Not Just for The Hardcore – For The King (PS4 Review)

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If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re also excited about the Final Fantasy VII remake. One of the best pure RPGs is getting a shiny, new paint job and who knows, maybe they’ll sort some of those localised translation issues? But it’s not going to be here till March 3rd next year, so what to do till then? Maybe you could give a different RPG a try, one with a little more of a traditional, non-video game flair to it. Maybe even one like For The King.

For The King is the debut release title by Vancouver-based Ironoak games. It combines elements of turn-based RPG dungeon-crawling with a roguelike environment-building engine and also, it’s basically a board game. Each of your units rolls at the beginning of the turn and can move that many spaces around the randomly-generated board fighting monsters, visiting taverns and completing all manner of quests and side-quests.

Put simply, if what I’ve just described sounds like fun to you, that’s because it just plain is. Playing like a mix of classic Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem and Settlers of Catan, the game has a solid amount of depth and strategy to board placement as at any moment you could find your healer trapped alone in an ambush with the fighter over on the other side of the map, too far away to support. It also has just enough range with its basic RPG archetypes (healer, wizard, fighter, bard, thief) and a plethora of equippable other weapons to keep the combat varied, as well as a variety of monsters to face with different strategies on how best to beat them. Also the drop-in, drop-out method of co-op play makes for a particularly fun multiplayer experience.

While this review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy, I can imagine the particulars of the game would make it well suited to the portable nature of the Switch, picking it up and playing it for an hour here or there. As a sit-down experience, while the gameplay itself is satisfying, the narrative, possibly influenced by the roguelike nature, is very boilerplate, not really delivering much in the way of characterisation. Unlike say Aerith in FFVII or any of the Fire Emblem cohorts, it does make it somewhat less involving that character-death is treated with somewhat more levity, with more a feeling of a digitised board game, where the characters are just facsimiles upon which the players put on their own narrative.

If you don’t think of this as a video game RPG and more a digital tabletop RPG, what you have in For The King is undeniably an entertaining experience. Especially if you’re the sort to spend their Saturday evenings at a hardcore Dungeons and Dragons session, what you have here is essentially a situation where the console acts as your dungeon master. Just know this is the sort of dungeon master that favours combat over story.

 

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