a spear for armor piercing against a difficult foe? Before combat when not in a dungeon, you’re given a chance to attack, ambush, which allows you to single out an enemy from a group (enemies also have an attack map area where they join in the fight), sneak, which allows you to pass through the hex the monster is blocking, and lastly retreat, letting you rethink your decision and move your other characters to a more favorable position to join in the fight.
Selecting your party’s class make up is very important too. The Blacksmith class is your tank, Archers do direct damage, and Mages’ AOE that soften up enemies for the rest of your party. But by far, my personal favorite class is the Minstrel. I never thought a bard-like class could be so fun. The minstrel rocks out dealing direct or AOE damage, or helps inspire your other party members by guaranteeing a successful roll. Developer IronOak Games puts extra love in the small details, by having your bard play a chord after defeating an enemy or jamming out after completing a quest.
There are two main screens you will be involved in: The overhead map covered by the fog of war until explored, showing you where enemies, towns, or quests reside, and Dungeon Mode, where you enter a dungeon where there only way out is to find the exit or die. Dungeons also force all character members to enter no matter where they are. This exemplifies the game’s difficulty. You will not win on your first try, you won’t even win on your tenth. For the King reminds you in the first screen that you will die, and die often. Which brings up the unlock system the game has. As you’re playing through the game, you get “collected lore” tokens to be used in unlocking other classes, items, locations, mini-encounter, and character customizations. These helps make the game a bit easier, but you will still have a challenging time.
As for the other scenarios, “Dungeon Crawl”, asks you to save the realm by locating five dungeons and destroying the Chaos generators that are plaguing the kingdom. It is an adventure where you must spread out your characters enough to remove the fog of war to find the dungeons while still having your party close enough to protect each other from ambushes.
The scenario “Frost Adventure” adds another challenging aspect to the game. You must find the lost treasure deep in the icy mountains. Your character takes 1 damage each turn, making it urgent for your party to find the valuable prize as soon as possible.
The scenario “Hildebrant’s Cellar” is an endless dungeon run, testing your tactical skills and luck in not only making the perfect party make up, but assigning loot won after a battle to the right character to ensure you survive at long as possible.
The last scenario which recently came out is “Gold Rush”. Described as an “anti-cooperative” mode, this multiplayer mode has you control one character in your party where you must work together, but also outwit your opponents as the goal is to be the first character to collect and deliver 100 gold to Fergus the Mad. The winner receives not only bragging rights but also a cosmetic item. You will find many people to play with using IronOak Discord channel. This “friendly” yet competitive mode is incredibly fun as you struggle figuring out when to help a player for your own good and when to betray them by pulling your party into a dungeon to keep someone from grabbing coins or pulling your party into an unwinnable battle as you flee, leaving them to their own demise.
If I could pick out one negative thing about the game, it would be the poison system. I know the game is meant to be challenging, but it is so annoying to cure your characters by hoping you have the herb to cure yourself, or running back as fast as possible to a town so that with the help of the healer. It is a personal pet peeve though, as I feel like many people who play this game enjoy this sort of added danger.
The graphics of “For the King” fit the game perfectly. Its somewhat cartoonish but fantasy style is appealing to the eye. Again, I must give kudos to IronOak for the little details of the game. Whether it is the physics used after smashing an enemy and watching their body fly and crumple up, or having the archer’s arrows stick and stay in the monster they shot at, I feel this game is a labor of love. The developers continue to update the game, such as the aforementioned “Gold Rush” mode and listen to their players.
For the King is a gem of a game. Its combination of many genres is a great feat. Many games try to fit different genres together and end up with a heaping mess of broken pieces. For the King on the other hand perfectly blends the turn-based tactical, strategic, board game and rogue-like genres into one amazing game.