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Page 1:
Preamble
King's Field

Page 2:
King's Field II
King's Field III

Page 3:
King's Field IV
King's Field Dark Side Box

Page 4:
King's Field Additional I / II
King's Field Mobile
King's Field: Sword Of Moonlight

Page 5:
Shadow Tower
Shadow Tower Abyss
Eternal Ring

Back to the Index


King's Field / King's Field II - PlayStation (1995)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

European Cover

It is astonishing how much From Software managed to achieve in the scant few months between the first game and the release of its sequel in June '95.

Ship-wrecked and washed ashore of Melanat Island, you are Alexander, and your task is to find the Moonlight Sword stolen from the King of Verdite (though you wouldn't know unless you take time to read the manual, again the game itself doesn't throw much information at you). A not-particularly-unique premise, but once one fires up the game and begins, this issue is quickly glossed over. You begin as near-useless and weak as you would at the start of the first game, only this time you stand on the western beaches of Melanat, with no lengthy cinematic and already many possible directions to explore, you are simply placed in the game and allowed to go where you want and do what you want. And you'll probably spend your first moments dead in the water.

How many games put you two steps away from a deep watery death right at the beginning? Further, only a few moments walk away is a boss creature that can fell you in one attack! Just off to your right further into the distance, is one of many entrances to the varied twisting and elaborate corridors and tunnels of the island. King's Field 2 has no "levels" as such, it instead has a persistent open world with many sections that interconnect with each other. Here lies the major achievement of this game: a 1995 PlayStation game in full 3D and with an open world. There are NO loading screens beyond first booting it up, and areas are streamed on the fly as you enter them. They cover the gamut of mines, caves, tunnels, a castle, and treacherous cliffs looking down on instant-death falls. All of them are absolutely successful in imparting a sense of claustrophobia on the player. Further, as you become used to the geography of the island, the many options for travel will become apparent to you. This becomes a truly effective gameplay mechanic, as the resourceful player will be able to visualise a new way of reaching the next area they wish to visit, using the many connecting doors and corridors that gradually open up as the game progresses. Sure, the first game had this to an extent, though limited to selected teleporters, here it is astonishing how well the various areas of Melanat meet up with each other. There are few games that make the player feel like they are in a competently realised world, let alone one that they will remember long after completing it.

The visuals, however, still look tremendously dated, and the characteristic edge holes that plague the PlayStation's woeful 3D capabilities are still very much in evidence. The textures are improved but are not in abundance. Perhaps to keep memory usage down in light of the streaming level data, you'll be looking at the same wall and floor textures for vast areas of the game. This does, however, make for an effective way of visualising areas when keeping a map, either in your head or on paper. Areas feel distinct of each other because of the repetitive textures, not despite of them. Still no door textures though! (Most of the time.)

HP and MP are now displayed as clear numbers, each with their respective strength gauges underneath. The only other HUD element is a compass. So once again the interface is suitably minimalistic. On the other hand, combat is barely the same circle-strafe whack and magic setup of the first game. The AI seems improved and less random, though circle-strafing is enough to keep them turning and out of your line of fire with reasonable ease. The monsters, at least, are a more varied collection of deadly fauna (yes, the flytraps again), undead, wraiths, possessed humans and many others.

There are more traps and secrets than ever, too. In fact the game is utterly crammed with secret doors, this time nudging walls Wolfenstein-style opens them but there are a few traps to be stumbled into if you're not careful. Alexander can also, finally, run! This will drop your MP / HP gauges to minimum, however, and you'll have to wait for them to refill as normal in order to attack. Otherwise they work the same way as before. Magic is now learned using crystals of varying types, which also improve your magic stat.

NPCs are more common too, usually in the form of lone miners risking their necks, or people carving out some measure of existence in the various town areas dotted around the island. Here some new mechanics come into play: one NPC offers the ability to take smaller crystals and combine them to make crystal flasks, introducing another useful mechanic, being able to create healing potions from coloured water sources throughout the game. Bows and arrows are available too, and the same "crystal-worker" NPC will also create arrows from crystal shards. You will be given tasks to do by some NPCs, and in return receive quest items or healing items. There is no journal though, so you will have to keep tabs on your tasks yourself. You can also kill NPCs, but this rarely results in anything positive.

