For the King! An Early Access Strategic RPG That Deserves Your Fealty

King Bronner is dead, the blood of his knights and soldiers has run dry. Queen Rosomon calls to the common man and woman to defend their Kingdom. Stand fast, and stand tall: For The King!

King Bronner has been felled, and his once-peaceful kingdom of Fahrul is under siege by bandits, monsters, and chaotic otherworldly creatures. The Queen has sent out a desperate plea for all citizens rise to protect their homes and their lives against the impending doom that now lurks in the shadows. You stand now for your homeland, for your neighbors and loved ones, for Queen Rosomon, and most importantly For The King! 

For The King is IronOak Games' breakout title: a strategic party-based RPG that seamlessly blends elements from both tabletop games and rougelikes. Don't let the charming aesthetics of this indie game fool you -- the world is fraught with peril and hardship.

Without any spoilers on the plot, For The King revolves around the common citizens of the realm helping Queen Rosomon find those responsible for King Bronner's death and preventing impending chaos from destroying the once-peaceful Kingdom of Fahrul. Each adventure is contained in its own procedurally generated map, which makes for a new take on your quest every time you begin anew -- and you will quite a lot, as many expeditions are doomed to failure. 

Charming Appearance, Fresh and Unique Mechanics

With a fresh art style that stands out from all other indie games in Early Access, For The King seems to be in a place all of its own aesthetically. I can't consciously compare it with any other game I've played.

You start out with three classes to select for your party -- the sturdy Blacksmith, the surefooted Hunter, and the tutored Scholar. There are more classes to unlock in subsequent playthroughs, but I'll go into further detail about how you do that a bit later.

As you would expect, the Blacksmith is your strong bruiser, able to dish out and take damage. The Hunter a sly ranged dexterous fellow. And the Scholar your brains of the group. However, what abilities your party utilizes isn't class-based, but rather dependent on the weapons they have equipped. Depending on which bow the Hunter uses, he may snipe through armor -- negating its defensive values -- or he may use his shots to cripple speed and evasion. If given a lute, the Scholar can go from slamming enemies with concussive magic blasts from his default tome to stunning enemies with rhythmic battle ballads, or improving the speed of his allies. 

Expanding combat in an even more inventive way, each weapon has a series of what I'll refer to as "pips" that determine effects and damage. Examples include a bow that deals 9 damage if all three pips are successful, or 6 damage if only two out of three pips are rolled. What determines the chance of these pips are the base stats of the hero you're using. So a sword will use the wielder's strength to determine percentage of success for each pip, a magic staff will gauge the user's intelligence, and so forth.

This kind of system adds a layer of intrigue and excitement to the combat. And it makes you think a lot more while you play. If you're using a lute, for example, the weapon will gauge your Talent stat to determine whether you're able to stun an enemy, and you must successfully land all pips granted toward a specific attack -- otherwise it will fizzle out and deal only a trifling sum of damage. Similarly, a bow user must land all his attack pips if they're attempting to do something like debuff an opponent's armor value.

Time is Against You

Chaos is sweeping the land, claiming lives and changing the parameters at which you fight it. Surely you didn't expect to dawdle around the world like you've got nowhere better to be?

I certainly hope not, because in For the King you have a limited amount of time to engage in side quests, handle main quest objectives, and traverse the overworld of Fahrul. Disastrous consequences befall Fahrul if you fail to manage your time well.

Remember that word I used earlier -- roguelike? Well I meant it. And if you don't understand the significance of the term, you'll definitely find yourself on the losing end of this game. Losing is an important part of For The King. Without it, you couldn't unlock more classes, encounters, weapons, or other goodies. So plant your feet, make your stand, and send as many foes back to perdition as you can. But you will die in the process. However, from the ashes of your failures you will rise more powerful than before ready to unleash vengeance for King Bronner.

Learning From Mistakes, and Spending Lore

Lore is the meta-currency gained from your previous attempts at saving Fahrul. Fulfilling certain criteria awards you with lore to spend for your successive attempts. New characters, such as the musically talented Busker or the brawny Woodcutter, can be unlocked with sufficient lore -- expanding options for your party composition. Weapons can also be unlocked with lore, though it's not as easy as simply starting with them because you'll have to acquire them from side quests, lucky chests, or other means.

Mini-encounters, including a trainer who will increase your stats for a modest sum, can also be unlocked, revealed, or discovered in new playthroughs. Mini-areas are another lore unlock which can include new shops like the Night Market, or the Dark Carnival.

Whatever you decide to spend the equivalent of your past experiences on does not matter -- it will all help you toward achieving your goal at the end of Queen Rosomon's quest. As long as you learned from your past mistakes of course.

A Commendable Adventure, Even in Early Access

If you enjoy challenging party-based RPGs and aren't put off by a long-term obstacle, this game may be a good choice for you. It's got active developers, a sizable amount of content, and did I mention co-op? Yep -- up to three people can play at once, so you and your friends can share the roles of your three party members.

This is hopefully going to be one of 2017's indie game highlights. Now brace yourselves, focus on the impending task, and never forget why you fight For The King!

Published Aug. 15th 2017

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