Rating: 5 out of 5.

At first glance, IronOak Games’ For The King doesn’t look standout enough to try. Described by the developer as “a strategic RPG that blends tabletop and roguelike elements,” which sounds like the go-to template for many indie game developers these days, one might assume that there is nothing really special about it. On top of this, while the graphics look nice from afar, up close, they look a bit low poly and cheap, which might make one even further skeptical about the game’s quality.

But then, you notice that it has up to three player co-op. Well, that’s enticing. At that point you notice the price tag: only $20 at full price, for all of the game’s content (a total of five story-driven adventures to play), which seems highly reasonable. Then, you finally play it.

For The King is in fact a remarkable game. What makes the game special is how well everything in it works together. With most roguelikes I have played, there’s frequently something lacking, or one of the game’s systems is shallow or poorly designed, which makes the games quickly tedious and uninteresting. That’s simply not the case here.

To start, it blends both D&D elements and roguelike elements together really well. At the beginning of an adventure, you create and customize three characters, which you can all control by yourself or divide up between other players. Customization is simple, but there are unlockables, which I’ll talk about shortly. Classes determine each character’s stats, starting arsenal, and appearance. Characters level up and have their own inventories, equipment, coin purse, and perks. There are a number of stats, including a Focus bar for improving your chances in dice rolls. There are buffs and debuffs as you would expect, and lots of other little features. The world is procedurally generated, so every time you play, the layout of the map is different, and there’s permadeath, so if all three characters die, you lose them and all your progress. You have lives, so you can resurrect a dead character up to a number of times. There is additionally a story in each of the five adventures you can play, with a series of main quests to do, and side quests you can pick up at towns you visit in the game.

On the map, you’ll discover a variety of things. Besides the towns and loads of different enemy types, there’s dungeons, obstacles, treasures, stone effigies that give perks, bandit camps, traveling merchants, and more. There’s a water layer, which requires the use of a boat to travel across, and there’s weather effects, which can affect player movement and even damage the player. Exploring special tiles always includes a dice roll, which can either provide loot, or nothing, or damage the player, or hex the player with a debuff, or engage the player in an unwanted fight, or in some cases even kill the player instantly. By using Focus, you can increase the odds of good things happening, and lower the odds of the bad, but you’ll have to recharge your Focus once you run out, and you’ll also want to keep some of it on hand for battles.

Combat is simple, but stimulating. Enemies don’t move from their tiles on the map, but they despawn and respawn as the day/night cycle in the game goes by, and they can be hidden from sight and sometimes ambush you. Ambush is a mechanic that allows you or enemies to attack each other without involving others in the vicinity. When you’re confronting an enemy, and you don’t want enemies in adjacent tiles to enter the fight, you’ll have to try to ambush that enemy. If you don’t mind enemies joining each other, you can just attack directly. If you don’t want to engage an enemy, but they’re standing in your way, you can try to sneak around them. In order for all three characters to join the fight, they have to be standing on adjacent tiles, making positioning somewhat tactical. Once you’re in the fight, it’s straightforward turn-based combat, with speed determining who goes first. When it’s a character’s turn, they can use an item from their belt, and then use one of their attacks or skills. At the end of battles, coins and other loot can be shared among the party however you want.

One of my favorite aspects of For The King is the unlockables it has. As you play, you collect Books of Lore, which you can use to unlock more things for the game from the main menu. These range from new character classes, to even new map tiles and loot, which will be added to all generation pools once unlocked. The more you play, the more content you unlock, and none of these unlockables serves to diminish the permadeath aspect of the game, which keeps the game complex and surprising for a longer amount of time.

After a while, the graphics grew on me too. They’re colorful, the animations are charming, and overall they fit the experience well. If you’re playing by yourself on a Nintendo Switch, you’ll also find that they suit the screen size of the handheld device perfectly. However, you’ll want to play this game with friends on a bigger screen too, since the adventure really shines when shared with others. Plus, there’s ragdoll physics that makes corpses in battle flail around, which is a very amusing touch that never fails to make me laugh.

All in all, For The King is a light yet enthralling co-op experience that is sure to be a load of fun with friends. Check this one out if you haven’t already.

For The King is available on Steam, GOG.com, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.