Kingsway is one of the most unique indie games this year. Adult Swim knocked it out of the park.
Out of thousands of titles that come out on a weekly basis, sometimes you find a real diamond in the rough. Kingsway, published by Adult Swim games, does more with a minimalistic structure than most AAA games do on a massive budget. I had a chance to try out Kingsway during PAX East 2017 back in March, personally dubbing it “Game of Show”. But, this past week it hit Steam and I knew I had to have it.
Kingsway is a self-aware fantasy RPG set in a Windows 95-like operating system. Yes, that’s right: an operating system. The main structure of the game is very reminiscent of 1990’s RPGS like Baldur’s Gate and Final Fantasy. It also draws tons of inspiration from pen-and-paper RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. Menus and windows are familiar to anyone that has ever played any of these sort of games. This includes the character screen, inventory, world map, and so on. The catch is that the entire game is played on the desktop of Kingsway’s OS utilizing windows.
Starting the game allows you to make your character. In what we can only assume is a poke at character creation of modern day, it gives you several options to create. This means nothing as the only time you see the face of your character is on the character window. You don’t see the avatar wearing the armor or wielding weapons, just sitting in the middle of the slots that are full. After the first play through, I learned my lesson wasting time on making the character look perfect, because they are probably not long for this world anyway (I’ll get to that later). Additionally, you get to choose your class, which sets your starting stats, and a starting gift, such as extra health or a ring.
So Many Windows, So Little Time.
Your inventory bags are just folders that hold the items, no different than making a folder on normal Windows. You start with a standard bag, but can obtain more. The first quest rewards you with a second smaller “bag”/folder. This is definitely helpful early on as there’s a limit on how much weight can be held in a bag. Throughout the game, you will find a lot of items and junk you’ll want to sell. More bags and other useful items will show up later on in shops.
The World Navigator is your way of transportation, acting as an over-world map. The map is entirely procedurally generated, so every new character has a new map to follow. Towns and way points show up on the map, as well as if people you meet mark treasure or special events on it. Hitting any marker on the map will pop up a new window. This sets off an event, such as abandoned building to explore, bandits, or full towns with shops, guilds, and inns.
In towns, you can utilize shops to purchase gear. The purchase screen is very familiar to anyone that has every made an online purchase before, even going as far as making players put the items in their cart before hitting the checkout button. Towns can also include inns guilds, which include storage. Quests, which pop up like e-mails (and spam), can be turned in at guilds within specific towns as well. Just pick your quests wisely.
My best recommendation is to keep your character, status, inventories, world navigator, and log open at all times. If you’re worried about health or magic, it’s good to have a potion open, ready to be used, as well.
It’s dangerous to go alone…
As you travel around Kingsway, your progress shows up as a loading bar. If the loading bar is open, you’re vulnerable to random encounters. You’re going to be attacked, most likely, and the enemy will show up as a new window and attack at their pre-set intervals, which can be viewed as a loading bar in the window. Skills and weapons you obtain can be helpful in these situations, such as healing abilities or poisoning effects you can utilize on stronger opponents.
Enemies start out pretty weak in the early couple areas. But, don’t travel too far without hitting all the relative way points, as enemies will get stronger the more you stray from the starting zone. The difficulty on enemies grows as you go, going from only moving as windows to extra windows you need to close out to avoid. Standard dungeons sometimes come into play every so often, taking you to a boss battle, generally from a quest-line. Pick your battles wisely and watch your health. You’ll learn eventually what is best to do and what isn’t over time.
You want a hard game? This is how you get a hard game!
This leads me into the learning curve of the game. Simply, this game is difficult. You will die a lot. As I stated earlier, don’t get attached to your character’s look because this is meant to be a game you restart quite often. In my most recent play-through, I got all the way to level 8, fighting monsters with around 50 to 90 HP on average. I came across a beacon which the game didn’t give me a real warning about when I approached. I was, then, killed by a super boss with 370 HP, just short of the main castle. An hour in on it and I’m back to square one. Just remember: You will die.
The further you get in the game, the more you earn in Gems. Gems are out-of-gameplay currency for new characters to earn better starting gifts, chance the operating system, or add different hot keys. Since you will die often, unlocking better items will come easier after several play-throughs. Players only get one starting gift, which can include a memento from their last character, so make it count.
The End Is Always A New Beginning In This Game
This is definitely one of my favorite games this year. The style is unique, the gameplay brings me back to my childhood, and it’s hard as nails. I’ve played several times over four or five hours total and never gotten anywhere close to endgame due to so many deaths. And yet, as a masochist always does, I come back for more pain and suffering. I can’t stop playing this game, no matter how loud, angry, and vulgar I get with each death.
I definitely recommend it for anyone fond of 1980’s and 1990’s RPGs for the pure difficulty alone, and the 16-bit graphics. This is an old school game set in an old school operating system, but made for a modern, nostalgic audience. I give this game a very solid 4 out of 5.
Kingsway is available right now on Steam for $9.99 from Adult Swim Games.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Adult Swim Games; Developer:Andrew Morrish; Players: 1; Released July 18th, 2017; MSRP: $9.99
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Kingsway given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.