King's Field: The Ancient City – Second Opinion

I personally feel that no review of a King's Field title would be complete without describing the injustice that has plagued the series since its inauspicious beginnings. Brad has done an admirable job of defending the honor of the King's Field games and I'll add that I share in his love of these wonderfully misunderstood gems.

I think the misperception largely stems from the meteoric rise and overshadowing popularity of first-person shooters like Doom and then later Quake that were produced in the same era. In mid 1990s, if a game utilized a first-person perspective, it was expected to be balls-out action thrills with unrelenting twitchy violence. King's Field was none of those things. It incorporated a first-person perspective for its own reasons and many critics sought fit to judge it for what it wasn't rather than what it was. Criticisms that the games were too slow and poorly paced were more common than one's that recognized its subtle yet unique approach to the role-playing game genre.

The true stars of the King's Field games have always been the landscapes afforded to the player to conquer and roam. The Ancient City chapter is no different. I can play through the game almost entirely without the use of maps. Considering the games massively sprawling environments, how is this possible? The designers are great about creating interiors and exteriors with distinct personalities. This makes exploration and navigation as natural as it would be for a person to get to work in the morning. Recognizable markers, walls with distinguishing textures, and different music selections playing in the background helped to set characteristic tones and ambience for each environment. Brad is correct in noting that quite often some of the locales can be rather breathtaking.

It is true that From Software has done very little to update the marooned-on-an-island-survival formula over the course of several sequels. As Brad already noted, the difficulty can often be uninviting and the controls are in desperate need of an update. The old bait-and-switch hand-to-hand and spellcasting combat never seems to tire on me and is still fun due to the primitive, but still dangerously effective pattern behaviors of creatures and monsters. However, I do think that more progress should be made in the non-playing character socialisation, artificial intelligence and combat gameplay.

It's also interesting to note that while there has been very little innovation through out the series, there still remain few if any games that are quite like the King's Field titles. Without oversaturation from clones and sequels, playing Ancient City is surprisingly refreshing and yet strangely comfortable at the same time.

One thing that I do disagree with in Brad's review is that he indicates that Ancient City will never gather a huge following. I believe that the series already has a sizable international following. How else can you explain the numerous sequels and why King's Field continues to be one of From Software's cornerstone franchises? Like its predecessors, King's Field: Ancient City is one of videogames best kept secrets. Rating: 8.5 out of 10