We have a look at the KingsRoad Closed Beta, an Action-RPG from Rumble Games.
The Action-RPG (ARPG) genre is exploding with the massive success of League of Legends and the release of Diablo III and Torchlight II, two pioneers of the genre. We've got Kickstarter campaigns promising an “evolution” of the genre and now our very own free-to-play Diablo II in Path of Exile.
That brings me to the latest offering from Rumble Entertainment and KingsRoad their browser-based free-to-play ARPG which I've been playing lately and had the joy of meeting Rumble Customer Experience Manager, Brett Bates.
The quality of free-to-play games has improved immensely in recent years and today it is seen as the best way forward, but high-quality browser games are a modern take on gaming with only City of Steam really standing out from the crowd. Going into KingsRoad I didn't have very high expectations, especially with the stigma of logging in through Facebook; something I associate with bad gaming experiences.
Immediately it is clear that Rumble isn’t messing around when it claims to be making AAA quality games, everything is very polished and, when full-screen, you very quickly forget you are playing a game in your browser. The graphics are detailed and smooth – the world does feel alive and not flat like in other browser games. The user interface is slick and intuitive.
The introductory tutorial is very basic and the game does an excellent job of introducing things one at a time, the new player experience being something Brett tells me they have been working on recently. While the common gamer will roll his eyes at the hand-holding, given the Facebook integration I can't say it's is a bad thing and will definitely help newbie gamers.
The Village of Longford
After fighting through the angry mobs and burning buildings you arrive at the Village of Longford where you meet the locals. The populace consists of town elder Caleb, who is somewhat cynical of your honest intentions – he is the skill trainer. The Tavern Keeper who allows you to change your class on the fly, the cook and forge master who are basically crafting stations, the sage who identifies items for you, merchant who offers food and water which restore Health and Valor (mana) respectively, tailor who sells cosmetic outfits, apothecary who trades potions for gems that give you increased experience gain among other things. There is the Vault Keeper who offers storage space for your items – though I couldn't find much use for him and finally the Cartographer who allows you to select a map to enter.
The introduction of a dozen NPCs at once may be a lot to take in for new players but Brett assured me that they would be releasing a patch this week to introduce these characters more gradually – all part of their recent improvements to the new player experience.
Crafting and Gems
Before going into the crafting systems I should explain the currencies of the world of Alderstone. There are two currencies, Gold which is your standard game currency, acquired through completing quests and looting and Gems. Gems are used for all manner of things from buying experience potions to speeding up build times and more; I will mention them as we go. Gems can be bought with real money or can be acquired in-game by completing missions. While you don't actually need to spend gems they make your life a lot easier, but you gain them so slowly that to get enough for a cosmetic item you would need to grind missions – each mission yields a total of nine gems. I will explain how that system works later, it's actually pretty smart.
The crafting systems in the game are fairly straight-forward; the forge allows players to smelt six items of a certain quality in return for an item of a higher quality. As an example, I put six green colored “fine” items into the forge and twenty-four hours later I got one blue “superior” item. As with most things in KingsRoad you can speed the process by spending gems. The Cook isn't quite as unique in that she allows you to create food and drinks if you have the ingredients which can be both bought and looted in battle. Once again you can pay gems to bypass the waiting and ingredients. To create higher quality items you must first upgrade the crafting stations by spending gold.
The Forge crafting system is a nice addition to the game that I can see myself using but the cooking system is a little uninspired and needs improvement – in fact, they made some changes to the cooking system recently, so apparently they agree. I would like to see additional crafting systems in the future, perhaps a gem socketing system.