For the King II PAX West 2023: 4-player support, the landboat, and playing the "advanced demo"
For the King II really took me by surprise. I only spent a little bit of time with the first game after picking it up on the Nintendo Switch a few years back, but I was aware of the sizable community that it’s built since its full launch in 2018. Before PAX West’s doors opened, I met up with Colby Young and Michael “Mike” Jang from IronOak Games to check out the sequel that the For the King community has been eagerly awaiting. As someone who is only familiar with For the King’s basic systems, I ended up being more hooked than I expected in my brief time with the sequel.
Before trying the game out for myself, Mike explained that For the King II’s biggest new feature was the addition of a 4th player to the party. Many members in the community felt that the 3-player limitation from the first game felt too limiting and in many cases, they unfortunately had to exclude a would-be 4th player from playing with them. A lot of For the King’s allure for many players was in its rich multiplayer experience to share the entire journey with other siblings, friends, partners, and so on.
This also helped define and guide For the King II’s design philosophy - be bigger and better, but don’t fix what isn’t broken. Having 4 players in For the King II, for instance, made splitting up the party a more viable, less risky option now. Trying this in the first For the King would leave a single person to fend for themselves, while For the King II allows players to divide themselves up evenly to cover more ground safely in duos.
If you want the feeling of being on a roadtrip with your buddies in For the King II, landboats are one way to get around the land of Fahrul now. As players might expect, the hexagon tile-based world map is much larger in the sequel and modes of transportation help everyone travel together more efficiently. Landboats gradually take damage as they move around, though visiting a Landport gives the option to repair them at a cost. Enemies can ambush you when traveling in them, so players will have to be vigilant about defending their nifty vehicle.
Another huge change introduced in For the King II is in its battle system. Characters no longer line up in a single lane anymore; instead, both players and enemies now work with two lanes comprised of four spaces. Positional location is a heavy emphasis in For the King II. The new grid setup allows for a front lane and rear lane dynamic, in which tankier melee characters take on the brunt of incoming attacks. Meanwhile, ranged classes can more safely execute their game plan behind them.
As I begun my hands-on time with For the King II, I was tasked with protecting a stone shrine on the world map. Four enemy groups spawned in as the event began and I had to make sure none of them landed on the tile with the shrine. I decided to deal with the enemies coming from the north first and it was a baptism by fire.
For the King II retains the challenging encounters that its predecessor possessed; it isn’t difficult for the sake of being difficult, but it pushes players to carefully think about each move. I failed to ambush the initial set of enemies, so they immediately got the upper hand as my first combat encounter began. My party consisted of the Blacksmith, Hunter, Hobo, and the new Pathfinder class. I had to quickly reposition my characters, so the Blacksmith and Hobo defended the other two characters at the front lines. Thankfully, the Blacksmith had a handy taunt ability to capture the enemies' attention for a short while.
After slowly chipping away at the threat with some defense buffs to my allies and armor debuffs to foes, I somehow survived. It looked dire from the get-go, yet I managed. Luckily, the enemy group at the south was simply a lone wizard that I ambushed successfully.
Impressed by my performance, Mike suggested something different - something that he wanted more experienced RPG players to see if they grasped the basics right away.
He loaded up a different save that he called the “advanced demo.”
It had me tackling the Gambling Den dungeon that’s much further into the game. I still had the same party composition, but they had higher levels, better equipment, and more abilities to play around with.
This demo featured enemies that had much more complex formations and behaviors. Lady Luck was on my side, however. I quickly reviewed the new tools I had in my possession, such as an AoE defense up buff that the Hobo could cast and a new devastating AoE frost attack from the Blacksmith that had a chance to not only daze enemies, it inflicted the frozen status ailment, as well.
There were additional skills that I coincidentally discovered. One of my allies propped up a scarecrow when they missed an enemy, so that scarecrow served as a frontline decoy that enemies could hit. The space behind the scarecrow provided a defense bonus, too. Another ally activated their Tactics perk when they got the final hit on an enemy; the Tactics perk highlighted a rear tile that would grant a temporary attack buff to anyone inside it.
Despite being on the “advanced demo”, I found it to not be so bad difficulty-wise. I was just playing cautiously and safely, making sure that my rear characters’ positions didn’t leave them exposed and kept an eye on how much heat my front liners were tanking. Even the mimic I came across after trying to loot a treasure chest didn’t best me, though it did deal a good amount of damage every time it got a hit in. The two developers from IronOak Games were impressed.
Finally, I arrived at the final room in the Gambling Den dungeon. The Pirate King and his four henchmen awaited me. Each of his henchmen were devastating archers that all stuck to the rear lane; there were a few dicey situations and tense dice rolls that decided whether I would confront the Pirate King with all of my party members - or only some of them.
Somehow, they were all still standing as the Pirate King stepped onto the battlefield with almost 400 HP; the average enemy had anywhere between 60-90 HP. This was going to be a daunting fight.
My time was up in checking out For the King II! Colby, Mike, and I were so invested that we almost went over the time limit for our meeting. It was such a captivating experience in the brief time I spent with it. I definitely want to rope my friends into playing For the King II when it launches on PC (Steam) some time this year. It’ll be coming to other platforms after it hits PC.