My experiences with any tabletop campaigns start and end as a bystander. My cousin and his friends invited me over one day to their meeting spot. As I watched them work on their Games Workshop miniatures and the custom table built for games – I felt intimidated. But eventually I came to understand why Games Workshop was always busy at the mall, this hobby brought people together and a local community was born.
Even Dungeons and Dragons kept me at bay for some time. Now with the tabletop roguelike RPG For the King, I’m revealing what is one beautiful looking video game. Although, while it’s pretty to look at, it is also devilishly tough.
Originally beginning as a Kickstarter project in 2015, entering Steam Early Access in 2017, and launching last year on PC before coming to consoles last week. Assembling a party in solo (or co-op) then moving out into the hexagonal-based world map while taking on quests is a lot of fun.
Selecting your party’s class happens at the beginning of your adventure. Blacksmith, for example, hit weak but absorb damage well, they know armour and use the Steady passive skill. Hunter excels in combat with a bow. Scholar and Mistral excel with magic and wear enemies down for physical damage.
Lots of adventure for everyone!
Offering six adventures, the first one being “For the King,” in which you attempt to solve the King’s murder and restore order to the land. The more Chaos found on the map (via a meter), the more challenges await you on the map. Enemies scale with the Chaos, offering an even greater challenge on higher difficulties. Once the meter reaches the maximum level, the map floods in Chaos leading to frequent encounters.
All movement is based on dice. Your character rolls a die at the beginning of their turn, and earn, for example, five movements on the map. As they move along the map, each hex spot might offer either a challenge, loot, or travelling merchant access. While I’m not a big fan of this system, it has some benefits when keeping your party together. You’ll likely survive by sticking together.
Combat takes place in a traditional turn-based with each of your three character’s attacks dealing damage against enemies. Where the difficulty lies in is how you position your party during a battle and how close in proximity they are within the hexes on the battlefield. Go too far, and you’re exposed to enemy attack. Attacking enemies involves RNG through coin tosses on screen. The top of the screen shows turn-order so you’ll need to pay attention to maximize your efforts on defeating enemies.
Better with a Friend
Playing local co-op is how For the King leaves the best impression. Not having to worry about your entire party and having a real human playing with you adds to the illusion of real tabletop experience. There’s also online co-op and while I found online games it wasn’t as fun without being able to talk to the person face to face. All in all, solo play is good but local co-op shines and For the King plays best with friends.
What really kept me invested was overcoming my losses. Each time I’d start again (and you will start again), learning the nuances of combat, when to use Focus and how to maximize available commands in battle. Loot is split between all three members and spoils can be shared or kept to one character. My biggest suggestion is ensuring your party has enough healing items although their price jumps the further you get into the campaign.
Cue the Music
As for the sounds and visuals, those are what drew me in initially. The low-poly art style and environments offer detailed, colourful assets. And the music, written by John Robert Matz is a highlight start to finish, with tracks like Chaos Gathers and The Noble Sea reflecting what the composer called ‘bardic’ music.
While I found myself enjoying For the King, it wasn’t without any issues. Playing on the Nintendo Switch the game crashed in the middle of a campaign. I was worried my progress would be lost but thanks to auto-save I was able to pick up and go on my way continuing my campaign. The other big issue I noticed was that For the King was clearly designed with keyboard and mouse in mind, the transition to consoles isn’t without growing pains.
For the King is wholly engrossing and a ton of fun. Although the cutesy graphics paint it in a different light, the For the King is a tough game and it commands your attention while moving through the gorgeous hexagonal map and combat screens. Each character class offers something useful, but it’s up to you to experiment and find the right combination for success. If anything comes from my time saving the land of Fahrul, it’s the urge to dive into tabletop RPGs for myself.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
- Beautiful low-poly world and characters
- Fun tabletop experiences on a console
- Great local co-op
- Lots of campaigns and modes to keep you busy
- It's a difficult game
- Some interface issues
- Crashes on Nintendo Switch