Kings and Heroes came out of nowhere. Sporting beautiful traditional fantasy visuals, a first person perspective, and loads of ambition, Industry Games’ premiere development effort went into Early Access on Steam yesterday. We’ve sat down and explored the rough-around-the-edges game to find out whether its ambition is matched by talent or just hollow promises.
Luckily, though Kings and Heroes is definitely still a work in progress, it seems likely that Industry Games has the talent to deliver on the promises they’ve made. From the very first moments, the amount of quality in art direction and early polish in the game’s D&D inspired character creation make me hopeful that Industry Games isn’t just another company looking to cash in on Steam’s Early Access sales. You have six races to choose from right now: Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc, and Goblin. While PVP will be coming later, assume for now that you all work on the same side. There are five classes: Champion, Cleric, Rogue, Wizard, and Ranger. The game’s not strictly trinity based, but Clerics are your main healers and rezzers, as it were.
There’s a rather large in-game map now too, all centered around the main central city hub. It’s seamless, but to be honest it doesn’t seem like there’s much to actually find in the open world right now. The world itself is static, not procedural like the dungeons, as it should be. Sundaria is the eventual groundwork for more exploring, questing, leveling, and adventuring no doubt. But the main crux of this first release seems to be about testing the game’s combat, gear acquisition, crafting, and of course… procedurally generated dungeons.
I didn’t read a lot of the game’s forum updates on Steam before venturing into Kings and Heroes. The trailers and premise, and the idea of an online RPG that isn’t full-loot PVP for once, made me eagerly plunk down my own $30 to buy it when it launched yesterday. I know folks say Early Access is something we should stop supporting, but I disagree. We just need to be choosy about what products we get behind. Industry Games’ freshman offering is just the kind of thing I want to play. You have a huge shared world with hundreds of other players, endless PVE dungeons for 1-8 players, character advancement, traditional high fantasy setting, loot, crafting, tons of bosses, and loads more. And that’s just what’s in the game now. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of what they’re planning over time.
As with all Early Access games, Kings and Heroes is currently in a “Pre-Alpha” overall state. But even so, it’s highly playable. I made a Goblin Ranger and immediately began running through some low level smaller dungeons. Simply sit down at a table in the Everdale (main town) Inn and you’ll be able to “create” a dungeon for your solo, group, private, or queue-based adventuring. Even the “small” dungeons felt big enough to kill 30 minutes in, but my game crashed a couple of times before my self-imposed writing deadline so I was unable to finish a dungeon just yet. I also haven’t tested the queue system, but you can join in-progress dungeons just as easily as you can create your own. In time, Industry Games hopes to allow players to make their own hand-made dungeons and share them as well later in early access.
While there don’t seem to be traditional quests, once you get to running dungeons or exploring the world you’ll find random items. Bring said item to the right person, and you’ll trigger a quest which nets specific rewards or story points. As an independent team, it makes sense for Industry to avoid too much time-intensive scripted content. When you begin the game, you’re basically given a letter to go to the Inn and talk to the keeper, and little else. I had to ask in chat what to do to get my dungeon-running going, so hopefully they beef up the intro and tutorial a bit further down the line.
Combat is skill-based too. No dice rolls, all skill shots. A ranger’s arrow to the head can do more damage to an enemy that an arrow to the knee (zing). Collision detection means anyone can take, though obviously the Champion or any player wielding a shield and the right armor could have an easier go of it. I’ve only made it into a few levels with my Ranger, so I’m not too sure how diverse character builds can be, as I only have a handful of skills. We’ll have to play a bit more and see where development trends in that case.
One thing’s for sure, there are bugs. When I first logged in before the game’s 2nd patch which addressed lag issues by disabling open world creatures, I couldn’t move so much as a few steps without stuttering back to where I was previously. This morning (June 1st) things are a lot more stable, though dungeon mobs still seem to often appear out of thin air while I’m traversing them. I also wonder just how compelling running the procedural dungeons will be over the long hall. There seem to be a fair amount of themes available, but it’s clear to me that stories, more dungeons, more classes, and more goals for players to chase will be very important as the game nears its goal of a late 2016, early 2017 launch.
Would I suggest buying Kings and Heroes right now, this instant? Only if you really want a fantasy-based dungeon runner to play and/or you want to support an independent developer making what’s essentially a unique take on an Action RPG/MMO. It’s rough around the edges, but the amount of quality that’s present even at this early stages makes me comfortable in the $30 I plunked down. I don’t know how much I’ll play it right now, but unlike so many other early access (or full release games), I’m actually pulled back to Kings and Heroes. The only reason I try to avoid playing a lot of Early Access games is because I know there’ll be wipes, changes, and I don’t want to burn on a game before it’s feature and content complete. That said, Kings and Heroes has an already undeniable charm and it’s definitely a game to watch. I’ll be following it, playing it, and reviewing the game’s many stages as it nears completion. I’d suggest you all do the same.