Early impressions of KingsRoad, the free-to-play browser and FaceBook game from Rumble Entertainment.
With Rumble Entertainment’s highly acclaimed KingsRoad now being in open beta here in the UK, published by Rumble Entertainment and ProSiebenSat.1 Games, it seemed a good idea to take a look and see what everyone is talking about.
KingsRoad is one of those rare games that really comes close to the quality of a full retail game, even though it is played through your browser. It is a free-to-play title in a similar style to games like Diablo and has microtransactions that, unlike many free-to-play “hardcore” games, are entirely optional. That is not to say that Rumble Entertainment are not going try really hard to make you spend your cash, but more on that later.
So, after an unbelievably simple signing up process, something which other game developers could take note of, the player gets to choose from three different character classes – Archer, Knight and Wizard. The decision of which character to use is made much easier as the player can switch between the classes whenever they are back in the hub town between levels. Each of the classes offers a different playstyle, with different equipment and skills. The Knight is a melee specialist, while the Archer and Wizard both attack from a distance.
Once the character has been chosen, the player begins their quest to bring peace to the land. This is where the game differs slightly from other Diablo-clones, in that there is no open world to explore, but rather the player embarks on bitesize quest levels which are offered in a linear fashion. Each of these levels takes only minutes to work through. Going to the gate to leave the town, the player will be presented with a map. Highlighted areas of the map represent each level, and the player will find themselves going back to previously completed levels for side quests or to improve their mastery of that level.
In fact, mastery of a level is one way in which the player can collect the blue gems that represent the real world cash that can be spent in the game. Working through a level over and over not only will level up the character, but also reward the player with blue gems that can be spent on unlocking special chests found within the levels, buying skill points or increasing storage space in the players bag. There are other ways to get the gems in the game, but for the most part players will be tempted to buy them with their cash.
Controlling the game is simple. Players will move and attack using the mouse, while keys on the keyboard provide quick access to skills and consumables. As they progress, the player will level up their character and be awarded skill points. These skill points can be assigned multiple times to a single skill, to make it more effective, or to new skills which themselves unlock as the player reaches the required level. It is an elegant system which is simple to understand, although it quickly becomes difficult to choose where to spend the skill points.
Through their missions, the player will find themselves rescuing key characters from the town hub. Each of these, once rescued, will bring a new service to the town, such as the blacksmith who will craft equipment in exchange for some gold and a number of inferior equipment pieces, or the banker who will allow you to store a few items in his care. More options become available as the game progresses, from a basic shop to an alchemist.
The visuals of KingsRoad are quite stunning considering the game is browser based. Every few levels, the game introduces new enemy units to fight with, and they all look pretty good, as does the setting and the levels themselves. All in all, the quality of KingsRoad, especially considering it is only in open beta, would look quite comfortable in a retail title.
That is, except for the hard sell. While KingsRoad is perfectly playable, and quite enjoyable, without spending any money, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try to make you. Storage becomes an issue quite early on in the game, with your character’s bag only holding a small amount of loot (this is especially annoying when it comes to gather quests). The player can increase the slots in their bag in exchange for blue gems. However, the number of blue gems that the player receives in the game, without spending money, would have to be saved up for an awfully long time to afford this, forcing the player to consider spending cash. Also, each level has at least one chest that costs blue gems to open. These chests often contain highly desirable gear of a higher quality than normal, again tempting the player. In fact, there are many ways to spend the blue gems, not least on which are on the “limited time only” special offers that come up on the screen. While the blue gems themselves are not too expensive to buy, with 500 gems for only £2.99, I can see players easily spending fortunes while playing KingsRoad.
It just seems that the hard sell is unnecessary and the balance is a bit off. Also, I have found that while my collection of blue gems was frankly measly in the game, I was gathering an abundance of gold with very little to spend it on. However, the game is only in beta, so maybe these issues will be addressed in time. It is not like the player has to spend money to enjoy the game, and it is certainly not “pay to win”, but the temptations are there and in your face all the time.
In the hub town, there is a notice board that will quickly be unlocked to provide bounty missions. These missions offer some variety in their objectives and are a nice way to collect even more loot. Co-op play is possible with the very simple “Find Party” button at the top of the screen, and the player is encouraged to invite friends to play with the enticement of even more loot. Then there are Guilds which the player can join, or create their own, to gain access to discounts and various other benefits. The game is incredibly sociable, and has a full chat system to ensure that the socialising keeps on flowing.
KingsRoad is a pretty amazing game. There is an absolute wealth of loot, which will be important to bring over the Diablo hardcore, the systems all work, the gameplay is fun and to top it off, it all looks good. The only downside I can see is the balancing of the microtransactions, which can be a little off putting at times. KingsRoad is only in beta and has plenty of time to tweak things and make changes. As it stands right now, KingsRoad is not only great fun to play, but a really good example of how good a free-to-play browser game can be – Check it out at www.rumblegames.com/kingsroad