Overall - 60%
I look back at my time in Kings and Heroes with a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, I applaud the design of the huge, seamless open-world and its rewarding dungeon system, but on the other hand, the lack of polish for what is supposed to be a fully released game is disappointing. There's a lot of fun to be had here, but you'll need to head into the game with realistic expectations.
Industry Games’ online fantasy action RPG is calling for kings and heroes to unsheathe their weapons, mount their trusty steed, and take to the battlefield to defend the world of Sundaria. Should you join them in their Kings and Heroes quest or are there better free-to-play alternatives on the market?
Kings and Heroes Review
Looking through the various forms of media on the Kings and Heroes Steam Store page, I found myself giddy with excitement. What appeared to be a blend of Elder Scrolls-style combat and MMO-inspired questing and party activities is right down my alley, although my initial impressions would not last. As soon as you enter the world of Sundaria, you are greeted by the traditionally dull and cumbersome MMO-style user interface. You skill bars across the bottom of the screen, a rather pointless compass sits atop and a minimalist mini-map in the lower right – features that were missing entirely from the media available on Steam. There is an option to remove it, but unless you want to be bringing up your map every 12 seconds, it’s not really a good alternative.
I’m slightly disappointed at the all too familiar feeling I experienced as I continued forth. Before long, I was greeted with my first quest, one that asked me to locate a specific NPC. In true MMO fashion, I skipped the majority of the dialogue, accepted the quest, and checked my map. Nothing. This trend continued with every future quest, although I’d learned to read the full dialogue by that point. Kings and Heroes does not hold your hand. It expects you to actually participate in these quests, not simply mindlessly follow objective markers until you get your promised reward. This is a feature that’s likely to receive mixed reactions but for the Ultima Online generation of online gamers, it’s a nostalgic throwback that’s both rewarding and somewhat frustrating at times.
While traveling through the initial tutorial style quests, the game introduces you to the combat, crafting, and dungeon systems – all of which are a breath of fresh air. The combat has more in common with today’s action RPG titles, removing the ability to simply lock on and spam abilities, replacing it with an entirely skill-based aim and execute system. There’s a number of race and class choices during character creation, each of which come with their own arsenal of abilities and roles in party play. I dabbled with each of the classes and all of them had the same skill-based aiming during combat, which is something that should have been industry standard years ago. A little rough around the edges and a strange delay on melee strike damage hinders the combat somewhat, but it’s nothing a good patch couldn’t fix.
Before reaching my first dungeon, Kings and Heroes did feel very MMOish. The traditionally mundane and unimaginative quest objectives are all there. Kill this, speak to them, go there – there’s nothing to innovate in that regard. But then you enter your first dungeon, and it makes all of the questing seem a side activity, an afterthought, a needless activity that should be ignored in favor of exploring these dangerous and very rewarding dungeons. Each dungeon is randomly generated each time, using a specific set of tiles for that particular dungeon. While this doesn’t provide any moments of awe in terms of design, it keeps each dungeon uniquely challenging. At this point the game transitions from an MMO to a more Diablo-styled gear grind that compliments the games combat and party system perfectly.
Getting minor stat and ability improvements after each dungeon ensures you’re rewarded and progressing at a decent pace but it’s the aesthetics of the gear that really impresses. The weapons and armor look fantastic, as there is very little lazy recoloring here. You won’t need to grind 30 levels to look like a badass either; by level 5 I had a metal armor set and huge greatsword that made every swing of my blade both satisfying and deadly.
I wasn’t able to get as much time with Kings and Heroes as I would have liked. Finding a group for dungeons can be difficult, especially if you don’t play during peak times. However, the community come to the rescue here, as people will often switch to alts or offer to help you through your next dungeon. It’s a rarity for a modern online title to have such a close knit, welcoming, and friendly community, but Kings and Heroes leads the charge.
I look back at my time in Kings and Heroes with a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, I applaud the design of the huge, seamless open-world and its rewarding dungeon system, but on the other hand, the lack of polish for what is supposed to be a fully released game is disappointing. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, but you’ll need to head into the game with realistic expectations.