Of Kings and Men (PC) Preview

By Chris Leebody 04.09.2016

Review for Of Kings and Men on PC

Of Kings and Men was released on Steam Early Access on 25th August and comes from indie developer Donkey Crew. The title began life under a different name, though: Melee: Battlegrounds, yet after a failed Kickstarter back in 2014, the team took stock. Interestingly, following this was a dramatic move of base location to Northern Ireland and, with the help of Northern Ireland Screen and publishers Green Man Gaming Publishing, the team has managed to revive this once dead concept. This is a third-person multiplayer-based medieval war title. Fans of this genre will probably already be familiar with the work of the developer, having been responsible for a successful mod for the PC classic Mount & Blade: Warband. It promises battles consisting of over 200 players and a full roadmap of updates to come over the months ahead, including a persistent multiplayer controlled world with strategic elements, which will be determined by the players themselves. Grab your sword and shield, and follow onwards!

It is a dark, foreboding evening. A large castle overlooks an abandoned village, scarred by the ravages of war. It has come to this - the final charge in the courtyard. A soldier, no, a peasant, clad in hastily gathered equipment; a hunting axe, a wooden shield and some rags to clothe himself - stands among the frontline. The yell signals the charge into battle. He gets bludgeoned a number of times while moving with his allies through the enemy lines, pushing past the well-armoured ranks of the defenders. The courtyard is filled with dancing movements and the clashing of sword and shield. In a matter of moments, the courtyard is clear. Survival! This is short-lived relief, though, as the charge of the next wave is heard through the battlements. Battle goes on, death guaranteed…

This little narrative was a true account (well, mostly) of one of the most memorable experiences with Of Kings and Men during the preview process. The Steam Early Access title is only just beginning on its journey at this point but, hopefully, the above anecdote conveys the real sense of potential that it has to establish itself as one of the most impressive medieval combat titles around. Anyone familiar with the extremely popular Mount & Blade series will already feel right at home from the outset. Both use different engines, but there is a definite sense of familiarity when stepping onto the plains of battle.

Screenshot for Of Kings and Men on PC

As mentioned before, developer Donkey Crew has significant pedigree established in the genre, having been behind one of the most popular mods created for Mount & Blade: Warband - the 'cRPG' mod. Therefore, it is not surprising that everything from the combat systems and animation, to the art style and equipment, are recognisable.

With all that said, it may appear to some that this is simply another one of the myriad of attempts to copy the success that Mount & Blade has achieved. This would be an unfair assumption, though. If it is managed and developed correctly, Of Kings and Men has the potential to become a compelling experience, with the future roadmap of updates and features looking extremely exciting. Already, for example, Of Kings and Men looks much more impressive graphically than Mount & Blade: Warband, with excellent lighting effects and a view distance that emphasises a vast world ready for conquering.

In the preview that Cubed3 had to play with, this only included a very small part of the full experience. You can play in the duelling arena to compete one-on-one against others. Additionally, there was the conquest mode; a skirmish of 75 vs. 75 across pre-determined maps, with two teams trying to capture and defend the flags in each successive round as they move up the field of battle and capture the whole area.

Screenshot for Of Kings and Men on PC

Combat in these skirmishes is a feature the team has really got nailed down correctly, which is very pleasing and promising. Battles are graceful and balletic sometimes, and plodding and crushing at others. It has a real satisfying physicality to the swordplay, and uses quite a similar system to Mount & Blade in the sense that each weapon has a different attack depending on what direction you hold and release the mouse. Of Kings and Men comes across as slightly easier, or maybe just more accessible is a better way to describe it, and this makes the whole experience less frustrating and more inviting to newcomers.

The lack of context in these Early Access battles tends to make them free-for-all spamming sessions in which players seem to be farming for experience points to level up equipment. The equipment selection is very impressive, though, with all the usual armaments you would expect from a medieval war experience. What will keep gamers playing is that the progression system gives an incentive to choose a weapon to dedicate yourself to and stick to it, with each piece of individual equipment having its own upgrade path.

Screenshot for Of Kings and Men on PC

Alongside the equipment progression is the individual soldier progression; levelling up through experience allows additional points to be added onto stats like attack speed, damage, and health. This gives Of Kings and Men more incentive for repeated play than vanilla Mount & Blade multiplayer. There are some things that could be improved, however, and it is hoped that a rebalancing of the two-handed weapons is one of the top priorities going forwards. At the moment, these weapons feel too overpowered, which would be acceptable if the speed was a compensation (which it is not at the moment). A stamina bar should also be included to prevent mindless attack spamming, which sometimes affects the current battles.

With all that said, what the truly exciting mode on the horizon is 'The Epic,' which delivers on the tagline of the "Persistent Medieval War." It is a bit unclear right now what the full scope of this mode will deliver, as it is still in long-term development. However, the early promise and previews show a player-run kingdom of battling factions that will present alliances and conflicts, as well as player controlled cities and outposts.

Screenshot for Of Kings and Men on PC

Final Thoughts

This kind of persistent world has been attempted a few times and there are indeed some barebones mods available for Mount & Blade that already deliver a taster of this. It will be very intriguing to see if this dedicated mode lives up to the potential it promises, and if it turns Of Kings and Men into one of the most successful medieval war games around. More updates will be provided as this mode develops in the months ahead.


Donkey Crew


Green Man Gaming Publishing





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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