KingsRoad hands-on: Dressed to kill, but what's the attack plan?

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KingsRoad screensYou're a lone knight of the realm of Alderstone, returning to your birthplace of Longford to defend it from the forces of chaos before the small village is swallowed whole by fire and goblins. With nothing but your sword and shield to beat back the darkness, you press on. Perhaps you've played this game before ... even on Facebook. This is KingsRoad, the latest in the wave of social games aimed toward "hardcore" gamers, commonly referred to as "mid-core" games.

Hardcore social games have been around for about two years now, but the mid-core sect (i.e. the fantasy-themed dungeon crawler) has seen an explosion as of late. Between hits like Dungeon Rampage and impressive contenders like The Grinns Tale, developer Rumble Entertainment's KingsRoad looks to crash an already crowded party. But if Zynga has taught us anything, that doesn't necessarily matter.
KingsRoad on Facebook
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KingsRoad hands-on: Dressed to kill, but what's the attack plan?

So, how exactly does KingsRoad plan to woo fans of the already-popular isometric fantasy RPGs on Facebook in providing much of the same play hooks? By looking damn fine doing it. After some time with the closed beta of KingsRoad, this orc-crushing romp doesn't feel terribly different from other games of its ilk. (Click baddies, watch them bleed, click loot, repeat.) But Rumble's first entry into social gaming is absolutely gorgeous. Before it's even available to the public, KingsRoad is already one of the most visually captivating Facebook games of this year.
KingsRoad hands-onHowever, looks that hot come with a price. In this case, only computers with dedicated video cards can even play KingsRoad, it seems. MacBooks with integrated graphics need not apply. [Ed. Note: Rumble Entertainment has informed us that this is not the case, but the performance on a MacBook Pro with integrated graphics is quite sluggish at the moment.] To get a look at those goblins spurting like Old Faithful spiked with fruit punch amid lush fields of green, you'll need a rig with a little more bite than what Facebook games usually require. Given the game's target audience, that shouldn't be a problem, but what about the established social gaming audience? You're lucky if the majority of those folks purchased a PC within the last three years.

Regardless of how many Facebook gamers will actually get to see it, what KingsRoad does while looking so beautiful is fairly standard even as far as Facebook RPGs are concerned. Playing as either the Knight or the Archer, you click around your environments to move and dispatch enemies, sometimes with explosive abilities--coming down on an enemy with a sweeping sword blow is particularly satisfying--gained from an extensive if typical skill tree.

KingsRoad previewOne element that sets KingsRoad apart from the competition is how it handles multiplayer. Whenever players are hanging out in the town Longford (or presumably whatever other town-like areas there are throughout the adventure), they can easily opt into a multiplayer game from a menu choice. After a few moments, players will be joined by up to two more random companions. From there, it's off to choosing a quest from the overworld map, a difficulty, and taking it to some monsters together in real time. In short, it's one of the most seamless multiplayer experiences in the genre yet.

For all of Rumble's technical and visual achievements in KingsRoad, the act of exploring and slaying various bad guys simply doesn't feel unique enough in a space that's already growing crowded with similar experiences. Of course, who knows when exactly KingsRoad will launch--for all we know, this is exactly the sort of thing Rumble is working on right now. But when KingsRoad opens its gates to the public, you'll want to rush in just to get a look at this rich, vibrant world.

Click here to sign up for the KingsRoad Closed Beta Now >

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