The King’s League is a strategy game from Difference Games, a company with a background mostly in Flash-based titles. It’s a fun game, but its dearth of choices in the heart of the game, the battles, may leave many strategy devotees unsatisfied.
90 years old and without an heir, the King of of the fantasy kingdom of Kurestal devises another way to find a suitable successor: The eponymous King’s League. Claimants to the throne will field bands of warriors to fight it out in a series of organized battles, and at the end of the year the champion of the League will win the right to challenge the King himself.
Gameplay takes place on a map of the kingdom. Here, you recruit new warriors, train them to improve their stats, and select your team for the upcoming battle. Every character has monthly costs of money and food that increases as they go up in level. Money is also used for recruiting and unlock special stat upgrades, and food gets used in training. Game time passes automatically at the rate of a day every few seconds, though you can adjust this in the options.
Every month, you fight a League battle with another contender for the throne. You can also do “quests,” additional optional battles, and fight to conquer nearby towns and add their monthly resources to your own. Victory is rewarded with money, food, experience points, and fame (which increases your monthly income). Quests, training, and conquests all take time and bring the next League match closer, so you have to prioritize.
Characters are divided into different classes – slow but tough swordsmen, mounted knights who quickly take the fight to the enemy the enemy, fragile archers and wizards to attack from a distance, and priests who heal other units. Occasionally, special characters with enhanced versions of the normal classes become available for recruitment at specific locations. These are powerful, but quickly become very expensive as you go up in level.
Battles are fought on a 2-D plane between teams of up to four combatants. They are not controlled by the player, so everything hinges on your choice of fighters and pre-battle preparations. After nine League battles, the competitor with the best record is declared champion. If that’s you, you can then challenge the King – who is impressively spry for a man entering his tenth decade – for the final battle to take the crown. Otherwise, you get a few months downtime before a new League season begins.
The King’s League is a fun game, if a little unsatisfying. It’s easy to pick up, with a user interface that makes everything quickly accessible. The core of the gameplay is enjoyable, requiring you to think about how to optimize your limited resources, and seeing your preparation pay off when your troops crush the enemy is gratifying.
However, the completely automated battles are a disappointment, as is the extremely limited amount of input the player has into planning for individual battles. They’re fun to watch, but it’s frustrating that your only direct input is limited to choosing which four guys to use. A few additional choices, such as the ability to give units specialized equipment or items or a chance to select from some different tactical options before each battle, would have gone a long way.
This is actually made more frustrating by one of the game’s strengths: There are more factors at play in the battles than are initially obvious. This leads to some exciting reversals, with teams that seemed doomed to be ground down by attrition turning the tide.You can’t just hurl the biggest stat numbers you can muster at the enemy and expect to do well. You have to get a feel for how different units perform together. This adds a lot to the game, but it would have been cooler if there was more you could do with it.
The game is quite good visually, with a distinctive look that complements the game effectively. The main map is simple but evocative, and the characters have a visual style – cartoony but not cute – that works very well. The music is also good, with a suitably rousing theme for the main map and a darker, more dramatic tune for battles.
How much you’re likely to enjoy The King’s League depends on what you’re looking for. As a serious strategy game it falls short, and the sort of audience its core premise seems most likely to appeal to is going to be disappointed if that’s what they go in expecting. However, taken on its own terms it’s an enjoyable experience, and if you’re looking for a game that’s easy to pick up and play but still has some depth, it’s worth a look.