KingsRoad review

KingsRoad is an online action RPG from Rumble Games, playable both on the Facebook canvas and on the open Web. The game has undergone an extensive closed beta testing period, and is finally available in open beta for anyone to play. The shift to open beta coincides with a major version update for the game, which adds a new character class and numerous other benefits.

KingsRoad

KingsRoad is an action RPG in the mold of popular standalone PC games such as Blizzard’s Diablo franchise and Runic Games’ Torchlight series. Players take on the role of a single character and guide them through numerous quests in order to level up, acquire new equipment and advance the game’s story. The game can be played in both single-player and cooperative multiplayer modes, and is free-to-play with optional in-app purchases of hard currency.

In KingsRoad, players may control a knight, archer or wizard character, and may switch between these at will between quests if they decide they would like a change in playstyle. The knight specializes in close-up attacks, while both the archer and wizard attack from a distance using arrows and spells respectively. Each character class has its own unique pieces of equipment that the others may not use, while some other equipment is universal across all three classes. Each class also has its own “skill tree” of abilities to unlock as the player levels up. One skill point is gained on each level up, and this may be applied to any of the available skills, the selection of which gradually expands as the player increases in level.

Basic gameplay is simple and straightforward, much like in Diablo and Torchlight. Players control their character with a combination of mouse and keyboard, clicking to move and attack; using the number keys to trigger class skills; and using the Q, W, E and R keys to quickly use recovery items. Rather than being set in a sprawling, continuous open world or dungeon like Diablo and Torchlight, KingsRoad is instead split into a linear sequence of small, discrete levels which each take a few minutes to play. This makes the game very friendly to short play sessions and also makes it ideal for possible future adaptation to mobile devices. Despite its focus on short, snappy play sessions, however, there is nothing throttling the player at any point, so if they want to sit and play for several hours, there is nothing stopping them from doing that. Every eight hours, the player receives an experience-boosting blessing that lasts for half an hour, so those wishing to level more quickly in a single session will probably wish to take advantage of this mechanic.

The game features online cooperative multiplayer with an automatic matchmaking system. Simply clicking “Find Party” at the top of the screen while in town allows the player to join up with up to three comrades and tackle missions as a team. Once the player has finished all of the available content on “normal” mode, a “heroic” difficulty level opens up that is specifically designed for cooperative play, though there is nothing stopping players from teaming up for the normal content. When playing cooperatively, players have a text chat facility available to them for coordination of attacks when necessary — though in practice this sort of game tends to require little in the way of strategy and more in the way of quickly responding to situations as they arise. At the end of each level, players are ranked according to their contribution to the overall battle effort — those who score higher receive greater gold rewards for completing the quest.

KR-logo copyThe game monetizes through its hard currency, which can be spent on a wide variety of things ranging from expanding the player’s available inventory space to removing level restrictions on items. Certain chests found in the levels may only be unlocked by expending hard currency — since these chests guarantee players items of a certain quality, it will be difficult for players to resist these, but progress can be made without opening these. In fact, players willing to “grind” a little will be able to secure themselves a good income of hard currency without paying a penny — each time a level is completed, the player’s score adds to an overall “mastery” rating for that particular mission. At various milestones, the player receives small awards of hard currency, and when the mission is completely “mastered” the reward is a larger lump sum of hard currency. Mastering a mission requires it to be played through a number of times, though given the main point of the game is to level up and grow in strength, grinding previous missions is actually a good means of doing this.

KingsRoad initially appears to be rather limited in terms of visual customization options for the player character, with the only changes coming when the player dons new equipment. However, as players progress through the game’s story, they gradually unlock more and more vendors in the “home base” location, which eventually includes a “tailor” character that will sell vanity skins to players in exchange for hard currency. Other vendors include characters who will craft items for either hard currency or a combination of soft currency, time and ingredient items; an “alchemist” who sells various booster potions in exchange for hard currency; and the usual item and equipment vendors. Female character options are notable by their absence at present, but since the implementation of a selectable gender would require not only a new character model (including mesh and animations) but also for all the visible equipment items to be redone for that new model, it has not been a priority for the small team at Rumble so far. The team is aware that there is a strong desire from the community for a gender option, however, and claims to be looking into what it can do about it.

KingsRoad is that rare thing: a browser-based game aimed at “core” players that actually has an understanding of its audience. Core gamers who are typically skeptical of free-to-play and social games want experiences that are comparable in quality to standalone, “pay once, play forever” games on PC and console — and more often than not, they simply don’t get it, instead being presented with either watered-down experiences or titles that are unpolished and sloppy. Many self-professed “hardcore” Facebook and mobile games are simply dull, boring experiences that mistake tedium for complexity, but KingsRoad neatly sidesteps that issue by following the established format of other successful games while putting its own distinctive spin on things. It looks good, sounds good, plays well, features some good writing with a lot of personality, and most importantly doesn’t insult the player by being too aggressive with either its monetization or social features. Rumble Games representatives are also very active on their own forums, and the team actively seeks out player feedback, which is good to see. More to the point, the developers often implement suggestions from the player base, which helps build a good sense of trust between them and the community.

KingsRoad

On the whole, KingsRoad is an excellent example of how to make a Web game for “core” gamers, and sets a great precedent for other developers to follow in the future. It deserves to enjoy some success, as it’s clearly had a lot of time, effort and love put into it; hopefully now it is in open beta, the team at Rumble can start to reap the rewards from its hard work.

KingsRoad currently occupies the 50,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 3,826 and the 10,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 2,234. However, it is worth noting that the game is also playable on the Web via Rumble’s own website, so user figures from AppData only represent those players who have chosen to either play on Facebook or connect their Rumble account to the social network.

Play

This is how you make a Facebook/Web game for “core” players; a fine example for other developers to learn from.

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