For The King is a turn-based, tabletop, roguelike developed by IronOak games. It is available on Steam for $19.99, PlayStation 4 for $33.49, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch for $24.99. It is also available on Xbox Games Pass. This review was conducted on a standard Xbox One system by Joseph Pugh.
For The King succeeds at emulating a tabletop experience. It really feels like a cross between a detailed board game and a role-playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons with every advantage that a computerized system brings to its platform. You control up to three characters solo or you can divide up control of the party between yourself and two other players in local or online co-op.
For The King released on PC last year and was updated with several expansions that are now included in the base game. For The King very recently made its console release and I’m happy to report that all the expansions are included as well. You begin the game by selecting one of several scenarios and difficultys. Each scenario poses a new unique challenge and gameplay experiences.
Plenty of scenarios to choose from and settings you can tweak.
You pick three characters and you can alter their appearances to a small degree and name them. Each one has different numbers in various skills such as strength, talent, and awareness. The higher the number the better. You start with a choice of four classes, but as you play you accumulate lore that can be spent in a store on the main menu.
You can unlock new types of encounters, weapons, and items that can be found in the world, either by shopping, loot or a quest reward. You can also unlock new cosmetics and of course new character classes. The game is a rogue-like, and quite a challenging one. You aren’t meant to succeed all or even most of the time. The lore store serves as your persistent progression system that continuously adds new features to your future runs.
The overworld takes place on a procedurally generated hex-based grid.
Skills are very important and tabletop role players will find themselves right at home. In order to perform most tasks, characters must roll a number of successes on a slot. Different weapons and skill challenges have a different number of slots. The more slots you succeed at, the better the result. The characters more or less roll a percentile dice behind the scenes. A character with a 70 in awareness, has a 70 percent chance of succeeding at each slot that uses awareness.
Characters also have focus, you can spend a focus to automatically succeed at a slot. Knowing when to spend your focus is one of the keys to success. Much of the game is about careful planning, resource management and risk versus reward choices. The more you fight, the more XP and gold you gain. Both of which are vitally important, you need to level up to survive and gold can be spent on new items or services.
Combat takes place in traditional JRPG fashion but retains the same level of strategy as the rest of the game.
At the same time, health and focus are not easy to recover without spending a lot of money or wasting a bunch of time resting. Time is of the essence as each round moves down a track that can have several consequences if you fall behind. You are fighting the tide of chaos and each time the track reaches a chaos token, the world’s chaos increases by one, corrupting over-world tiles and making enemies stronger. Once the world has three chaos, your merry band of adventurers begins taking damage every turn until you can reduce it.
Lives too are a very valuable resource. When a character dies you can revive them if you have a spare life. They are very hard to come by and usually come at the expense of giving up something else. On the over-world, you can move a number of hexes based on your characters movement rolls. Here you can travel to towns, take quests, make skill challenges, enter dungeons and more. When a battle takes place the game switches to a turn-based battle mode with all of your characters that are in a certain range on the overworld. It is entirely possible for a single character to get caught alone.
Finding loot is nearly always exciting, even if its junk to sell off. Gold is very important.
Likewise, with the right skills, you can ambush an enemy and cut them off from other nearby friendly’s, or sneak past them altogether. Once in combat you have a number of attacks, spells, and skills based on your items and the weapon your carrying. The combat is very strategical in nature and it’s a lot of fun to try and find the most effective way to take out the enemy’s while sustaining as little damage as possible. In dungeons, you face a series of encounters in a row. They consist of a combination of battles, traps and loot all based on the skill rolls of your characters and your ability to bend the numbers to your will.
In particular, I was very impressed with the individual attack animations and the ragdoll deaths during combat. It looks very smooth and satisfying. I was also surprised that most of the armor you find or buy actually shows up on the characters you equip visually. A detail that is often overlooked in these type of games. The interface works pretty well, not all of the skills or ability’s effects are immediately obvious but the game includes a detailed in-game help menu where you can learn about most of it.
Lore is a resource that carries over whether you win or lose. Anything you unlock in the lore store will show in future games if they are a tile, encounter or item. Or you can buy new characters to use!
I did run into some technical hiccups, I crashed or froze a few times. The frame rate does drop when opening menus and I did have a couple of weird glitches that made me have to close and restart the game. I never lost any progress, it was just an annoyance. Local co-op has a weird bug where another player can open their various menus, but can’t move within the menu. Another player actually has control of it. Again, not game breaking but very irritating.
For The King is overall a fantastic combination of game genres and emulates the tabletop experience quite well. Especially when playing with friends together on the couch. It has a ton of content and nature of the game and procedural generation makes the replay value sky high. The technical issues are really the only thing bringing the game down. Just keep in mind the game is challenging and even tells you to outright you are not always meant to win.
- Multiple scenarios and difficulty settings
- A great blend of turn-based RPG gaming and tabletop experiences
- Local and online co-op
- High replay value
- Fun combat and strategical gameplay
- Enjoyable combat animations and ragdoll physics
- Learning the various functions can be a little un-intuitive despite the in-game help menu
- Several crashes, freezes, and bugs marred an otherwise great gaming experience