As a previously exclusive preorder bonus and now just a free downloadable tie-in, A King's Tale is a strange little game indeed. Although Final Fantasy XV wasn't everyone's cup of tea, does this retro beat 'em up provide a worthwhile distraction?
The premise of A King's Tale is rather unique as Regis tells young Noctis a bedtime story of his past adventures and you play as Regis in these fantastical tales. The gameplay is very simple as all you do is perform certain attacks that automatically target nearby foes. It's reminiscent of retro beat 'em ups although you had to actually move close to your enemies back in the day. I guess this ties in with Final Fantasy XV in that both combat systems are mostly automated so you can just sit back, relax, and mash buttons. There are many different attacks such as quick and strong slashes and three elemental spells. You can also bash enemies with your shield and roll out of harm's way. Each type of enemy is weak to a particular attack or spell so the majority of the challenge relies on your ability to memorize how to dispatch every variety of foe. It's simple and mindless but at least it's easy to learn.
Unfortunately, considering all you do is mash buttons and memorize how to defeat each kind of enemy, the gameplay falls flat almost instantly. There is no real challenge involved because any dummy could eventually remember which spell or attack to use given a small amount of time. On the plus side, there are a few extra moves that Regis can perform whenever his combo meter is high enough. Along the journey, he'll meet three of his friends (including a young Cid). Each one can jump in and attack onscreen enemies once you command them to do so. Whenever your combo meter is maxed, you can unleash the powerful Armiger ability to wipe out tough adversaries. Bells and whistles aside, there's no denying how basic and downright unchallenging the gameplay is at its core.
The campaign takes about an hour or so to complete which is short even for a beat 'em up. Additionally, you'll only come across a handful of bland and repetitive environments that do very little to provide any sense of atmosphere. After working through screen after screen of boring battles while witnessing the same backgrounds repeat over and over again, you'll quickly wish that the stages were a quarter of the size. Another thing that's annoying about the campaign is that you can't play it cooperatively. Almost every single beat 'em up since the beginning of the genre is multiplayer because that's what makes them fun. However, you have to trudge through the entirety of A King's Tale solo. If that isn't a missed opportunity then I don't know what is.
Besides the campaign, there are 25 Dream Battles which act like mini challenges. Mastering them entails completing specific objectives such as using a teammate a certain number of times or avoiding casting magic. I must admit, taking on these challenges is somewhat enjoyable. The fact that you're judged based on your efficiency and are given a letter grade upon completion makes them strangely addictive for a short while. In the end, even though this isn't a very good beat 'em up, these challenges at least add a bit of replay value to the experience. That is, until you get bored and call it a day.
A King's Tale is an interesting tie-in to the popular yet polarizing Final Fantasy XV. Retro fans will probably despise it due to its awful interpretation of classic beat 'em ups but its simple gameplay is easily digestible for casual gamers.
- + Simple and mindless beat 'em up gameplay that's very easy to learn
- + Dream Battles can be fun little challenges
- - Gameplay solely relies on memorizing enemy weaknesses and mashing buttons
- - Bland and unvaried environments
- - Very short campaign / no multiplayer