Knights of the Mobile Round Table
The King has put forth the call for the mightiest in the realm to contest for a spot at the Round Table! The path will be difficult, but fame and glory awaits the one bold and powerful enough to seize the opportunity. From humble beginnings, you must rise through the tournaments, forge your legend across the land, and lead your party to victory in a game that’s both simple to play and surprisingly complex.
King’s League: Odyssey is quite the thing. It starts off simply enough, with hazy shades of something from Kairosoft, requiring you to recruit a small band of knights, mages, and archers, who sally forth to complete quests, conquer villages, and take part in monthly tournaments. But before long you’ll find yourself clearing out dungeons, laying siege to larger, tougher cities, upgrading your facilities, specializing your troops, and more; and yet it happens so gradually and it’s all so easily accessible that you won’t even notice it happening until the first time you get clobbered and realize that you need to actually think about what you’re doing.
The game plays out in monthly cycles, the days ticking off inexorably (unless you’re in a menu) toward the tournament battle at the end of every month. You begin with a single knight and enough money to recruit one or two cohorts: another knight, a warrior, or perhaps an archer or a wizard. Each character has four ability-determining stats that must be trained as often as possible, but training is limited by points, which are awarded in very limited quantities at the beginning of every month. While training, you can also embark upon quests, which earn you gold and sometimes crystals that are used to increase your character levels, earn specialized abilities, and upgrade your facilities. But you can’t be training while you’re questing, so you don’t want to be questing all the time – and since questing also takes time, you sometimes have to take a break to ensure that you can attend the monthly tournament.
The graphics are sharp and colorful, the characters are cute, the music is cartoonishly bombastic, and it’s very easy to understand and play thanks to helpful tutorial popups that appear whenever a new element is introduced. And that, in a nutshell, is it. The ultimate goal is to win the King’s Tournament, and training and questing is what will ultimately (hopefully) get you there. But as you probably guessed, it’s not quite that simple.
“Questing” covers a lot of territory, figuratively speaking. There are four factions that offer quests you can take on at your convenience (assuming you have the time), but as you get deeper into the game you’ll find more interesting, lucrative, and dangerous jobs popping up at random, forcing you to decide between a sure thing for a little gold, or a more serious risk for a lot. You’ll also have to spend time laying siege to villages, towns, and cities in order to earn gold and establish a regular monthly income, and once you have a few of them under your flag, you’ll need to defend them now and then from encroaching enemy forces.
You can eventually have up to five characters in your party, and while the initial classes are good enough to get the job done early on, at some point you’ll probably want to try your luck with something that hits a little harder. There are 46 classes to choose from, according to the App Store entry (I certainly didn’t see them all), each of which can be advanced through multiple levels and customized with unique skills. And they’ll need the boost: the tournaments can be tricky, but the multi-level dungeons and special quests can get really rough.
But that’s where the fun is, and more importantly, that’s where King’s League: Odyssey really gets it right. It’s challenging without being punishing, and complex without being obtuse; if you lose a battle, it’s a setback but not the end of the world, and if you fail to rank high enough in a tournament to advance to the next league, well, try it again next month! Nobody’s hurt, nobody dies, and aside from some bragging rights, nothing is lost if you lose. You can even feel good about victory: The very first dungeon I cleared out ended with my party literally knocking some sense into a rogue mage, who saw the error of his ways and vowed to make it up to everyone he’d hurt.
It can get repetitive if played in long stretches, because in spite of its unexpected depth, the basic “train/quest/conquer/tournament” formula is the backbone of the experience and there’s no way to automate any of it. And while raiding dungeons and laying siege to cities sounds exciting on paper (and in reviews), it’s a management game, not a strategy game: battles are fought automatically and are essentially all the same – your five guys against their five guys in a seven-second race to reduce a collective health bar to zero – and while you can influence your warriors’ behavior through upgrades and customization, once the action starts it’s out of your hands.
But while it’s not quite the next big thing from Gary Grigsby, it is fun, accessible, and challenging, and very likely the kind of game that will eat up a lot of your time if you let it. Consider yourself warned: King’s League: Odyssey is pretty darn good.