And yet, at the time it was released, King’s Field IV polled terribly with the critics. Gamerankings, for instance, over 22 reviews has the game score an average of just 56.65 per cent; a far cry from the plaudits levelled at Demon’s Souls.
Why is this? It’s a question that has honestly confused me when I’ve thought about it in the past, because aside from the difference in perspective (first person to third person), King’s Field IV and Demon’s Souls are virtually the same game.
Both games are lonely romps through Gothic wastelands. Murderous Gothic wastelands. The first time I popped King’s Field IV, I died within the first ten steps when I put my virtual foot on a big of ground that gave way… right into a pool of bubbling larva.
Nostalgic thrills every time I see in-game footage. This is one of,
if not the favourite game of the generation for me
That unrelenting difficulty never lets up. Though the pace of the game itself is slow, the tension levels remain high, as every monster can be deadly, every corner hiding a trap that can rip you in half in the blink of the eye. Friendly faces are few and far between, but you’ll find some in the deepest pits, the darkest dungeons and the most miserable of buildings.
In other words, the game did such a great job of level design, that navigating through the twists and turns of the catacombs provided the same joy of exploration that the very best of pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and the very best Dungeon Masters can convey.
And perhaps it was those expectations that let the critics down at the time. King’s Field IV was a surprising and hugely original game. It’s a pity we haven’t seen anything of its kind since (Demon’s Souls for all its brilliance is far more about the combat).
Hopefully From Software decided to revisit its first person classic franchise after Dark Souls is done and dusted. But not too soon, because we’re going to need plenty of time to get through Dark Souls’ reported hardcore challenge.
Does anyone else have fond memories of the King’s Field games? Be sure to let us know and say hi!