Reign of Kings Early Access First Impressions
By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Reign of Kings is a new project being brought to us by the same guys that developed StarForge. It features many survival and sandbox elements and plays a lot like Rust, but in a strictly medieval setting. You can look forward to fending off hordes of savage players, who all want that ten wood you just farmed, while trying to feed yourself and build a shelter. Unlike a lot of games in the survival genre, Reign of Kings doesn’t rely so much on NPC threats, but focuses more on providing ample reason for players to kill each other. I bought the game soon after its release on Steam Early Access and have been playing for about a week now, so I think I’m ready to write a First Look for you guys.
The Character Creation in Reign of Kings is impressive, though not the most amazing I’ve ever seen. That being said, you can create some really whacky characters. The range of unique characters you will see running around is hilarious. I was once attacked by someone with massive legs, but tiny arms and a small head.
The other side of the Character Creation is guild crests. The meaning for this doesn’t become immediately apparent, but it’s something that comes in handy later on. You’ll get to choose a symbol, a pattern, and colors for your crest. Once you’re in the game, you can craft a Crest (which I’ll get into later), an item that lets you claim pieces of land and make it so no one else can build on them. Unless you invite them to your guild, of course. This symbol will display whenever someone enters your land and you can even put it on flags and banners.
The game looks fantastic, simply put. There are mind-blowing vistas in every direction. And damn does that massive King Statue look regal. Animations look superb, so no complaints there. In general, the game looks perfect – a realistic style that doesn’t take itself too seriously. However, I often do not get to see how fantastic the game can look at maximum settings, as if I’m on a server with over twenty-five people, I have to put my settings to near minimum to eek out just enough FPS to keep the game playable. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it seems like if there’s less than twenty people on a server I can play on maximum settings and get 40-70 FPS, which is perfect for me. Thankfully the developers have been releasing frequent updates since the release last month, with all of them having a bit of optimization included.
Reign of Kings definitely falls under the “Survival” genre. With its hunger and thirst system, you’ll have to make an effort to keep your character at peak capacity. Though this won’t be hard as the island you are stranded on is a veritable Eden, with berries that will replenish much of your food and a lot of your thirst all over the place. There are also near-brainless chickens and sheep you can kill for meat, along with a handful of other “peaceful” animals to bash the brains out of. Of course, there are also wolves, bears, other bad beasties, and players who want to see you dead.
Getting hydrated isn’t hard, either. Like I said, the berries do a good job at keeping you hydrated to the point that you might find it easier to just collect and eat them instead of looking for a freshwater source. If you do find a fresh water source, you can collect water from it (you don’t need a container). But this takes a long time and keeps you open to attack. There’s also the option of using a Well, in which you input charcoal and water is the output, but it seems like most people choose not to have one. Generally, though, you won’t be using actual water to stay hydrated, but instead for certain crafting recipes.
Gathering & Crafting
The gathering in Reign of Kings is another neat system. Almost everything you see in the game has a resource. The sheep have wool, bushes will give you sticks, trees will give wood, tall patches of grass can be picked for hay… Most things will provide you with something useful. Heck, even a decent number of the rocks you see can be picked up. Higher-end resources are mostly situated in certain areas of the map, and the spawns are static, so setting up shop next to a good resource node like rock or iron may be beneficial, but it’ll also put you at risk as everyone wants rock and iron so they can have the best items and building materials.
Resources are constantly contested. It’s important to strike a balance between distance from the resources and seclusion when you set up your home. Being too close will make you more likely to be raided as you’ll be in a high traffic area, but being too far can make it a hassle to gather the important resources and make the game less fun. Personally, I love how the resources are set up because they promote PVP, large guilds may want to take control of most of the iron spawns to make it harder for other groups to get iron or steel weapons, which will put them at odds with the rest of the server.
The crafting in the game is much more in-depth than I originally thought it would be. Most of the time, in these survival games, the crafting is bare-bones (if it’s included at all). Reign of Kings, however, goes above and beyond with various different tiers of crafting recipes to make use of. There are a handful of crafting stations that can be built and upgraded to gain access to more advances recipes. If you want plate armor, for example, you’ll need to make a general workstation, use that to craft an anvil, and then upgrade that anvil. As you build these stations and gain the resources to upgrade them, it almost feels like raising your “tech level” in a strategy game.
The recipes come in a wide variety from making basic javelins to smelting steel for the ‘best’ armor and weapons in the game. It is odd saying this when it comes to a game that, at least on the surface, seems to be all about PVP and messing up other players. But I often find myself enjoying the process of base building, resource gathering, and crafting more than any other part of the game. The crafting is complex enough to stay interesting without being completely tedious; a balance that a LOT of games struggle to strike, and I was completely surprised to find it here. As far as I’m concerned, the crafting is the star of the show when it comes to Reign of Kings.
The building system is another oddity when I came into Reign of Kings. I expected something that was essentially a copy of the building system in Rust. But it resembles the building system of Minecraft more than anything else. You build using blocks rather than pre-fabricated walls and whatnot. Which is great, especially if you’re a fan of Minecraft, because it allows for some interesting freedoms. The only downside is that it can be difficult to build something aesthetically pleasing that will also hold up to siege.