Another NPC will copy keys for you. This is important, as a crucial aspect of the exploration mechanics in King's Field 2 is the use of keys, specifically two types: Rhombus keys, which can be copied, and others like the Magician or Silver keys, which can't. Many doors throughout the island require rhombus keys to progress, and you must either find more or spend gold to have them copied. You will also need two for most rhombus doors as a rhombus key only unlocks one direction! Other keys are as in the first game, though they mainly unlock chests they are nevertheless an important find whenever the player comes across one. Ultimately: there are various keys and they are re-useable, but you will need a lot more than one Rhombus key!

The music is rather more memorable this time too, with rousing synth orchestral tunes with strong melodies and varied moods. There are not many different pieces, but they're generally superior to the first game. The sound effects are a touch stronger, also. With satisfying weapon swipes, convincingly foreboding monster groans and growls, and Alexander's desperate cry as he dies. There is still no specific sound when striking enemies, though, and this is still the one major deficit in the combat which makes it feel rather "floaty".

King's Field II is one of the better games in the series. Despite the now dated visuals, the island of Melanat is a compelling place to be. It has a cohesion not present in King's Field III, and feels more fully-formed compared to the first game. Though perhaps it's not entirely fair to compare it to King's Field IV, all the distinct elements of the game make up for excellent dungeon crawling, and it is ultimately the labyrinthine, complex (for the time) level design that makes this the most memorable of the four.

Editions

Japanese: as King's Field II
Original release SLPS-00069 on July 21st, 1995.
"The Best" edition SLPS-91003 on August the 9th, 1996.
"PlayStation Books" edition SLPS-91423 on November 29, 2001.
Also included in the Dark Side Box.

American: as King's Field
Original release SLUS-00158 on December 31st, 1995, published by ASCII. There are both standard PSX case and longbox editions with the same catalogue number.

European: as King's Field
Original release SCES-00510 on January 1st, 1996.
Promotional release.

King's Field 2 Title

King's Field 2

King's Field 2

King's Field 2

King's Field 2



King's Field II / King's Field III - PlayStation (1996)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

Bigger is better, right? The third King's Field uses the same engine as the previous game and has you - as Prince Lyle - scour the land of Verdite to retrieve magic powers from four mages, in order to defeat a corrupt king. King's Field 3 takes you through open fields, dingy caves, dark forests, and treacherous lakes. This time the game is far, far more "open" and - once you receive the map showing you the whole playing area not far into the game - you realise that you will have to trek through vast areas to reach the final boss. And, unfortunately, it simply isn't as engaging.

But first, the improvements: the visuals. Textures are marginally less repetitive, but there are more of them and they look a touch more realistic. The enemies are a touch less low-poly and employ a little more detail in their appearance. The cast is, again, a diverse one, and there are a tonnage of NPCs and more than one town to visit. The problem is that they take damned ages to get to.

Combat is... different, if only because the AI finally receives some tweaking. Enemies will match your circling if you persist in one direction, making it rather trickier to reliably keep them at bay. However the solution is disappoingly simple: strafe the other way. You'll probably get used to this very quickly and find it makes barely any difference to the challenge. HP, MP, items and the like work as before, save for having separate levels for the differing magic types: be sure not to use crystals until you have at least one point in that particular type of magic! Crystal flasks double for potions, though they're harder to come by, and keys are used here in precisely the same manner as before (the functional equivalent of the Rhombus keys are known here as "Silviera" keys).

The sound effects are pretty much the same, but the music has taken a distinct shift towards a "generic game orchestra" style. Tinges of the medieval, fantasy, and more common grandiose epic RPG are present, and while there are still a lot of memorable melodies, the lack of energy and drive compared to the previous two games is a touch disappointing.

