Review: King's League: Odyssey

By Sean Clancy 15 Nov 2013 0
Some kings' divine right to rule is more... obvious than others. For some kings, that whole "divine right" dive is just a bit easier to swallow.

King's League: Odyssey is curiously ineffable. It's an odd combination of squad-based tactics, RPG leveling, management simulation and territory control—a recipe for overreach and disaster if there ever was one. But, the thing that leaves one scratching one's crown in confusion with this title isn't that all these systems collide into each other and make a royal (ahem, a royal) mess of things, but that they actually slide over and around each other quite snugly, with no friction—bad, or good—to speak of. King's League is a coherent title, for sure. And yet, I'll be damned if I can explain what I actually did while playing it.

But first, put on your Skeptic's Hat or Cynic's Headband [or Debunker's Tiara --ed.] for a moment. Pretend that you're really distrustful of free-to-play games. Ready? Okay. Here we go. King's League, in brief: you have a team of warriors, you can train them, but training takes both time (which is constantly ticking down unless you're in a menu) and “training points,” which only replenish every month, and you need well-trained fighters to a) capture and defend villages, which net you more resources every in-game month, b) do quests, which also reward you with cash-equivalents and can unlock special challenge maps, and c) compete in the titular leagues cropping up at predetermined intervals, which you have to make an appearance at. Whew.

So, this thing is totally IAP-ed to hell, right? Nope. There's a selection of premium heroes you can shell cash out for, but other than that King's League is a nice, neat, pay-once affair with no consumable in-app purchases. It just looks... and sounds... and, yeah, plays like a shameless free-to-play job.

Yeah, you try not to chuckle when your entire force of warriors are prepping for the next big tourney with step dancing classes. Yeah, you try not to chuckle when your entire force of warriors are prepping for the next big tourney with step dancing classes.

You'll notice I haven't mentioned combat yet. That's because there isn't much to speak of. All of the above—the village raids, quests, dungeon runs and league competitions—are essentially cut-scenes. Your team rushes at another, acting in a manner consistent with their class and, one presumes, the stats you've chosen to level-up for them, though good luck trying to figure out when one of your extra-strong or extra-agile combatants is the one that really made the difference in a fight. A “long” battle in King's League might last... oh, six seconds? Seven, if you have a particularly beefy knight in your roster?

The underdeveloped combat is fine though, right? After all, this is mostly a management sim. The core of the game should be you as a sort of medieval Doc Louis, making the choices behind the scenes to propel your crew to the top, not the moment-to-moment of combat. To that end, King's League lets you upgrade buildings with the coin your gang makes in conquest and competition (now you can train better or... make coin better), or spend crystals to buy class-wide perks that can affect all units of a certain type. And... that's actually pretty much it.

On paper, sure, King's League: Odyssey offers a bunch of characters, upgrades, quests, territories to manage, and so on. And, on paper, that sounds like a blast. But in action every thing that King's League brings to the plate is just so shallow. Many “different” characters are just visual swaps with modified stats, or slightly different abilities—archers and mages that attack from range, priest-types which pray up some sort of team shielding, etc.

The sun neve- well, the sun sets slightly later on this purple empire. The sun neve- well, the sun sets slightly later than average on this presumably British-sounding empire.

On the management side of things there's plenty to do, but nothing to agonize over. Like, you can go on a quest to get a reward and maybe, eventually, unlock a special character. Neat. The only real limit to going on quests is time, which is the same limit for training characters, and for raiding and defending villages (on top of some tiny gold costs which are only an issue at the very start of a game). Fail a quest and... well, you wasted some time, I guess. Your heroes aren't going to be injured for a month, your income isn't going to be modified—there just aren't any real stakes! This is a game in dire need of a doomsday clock. Players can't be expected to agonize over spending their time on conquest or training, or between spending gold on recruitment or upgrades, because, ultimately, all these resources are infinite, and obviously so. When every option always looks like a good choice, and for cheap, nothing has any value.

It's a shame, too, because King's League: Odyssey really isn't a cynical game. It's just a game that, I suspect, genuinely belives those older, more cynical games—who go off to smoke cigs in the bathroom during chem class on Fridays—are the “kool kidz.” It's slight, largely about watching bars fill, and what those bars stand for isn't particularly interesting but, heck, it sure is cheery about the whole affair. Give it a go if you really dig the art direction or really, really dig management sims. Otherwise, you can probably find a better use for your time.

Review: King's League: Odyssey

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