Everything’s for Sale on the Kings Road
The iOS port of Kings Road brings this action RPG game to the mobile platform. It is marginally an MMO as there is a town square, guild functions and group play. A linear game, skills and features (blacksmith, alchemist, banker) open up as you play as well as getting spammed with items to buy every time you set foot in town – which is at log-in and at quest completion.
You have a choice of three classes – Knight, Archer and Wizard, a handsome male character of heroic proportions and a poor excuse of a female character with revealing armor which does not change, no matter what level you reach. No worries though, you can change gender at any time to get back the guy with the pretty armor and outfits and skins too, if you choose to buy them.
Modeled after other successful ARPG games like Torchlight, you play a character through a series of quests, along a journey, and can replay each step that you open up. You can also play another class without having to re-play the journey again from the beginning. You can equip your newbie with uber armor and skills by paying to unlock them and jumping in at the higher levels.
Each character has a large number of skills, both active and passive, five of which can be hot-keyed, and you receive a skill point to spend at each level you achieve, or well, you can buy them. The usual conventions are found here: auto-attack that switches target as long as you begin the attack, barrels and crates to destroy, main bosses with special attacks and “tells” before they perform it. Much like playing the rune collection game in Diablo, finding and fusing jewels for socketing to improve your equipment is a large part of Kings Road. You can also change the jewels in your equipment – for a price, of course. There’s also armor forging where you combine several pieces of the same level armor to create a random piece of a higher level by paying for the service. Each higher level of forging has to be unlocked by real cash.
Group play is the feature of the game that gives you the most xp and gold. Group size is three and matchmaking will hook up a knight, archer and wizard together, and the character that does the most damage gets the most gold. Here is where the class balancing falls down. Since this is an RPG, each class is a viable soloist. As a knight – a melee class, despite the ranged skills, the amount of damage I did in comparison to the ranger archer and wizard was abysmal. This was verified as a wizard when I was partnered with a knight several levels higher. I let him run ahead to engage before I fired off my spells. At battle’s end, the comparison was still embarrassing.
Currently, characters can get up to level 60 and there are the usual potions to be found, purchased or created in game to help you get there; additional xp, additional health, etc. etc. There are also log-in and leveling gifts as well as treasure chests found in maps that you have to unlock with gems. Each class does play differently. No tank-mages here. Boss fights with the Wizard was summoning drakes, firing off skills, running around kiting until the timers refreshed, and firing the skills off again, whereas the Knight waded in and took the hits.
The class skills are diverse and fun, with the Wizard summoning Fire Drakes, and getting an AoE polymorph skill that turns enemies into little lambs, the Archer firing more arrows than Legolas ever could at one time, and the Knight with a whirling dervish attack. All are accompanied by impressive graphics.
Kings Road is one of those RPGs that can be casual fun to grab a couple friends and go kill stuff in a pretty world. Like all free to play games, it monetizes by micro-transactions and the usual conventions of unlocking desired features such as larger inventory and with payment. However to his reviewer at least, the ability to “pay to win” – buy skills, buy treasure chests of equipment, unlock level restrictions on equipment – and the repeated “special offer” spam was quite annoying. You did not only have to decline the offer, you had to be sure you wanted to decline the offer.
The game also tries to be more than a solo game and does not quite succeed. It’s not an MMO but neither is it a true solo RPG either as group play is not really optional. Players quickly find that a group is required to get through some of the maps and events – unless you prefer to grind your character to get skill points – or buy them. Class skills that are useful in a party are lacking. Every class gets a group heal skill, but that’s it. No taunt for the Knight, no crowd control for the Wizard, no um… no… well, it’s a Ranger. The Knight does get some nice party skills – Lay on Hands (group heal), Protector (takes all party damage), but are detrimental to the damage he deals while in a party (remember more damage = more gold, more xp).
Perhaps it takes a bit of a mind-set and attitude change to fully appreciate this game. Think of how much you’d pay for an RPG with MMO features. Buy the $XX worth of gems, buy the skill points, and create the character – buying all the skills you want – except for the level limited ones, then sit back and enjoy the casual journey down Kings Road.
Gameplay – 6.5
Playing an RPG is more about the moment to moment fun and in this game, the battles are quick and each step (map) can be played in a few minutes. There isn’t any artificial gating so you can play for hours if you like, or just do one quest while waiting for the bus. It is modeled closely enough to successful traditional RPGs that it plays well but it falls down in group play where class balance is concerned.
Visuals & Sound - 8
The beauty of this game is the attention the designers have given to each map. The details, the textures, the different levels – especially in a town map – are gorgeous and really pops on the iPad Air’s screen. Character animation details are also really fun. Shoot a chicken and feathers fly. Sounds, not so much as my female knight grunted and exclaimed in a manly-man voice (and we’ll not talk about the female character’s lack of body armor).
Longevity - 6.0
There is enough fun in this game with its beautiful graphics, simple combat and varied bosses to keep players challenged. New events keep the game fresh and you can complete all stages of a map to unlock Heroic and Champion difficulty levels. Whether there is enough fun to keep you playing is another thing altogether, but the game on Facebook has been going on a while, perhaps the ease of finding PUGs through Facebook helps.
Polish – 6.0
The graphics are incredibly polished, but the game crashes, and crashes often – if you log back quickly enough though, you get back in at the same point you crashed.
Value – 7.0
The game is free to download and play. The game can be played for free, but the starter offer of gems (99 cents) gives you a boost (I spent it on inventory space).
Social – 6.0
There is limited in-game chat and it is ever awkward to chat while trying to play on a mobile device. There aren’t any canned texts such as “follow me” or “this way” so chatting means stopping and letting the timer tick away. There are official forums and guilds to join, but guild chat is just as awkward to use.
Kings Road tries hard and succeeds in a fashion to be a good RPG but fails by incorporating competitive instead of cooperative multiplayer. If you are looking for an MMO that you can also solo, there are better choices out there. However, if you want a fun, free, casual solo RPG to play for a few levels, give this a shot. The first 20+ levels are great!