For The King (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 14.10.2019

Review for For The King on Nintendo Switch

Genre blending will always be a double edged sword, in large part due to how most genres don't actually play off one another all that well - rather, genre conventions do. Simply slapping rogue-like elements onto an RPG or vice versa, does not a good videogame make. That said, this is not the case with For The King, a tabletop styled RPG that mixes in rogue-like elements rather gracefully without going all in on concepts like permadeath. Although the experience does skew towards a more difficult approach, this is not a title that falls victim to the typical rogue-like trappings.

Far too often, when rogue-like elements are implemented into a title, the experience tends to falter. With concepts like permadeath and random generation in play, lesser developers tend to have a habit of holding back on narrative, level design, and satisfying progression. There are notable outliers of course, but the average genre representative tends to suffer from its very foundations more often than not. It's quite welcome then that For The King doesn't neglect its grander RPG elements in favour of its rogue-like mechanics.

If anything, the developer, IronOak Games, go all in on the tabletop aesthetic, only using its rogue-like elements as a means of controlling difficulty and dictating replayability. Cynically, it could be argued that the tabletop RPG half is compelling enough, whereas the rogue-like elements could be removed and very little would be lost, but such a statement does undersell how well said elements are spliced in. It should also be stated that they aren't just slapped into the experience.

Permadeath and procedural generation do play an incredibly meaningful role thanks to the core gameplay loop. In the main menu, a "Lore Shop" can be accessed which sells weapons, classes, and structures for parties to enter in the main campaign. Lore is earned by completing different activities in the main game (dungeons, side quests, etc.,) but a single playthrough isn't nearly enough to reward enough Lore to buy much on display. As a result, replayability becomes an incredibly important mechanic, as it directly contributes to the expansion of the world.

Screenshot for For The King on Nintendo Switch

To make replaying campaigns a natural aspect of the core gameplay loop, however, a feature like permadeath needs to play a role. Otherwise, the process of playing through campaigns and earning Lore becomes inorganic. Procedural generation also ensures that campaigns don't become too tedious or repetitive in their design even if the core objectives stay the same. With static maps and static dungeons, the process of dying and looping around to replay would become monotonous rather quickly. The only viable alternative is procedural generation.

That in itself does bring its own set of potential issues, but the randomized elements are implemented well enough where campaigns are always familiar enough in their design while also offering content that never feels out of place with the overall structure of the adventure. The fact that Lore can be used to purchase items and classes for the main game likewise keeps the control in the hands of the players at almost all times.

Upon starting a campaign, the difficulty can be adjusted for greater rewards along with offering a fully customizable part of three. Success in a campaign is very much dependant on how well a party is formed. With only three party members in play, and permadeath a looming fixture that only becomes more dangerous the higher the difficulty, it is critically important to make sure the party complements each other well. Purchasable classes via Lore certainly do help, but even the four core classes offer more than enough for a successful party.

Screenshot for For The King on Nintendo Switch

On a first playthrough, the available classes include the Blacksmith, the Hunter, the Minstrel, and the Scholar. A successful party maintains a good balance of offense, the ability to heal, and inflict damage through magic, but the beauty of the customization is that the party can also be used as a means of creating challenge runs. In truth, it isn't too difficult to form a party that works well - at least on the lower difficulty tiers - but it isn't until taking the experience online where the party system shines.

As a more or less virtual board game, it is only fitting that co-op plays a major role. Teaming up with two other adventurers online is a great way of gaining mileage out of the adventure. When solo, all three party members are under the player's control. They each have their own stats, their own turns, and their own equipment. There is a level of micromanagement at play, but it's easy enough to keep everyone together and traversing as a party. Even though the movement's rollover system will occasionally ensure that certain party members move further than others, the campaign's pace is easy enough to control and dictate.

The same cannot be said for the co-op, but that is hardly a bad thing. Rather, it adds another layer of strategy. There's a degree of trust that needs to be built along with communication. Co-op inherently revolves itself around party members planning their turns around each other and building to a common goal, a feat that isn't really possible with one single person role playing three characters. Worth mentioning is the fact that regardless of which adventure is chosen, the board is always rather stacked with content. For a single player adventure, this means there's hardly a lull in content as party members can tackle dungeons, fight enemies on screen, take on quests, or just power through the main quest until they hit a wall where they need to grind. Online, the loop isn't so freeform.

Screenshot for For The King on Nintendo Switch

Dungeons are absolutely designed around parties of three, meaning that a divided party will fall incredibly fast. Just roaming around the map alone isn't too much of a problem until later in the campaign when higher level enemies start appearing and actively affecting the world at large (such as increasing item prices or just generally blocking the path to a town), but dungeons cannot be reliably cleared alone even on the easiest of difficulties. Even then, running into a dungeon with a full party isn't a guarantee of survival. With a limited inventory, genuine planning needs to go into dungeon-eering.

Unfortunately, this all means nothing in the face of the title's often frustrating RNG. For as tightly designed as the randomly generated boards are, the actual random number generator very blatantly favours enemies more often than not. It is possible to avoid the RNG's nastiness with enough patience and understanding of the core concepts at play, but it is admittedly frustrating to reach a campaign's end not because of poor decision making but because of poor RNG. These situations don't pop up too often, but the RNG isn't implemented nearly as well as it could be.

In spite of this flaw, there are elements that more than make up for some poor RNG every now and then. The art style is wonderfully realizing, creating a unique aesthetic that gives the world plenty of charm; the battle system is fun, if a bit simple, thanks to the variety of classes at play; the boards really do emulate a real tabletop RPG even when randomly generated, keeping each campaign fresh; and the cooperative play ensures plenty of life for a title that's already bustling with content. For fans of tabletop gaming, For The King is very much worth a few playthroughs.

Screenshot for For The King on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although far simpler on a conceptual level than it lets on, For The King is a charming, addictive blend of rogue-like and tabletop RPG elements, culminating in an experience that is far more than the sum of its parts. With multiple campaigns to choose from, a fully customizable party, surprisingly engaging cooperative play, and a currency system that encourages replayability, it's hard not to lose track of playtime. Of course, the rogue-like isn't without its flaws, relying a bit too much on an arguably underdeveloped combat system, but For The King offers an adventure more than worth embarking on in spite of its few flaws.

Developer

IronOak Games

Publisher

Curve Digital

Genre

Strategy

Players

3

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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