Each type of building block has a tier and strength factor applied to it. A house made up of sticks is going to be a lot easier to smash your way into than a house made of cobblestone, for example. Not all the materials look great, but luckily it seems to be the higher tier stuff looks the best (but is also the hardest to make). On the subject of doors and gates, though, I’m a little sore. They seem to have good functionality and even look decent, but the problem is the lockpicking. Unless you have the highest tier door, it’s just incredibly easy. And considering that you can’t lock a chest, it seems useless to have doors. Most people have figured out its better just to use blocks instead of doors, just making a hole and placing the blocks back whenever you need in or out. Hopefully this gets fixed or tweaked ASAP.
Next up are the Crests. These are the things that allow you to claim land. You can invite friends to your guild and even promote them to “family” status, which is essentially the “officer” rank in a normal guild. The most basic Crest is the Leather Crest, but there are two other types of varying difficulty to create that offer more HP (which means it’s harder for people to destroy your crest) and perhaps a wider range. If you want to wake up as the owner of your base, it’s best to put at least a couple of layers of tier 4 or higher building blocks around your Crest and, if you have more than one person in the guild, have them place another Crest nearby to create redundancy. This is because a common tactic is to raid an offline players base while he can’t defend it, destroy his crest to replace it with your own, and then pick up every single building block of his base. This leaves floating crafting stations and beds around, so if you come across those while playing you will know why.
Combat was alright, in my opinion. I feel like some tweaks and polish needs to be applied. But in general I had fun fighting. There are melee, thrown, and ranged (bows) weapons to make use of, and I’ve got to say melee is my favorite. I usually enjoy ranged combat, but I find that I simply am bad with the ranged system in Reign of Kings – partially because it doesn’t hold your hand and gives you no aiming assistance. The combat feels somewhere between Mount & Blade and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
The range of weapons is decent. There are clubs, maces, swords, daggers, javelins, bows, and there’s even a whip. I tend to prefer halberds and maces, as they seem to do best for me. There are three attacks to make use of; A basic attack (left click), a secondary attack (scroll forward), and a heavy attack (scroll backward). There’s also blocking with the right mouse button. Fairly simple, but can provide for some intense fights… though most fights seem to devolve into a swingfest. There are also bandages for healing.
Not exactly combat, but perhaps a subset of it, is the ability to imprison and execute people. If you have a rope or some chains, you can capture someone and drag them along against their will. From there you can put them in a cage, release them, or prepare them for execution using things like guillotines or hanging. This is an extremely fun system that adds a new element to the experience, one of those things that I’ve always wanted in a game but I never realized until playing Reign of Kings. It’s always hilarious, especially if the person has hidden a sharp rock in their orifice (code for anus… It makes a squishy wet sound, not unlike when you beat an animal with your club, when it’s inserted). If they’ve done that, they can cut the rope to escape or just commit suicide.
The Plague Town, or that’s what I call it, is one of two places where you will find static structures. The other being the King’s Statue. The story of the Plague Town isn’t exactly clear, but you can make some guesses. The place is covered in a poisonous miasma that continuously drains your HP. Inside you will find boxes that spawn sometimes rare loot or an abundance of crafting materials. Humanoid monsters that resemble zombies (in my opinion) spawn outside the town wall and they have a chance of dropping rare items, such as steel equipment or rare crafting components, too.
Now, the King is probably the most important feature for people coming into the game. It’s in the title and is essentially the whole premise of the game. It’s sort of a “capture the point” system, where you will need to dethrone the old King and then sit on the Throne to “capture” the Kings title. Once you are King you will get access to a crown and a fancy sword. You’ll also get to set taxes for the whole realm, which is an automatic deduction from every resources gathered on the Island. If the King sets the taxes to 50%, half of whatever you gather will go to the King and he’ll be able to take and use those resources for whatever he pleases. But woe be the King that decides to put taxes over 10%… I’ve seen many reigns end abruptly because a King got greedy. As long as the taxes are kept as a reasonably low level, the Kingship is usually not contested often – people prefer playing the game in other ways.
As the game is currently in Early Access, that means it’s definitely not done being developed. As such, you may be worried about the current state of the game before you purchase. For the most part, you get what you see. Everything in the introduction video and the stuff discussed in the game description are already in the game. There are only two potential problems, which are performance (which seems to get a bit better with each of the frequent patches from the developers) and the developers’ history.
On performance, right now it can be difficult to play on a populated server. Personally, if the server has over thirty people and hasn’t been reset in the past half hour, I’ll be lucky to get at least fifteen FPS. And the server itself will be lucky not to crash (based on my experience). In contrast, with just twenty people on a server I can play the game perfectly fine with little-to-no issue. Concerning the development team… This is the same team behind StarForge, which is a game that a lot of people are upset about. Rather than get into a lot of detail here, I’ll just link to a developer post on the subject where they admit that they got in over their heads and explain how Reign of Kings is a completely different project that won’t suffer in the same ways. (The statement is post #2 in this thread).
Reign of Kings is imaginative in ways I wish we would see more often in games. It’s somewhere between realistic and whacky comedy, providing an experience that almost guarantees you will have a fantastic time while playing with friends. The developers have somehow managed to come up with a game design that is a solid balance between so many different elements that I rarely see – the only honest complaint I have for the game is the performance and that will (hopefully) be fixed as the developers continue with their frequent updates. And I’ve got to say it again, the crafting in this game is one of the best crafting systems I’ve seen – single player, online, MMO, or otherwise. Even in its current early access state, I have no issue saying that Reign of Kings is a great game. Definitely, in my opinion, worth the $20 price tag on