Monday, November 13, 2023
For the King II
I had a love/hate relationship with the first For the King game: I played it for over 50 hours, but then left a negative Steam review. I simply couldn't recommend the game, due to horrible balance issues. For the King II is definitely better, although difficulty balance is still a problem.
At the core this stems from a design as "roguelike". You are supposed to lose the game several times, which then unlocks new classes and bonuses that will eventually allow you to win. That system works a lot better in FTK2, where the "lore shop" in which you spend points achieved in your runs is a lot bigger and has more different stuff. Another reason this works better in FTK2 is that the campaign is now divided into 5 chapters, making it more likely to survive at least for one chapter and feel like "winning".
Where the sequel couldn't improve much over the original is that there is still a lot of luck involved, due to so many things in the game being random. For example in chapter 1, which I managed to win on the second try, one of my characters never found a decent weapon that corresponded to his main stat. So throughout the chapter I was forced to either use a weapon with low damage that had a good chance to hit because it corresponded to the main stat, or use a weapon with high damage, but much decreased hit probability. The other characters in the group did a lot better, just because they had found weapons with good damage output and the right stat for them. The loot is generally interesting, but highly random. If luckily the weapons and armor you need drop, you will do better than if you are unlucky and constantly get the wrong loot for your party composition.
What makes these decent games is the interesting combat system. It is turn-based tactical combat, with each side being on a 2x4 grid. The grid is important, because characters with shields can protect characters in the second row directly behind them from being directly attacked. And there are area of effect spells and weapon actions. Even healing, if you use the herbalist for improved healing, heals the target and the three characters adjoining, so positioning matters. Weapons have between one and five symbols of one character stat, showing how many "rolls" you make to determine your attack. The more of those rolls succeed, the higher your damage output. Thus a weapon with just one symbol is very hit or miss, while a weapon with many symbols will often produce an average result. Furthermore some enemies can only be hit if all the rolls hit, making weapons with just one symbol better for these situations.
There is a timer at the top of the screen where in function of the number of turns you need, chaos points arrive. Accumulate too many of those, and you lose the game. In FTK2 there is also a variant for some parts of chapters where instead of accumulating chaos points, the timer triggers strong attacks on you. I absolutely hated the timer in the original FTK. It has gotten a bit less frustrating in the sequel: There are now settings that make chaos points arrive less fast, and there are now more opportunities to remove chaos points as a reward for quests.
Overall I am enjoying For the King II a lot more than the original. I probably won't leave a negative recommendation on Steam this time. But on this blog, where I can be a bit more nuanced than thumbs up or down, I would still hedge my recommendation: It is a good game only for people who are okay with high randomness, losing to just dumb bad luck, and the roguelike aspects of the game. If you like your tactical games to be more predictable, there are other games that are better suited for you.