Browser based games have a difficult time making a name for themselves. Can KingsRoad, the free to play title from Rumble Entertainment, change that?
As someone who marks Diablo III as one of the worst games I’ve ever played (it’s a long story as to why) the prospect of playing KingsRoad wasn’t particularly filling me with excitement. As a browser based, free to play, dungeon crawler, it was immediately ringing alarm bells as a product I likely wasn’t going to enjoy. Thankfully, I’ve been proved wrong and its actually surprised me somewhat.
Having had a perfect opportunity on a recent trip to Amsterdam to play the game between airports and train stations on my Chromebook (it runs really well on it, I might add) as well as in the hotel room for brief half an hour sessions at a time, I think I truly found a niche for the product. First and foremost, I’m not convinced it’s a game designed to be played extensively on a hulking great desktop PC, but it did fit snugly into my schedule when I have fifteen or twenty minutes to burn.
What I liked about KingsRoad is the fact that Rumble Entertainment (its developers) know exactly what they’re doing. They aren’t trying to re-write the rule book, but what they are making is just a simple game that fills time when you’ve a little time to spare.
Similarly to Diablo or Torchlight, you’re called upon to aid a Kingdom in trouble and like most dungeon crawlers, you can choose 3 classes: Archer, Knight and Wizard. With limited action sets for each of the three classes (which you can change to at any time) you eventually unlock additional skills as you level up, with the ability to further improve your skills through the use of skill points. It’s a simple system and one that many will be familiar with, as combat still involves a single mouse click for auto attack and hotbar selection for more powerful skills (1-5)
Holding all of KingsRoad together (and this is what I found most surprising) is a solid soundtrack, good skill and environmental effects and some really wonderful artwork. I love the style of the static NPC avatars as they chat dialogue too you - they remind me heavily of Advanced Wars or Banner Saga and although they’re drawn as opposed to 3D faces, they have much more character than Blizzards or even the NPC’s in the likes of Skyrim. Their dialogue is short and to the point and while it won’t set your world on fire for originality, for something that lends itself to quick play, it’s well suited.
I’m not suggesting KingsRoad is a perfect product, but it’s difficult to be too overly critical on a product that’s both free to play and browser based. I’d like to see the map size significantly increased and allow for more exploration, while the linearity of progression through the game world is inevitably repetitive. Having to complete each map before you can unlock additional difficulties is a bit of a headache and seems a little too restricted, as the early maps are ludicrously easy (especially if you pick Wizard). Lastly, I'd like to see the ability to choose a female avatar and a little more "oomph" given to the Archer.
My biggest concern for KingsRoad however, is that while it directly appeals to the casual gamer (and I’d hazard a guess at a notably younger one) the ability to monetize I’m sure is difficult. Rumble Entertainment are pretty generous in the fact that there isn’t really any major restriction placed on you. Buying gems would inevitably make leveling up your skill points significantly quicker and there are some snazzy looking skins in the shop to buy, but none of it is fundamentally necessary if you don’t want to part with your hard earned money. Players such as me will inevitably drift towards the likes of Torchlight 2 if we’re after the best a dungeon crawler can offer for £15, where as my cousin who is 10 (with little money) would absolutely love something like this - combined with its Facebook integration and simple grouping system, it’s a winner for him and his friends.
Funnily enough, having phoned my cousin after writing this coverage, it transpires he does in fact play KingsRoad with friends and considering the lobby is packed with people when I last played it, I doubt he’ll struggle to have fun with it.
While I won’t be continuing to play KingsRoad (unless I’ve got another journey ahead of me and no 3DS to hand) I think Rumble Entertainment have done really well within the confines that they have set for themselves. KingsRoad is a solid browser based game, that's awesome at burning time.
If you're interested in playing KingsRoad, simply hit the link here!