However there is one glaring negative: the level design is disappointing. After the interconnecting madness and claustrophobia of the previous two games, From Software seemed to have decided to shift the focus of King's Field and make it "more like Zelda", and as aforementioned the areas are more varied here. There are again many cave and tunnel areas in the game, and they are still compellingly maze-like, such as the Thieves Passage, or the confusing Forest of Varde. There are less secrets, but lots of twists and turns and rooms to discover. But the towns just aren't particularly interesting, since they tend to be made up of a few houses dotted around a large open area populated by the odd bridge over water or lava, and the occasional monster. This takes whatever sense of claustrophobia could have been present in the game, and pretty much removes it entirely. Even when the player finds themselves in some of the more tunnel-esque areas, such as the Path Of Poison, many of them just aren't nearly as convoluted or twisted as the previous games.

Talking of which, the Path of Poison is one area in the game where the player will have to make use of a specific type of key. Unlike other key types, these open rooms and unlock items from containers. They are also one-time-use only. The player is initially given two, and then must find some later on. However, in order to progress further, one of those keys must be used to open the only passage that accesses the next area. Again, these are one-time-use keys, and if you have already used both of the first two you're given, you cannot progress any further. Time to re-load that last save from an hour ago!

Since the game is made up of distinct areas, they often connect with only one tunnel. The Thieves Passage is an exception as it happens to be a hub for four different areas, and Ralugo a hub for three, but this is only interesting on paper. In practise, it feels like a chore. The previous two games would offer multiple ways of reaching different areas, and a player that had memorised the levels or could read maps well enough could then devise quick ways to reach their current destination. In King's Field III, this isn't nearly as feasible. You have to slog through the same areas many times to pass to other areas. You are later on given some teleportation possibilities, but it still feels like a slog.

When an area isn't acting as a vast hub, they instead feel more self-contained, such as the second area the Ancient Battleground. It is is very linear in progression (though not to the same extent as Demon's Souls), and once you've thoroughly explored it, you won't want to come back to it. And vast swathes of the rest of the game are like this, sometimes less linear, other times just as much. Some areas require you to return to them when you have the requisite items, but this only adds to the plodding pace. King's Field has never been a fast game to play, but progress always - crucially - felt rapid and persistent. Here this is no longer the case, and the constant trudging back to previous areas breaks this sense of constant progress.

It's also worth mentioning a level design nadir present in the game, and that is The Palace Of Wind. Many areas in KF3 are designed such that there are two, maybe three, main paths through which the player must explore to progress. The Palace Of Wind shuns this in favour of a symmetrical level design (also known as a "cop-out", and more proof that the level design team were phoning it in here and there) and another frustrating backtracking mechanic: in order to unlock all the chests in the area, there are many rooms that contain items that must be activated. Once the player has done this, they will then have to scour back through every inch of the area to receive any of the goodies in the chest. And I might as well also mention that there are absolutely no secrets, either.

Ultimately, King's Field III is disappointing, and that's perhaps also why From Software took another five years to follow up on the game. Perhaps the development was rushed or the well of ideas was running low. It's a shame that the level design ruins the sense of claustrophobia, drops the deep interconnection of the previous games and - ultimately - feels a lot more generic.

Editions

Japanese: as King's Field III
Original release SLPS-00377 on June 21st, 1996.
"Pilot style" edition SLPM-80029.
"Power Completist" edition which comes with a 42-page guide.
"The Best" edition SLPS-91003 on September the 13th, 1998.
"PlayStation Books" edition SLPS-91426 on January 1, 2002.
Also included in the Dark Side Box.

American: as King's Field II
Original release SLUS-00255 on October 31st, 1996, published by ASCII.

There was no European release.

King's Field III Title

King's Field III

King's Field III

King's Field III

King's Field III



<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Preamble
King's Field

Page 2:
King's Field II
King's Field III

Page 3:
King's Field IV
King's Field Dark Side Box

Page 4:
King's Field Additional I / II
King's Field Mobile
King's Field: Sword Of Moonlight

Page 5:
Shadow Tower
Shadow Tower Abyss
Eternal Ring

Back to the Index