- For The King 2 is a cutesy but punishing roguelike RPG that combines elements from board games and classic strategy RPGs.
- The game features a procedurally generated map and randomized locations, keeping the gameplay fresh and ensuring no two games are the same.
- The combat in For The King 2 requires strategic decision-making, with players needing to manage their party members’ positions and abilities to overcome enemies.
It’s time we had the talk. You see, when a Dungeons & Dragons-based strategy RPG and an old computerized board game about plumbers and dinosaurs love each other very much, they may decide to put their gameplay elements together in a magical and wonderful way, and…
Okay, I can’t keep going with that analogy without violating content standards, but For The King 2 is not an easy game to describe to anyone who hasn’t played it, and the best way I can do that is by grabbing both of these other two games like Barbie dolls, smushing them together, and saying “Now kiss.” And it works, because I’m having a blast with IronOak Games’ new dice-rolling RPG.
This cutesy and brutally punishing little roguelike takes cartoonish-looking heroes and places them on a procedurally generated high fantasy overworld map, guaranteeing no two games will be the same. There are only five missions, or chapters, but it takes hours to complete all the main objectives in each, so the randomized locations of towns, enemies, and whatnot is welcome in keeping the game fresh. And above all that, it’s letting me live out my comfortable, turn-based RPG bliss while still feeling like I’m playing a board game.
Ya-Ha! I’m-a The Best!
Factor in that the computer is visibly rolling dice for you with every action you take, including movement and passing special challenges, and it actually started reminding me of a super-intense, high-stakes round of Mario Party, just without all the Crazy Cutters and Bumper Balls thrown in at the end of each round. Sure, you don’t see the numbers on the dice, but they’re based on each character’s particular skillsets, and each die’s pass-or-fail will be displayed on screen to your delight or horror.
I suppose the overall cuteness of the player characters is helping me come to the Mario Party analogy—imagine if the inklings from Splatoon put down their paint guns and brellas and geared up to go to a LARP—but it’s not the only factor. Whereas Mario and friends would be rolling dice to traipse around diverging, predetermined paths on a tabletop-like game board while competing for stars, For The King 2 has your heroes cooperating to find their way through fog of war to a variety of hidden objectives across a big hex-filled map. Some are built into the story, and some only pop up for a limited time, like wishing wells and candy machines, offering you rewards or penalties for passing or failing your rolls. The fact that I’d been playing Heroscape just before my first session with the original game makes it really hard not to equate this series with a tabletop experience, just a cooler, more complicated, and way more expensive one than Candyland.
But things take a serious turn into high strategy whenever you decide to engage enemies in combat, and it brings to mind a much more recent roll-fest in Baldur’s Gate 3.
All The Strategy With None Of The Adult Content
For The King 2 has you build your own party from a mix of classes (only five are available initially, but you’ll unlock six more as you go) and choose some very basic starting equipment from a buy-in loadout pool. From there, it’ll be up to you to gather new equipment from enemies and treasure chests across each new chapter, and every weapon you pick up will derive its potential damage output from a different stat and will have its own mix of special attacks. Everything is based on rolls again, but your success or failure in each axe swing or ice beam depends on your character’s familiarity with the weapon family they’re using. So far, pretty standard RPG stuff, but you’ll be starting fresh on each new quest, never retaining your overpowered gear or stat increases.
As for the field of battle, each side operates from a 4×2 grid, so it’s not quite as free-reaming as BG3, but the confined space really makes for an interesting depth of combat. For example, characters can only attempt to flee a battle from the back row, but melee weapons require you to be in the front row, and unless you’re buffing yourself with herbs or equipment that provide extra bonus actions, you could get stranded in a tough situation. What’s more, if you’re using a one-handed weapon, you can also don a shield to make sure enemies can’t even touch the guy standing behind you… unless they’re using a column or area-of-effect attack, that is. I can’t count how many times I thought my squishy little glass cannons like the Scholar and the Herbalist were safe from danger only to have to spend another character’s turn (and one of my limited and non-rechargeable revives) just to bring them back into the fight at half HP.
Adding to the chaos of battle, just getting everyone in the party to the party can be a task in itself. Since movement on the map is partially determined by die rolls, not everyone may be in range of an enemy when a battle starts, meaning they won’t be able to join in at all, no matter how long a slugfest it turns out to be. Imagine having to face down a Phase Spider Martiarch with just Gale and Wyll because Karlach and Astarion are lagging behind or busy in town stocking up on camping supplies. That’s another thing you’ve got to manage if you don’t want your party members turning into gravestones, and it’s a lot of fun trying not to split the party too much even when you’re on a constant countdown timer to the next catastrophe.
If it all sounds like a weird mix of ideas, well, it is, but For The King 2 pulls it off by being its own thing. I’ve only made it all the way through two of the five chapters (with four TPKs deep into a run adding to my frustration and enjoyment), but they’re vastly different. The first one has you joining a resistance movement against the mad queen, delving into multiple on-rails, gauntlet-like dungeons full of traps and waves of enemies, while the second has your party cruising along on a landboat to liberate cities spread across the overworld, having to stop at designated landports for repairs. I’ve started Chapter 3, and already, I’ve boarded a raft, crossed the sea, survived an encounter with the kraken, and am trying to chase down mine carts loaded with dangerous cargo. It’s a board game experience that packs a lot of adventures into a little box.
I love when games can let me lose myself in a deeply-knit narrative, but sometimes, it’s nice to know that I can have a adventure where my mind is filling in most of the story and character dialogue. For The King 2 lets me roll the dice in a way that’s more intense than Mario Party and less emotionally driven than BG3, with an endless combination of adventures to go on and adventurers to bring with me.
For The King 2
- Ironoak Games