Developer Donkey Crew have finally released their third-person Persistent Medieval War game to the masses. The title, described by the developer in their official website as a pre-early access game, reiterates the point that in its current state, the game is not finished. In fact, can’t be considered as an early access title, but pre. An embryo of a game, if you will. I can’t help but smirk.
With that in mind, it is clear that the title still requires a significant amount of work, some spit and polish if you will. I’ve always found this practice to be an extremely bold move by any developer, considering the gaming world can be particularly unkind to games that are lacking in substance, prone to crashes and have irritating bugs that do nothing but destroy the immersion. Thankfully; for Donkey Crew, they appear to have a rather adorning community backing their pre-game, they seem to have hit the ground running, nay, sprinting. I have also been extremely impressed by the willingness of the developer to be open and honest about the stability of servers and the implementation of fixes. They are listening to their community, going so far as to implement their own Discord channel to assist players with any technical aspects of the game and provide updates. This is refreshing and most welcome.
To summarise Of Kings and Men (OkaM), I would describe it as a third-person, online, PvP persistent war set in the Medieval period. You’ll not find fancy Call of Duty assault rifles, sticky bombs or wall gliding in this title, hell no. All you’ll discover from this blood-clad, bone crushing, leg breaking crescendo of steel and death, is yourself. Your inner warrior. Your true Braveheart. Too much? Well perhaps I may have moved from the point, however, it is due to the aforementioned that the game is very appealing. The simplicity of using a sword and shield for close combat, wearing the chain-mail around your head to dampen the blows from your foes. Or, the agility and guile required to pierce the armour of your enemy from 100 yards as you pull the string of your bow, inhale, hold and release.
The game holds the appeal by implementing The Epic which essentially is the ongoing and persistent war between the different factions. Think Total War and the staged progression through the map, the conquering of strategic locations and gaining an Empire by winning land and territory from your enemy. Essentially, this is The Epic. A mechanic whereby everyday hand-to-hand battles cumulatively feed the progress your faction will make throughout the world. Although this is still in development and yet to be added to the game, my understanding is, your faction can lose territory or gain depending on the collective of total wins / losses within a designated period of time. This gives the player an incentive to continue playing, to assist with the glory of their kin. Interestingly, from silver and resources earned from battle, factions will also be able to construct outposts and develop them into small towns and villages; or to finance better equipment and defenses. The Empire begins to take shape…
Feeding then progression of The Epic are a host of game modes, that will keep the player engaged in combat. Due to being a pre-alpha title, there are limited options in place. Currently there are 3 modes for the player to choose from, Team Deathmatch, Instant Battle and Conquest. As I am writing, I also have the pleasure of playing a Capture the Flag style of game mode, essentially one faction defends the flag and the other attacks, if you manage to defeat the attackers and defend successfully, then you win, and vice-versa.
What is immediately noticeable when playing the game, are the vast numbers of players on any one server. Currently, I believe the maximum is 150 players, however this is scheduled to be increased to 200. The maps are fairly limited in scale, therefore the game modes can at times feel crowded and tight. Normally, this would work against a PvP title, however it suites OkaM to the ground as it reflects the claustrophobic nature of battles of this tight. As you run towards your foe, the clink and clank of steel on steel fills the air, the sound of men shouting their battle cry as they raise their weapon in the air is exhilarating and extremely fun. They have captured the essence of a Medieval battle with precision and it is joyous to take part of for the first time.
As your character develops the more you play, you will be able to purchase new armour and weapons to assist your battle. Whoever destroyed me earlier with the biggest sword and shield I have seen in my life, and who wore the finest armour money could buy, I still hate you. I had chain-mail and a bow. Bully.
The game is beautifully crafted in terms of aesthetics, the artwork is divine. Lighting effects illuminate the battle field, armour glistens, grass waves in the wind. The sound of battle taunts your senses as you run at speed towards inevitable death. There is immersion here, there is a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself, being part of a faction, a consorted effort to realise your goal, to win. The battles are hard, although collectively as a group you are fighting for a win, ultimately you will find yourself at times out-numbered, on the wrong end of a Medieval pummeling, whereas, in other battles, you will find yourself adopted into a group of your peers, dishing out the damage to the poor sod who strayed a little too far. Play this game with your headphones on loud, in a dimly lit room, and the experience will wash over you. You’ll be there.
Unfortunately, the game is somewhat hindered by a tricky combat system, for me personally it did not sit well. The majority of the combat is controlled by your mouse. Hold left click to block, move the mouse forward for a high attack, release, move it left for a left attack, release. I’m not sure whether I’m not accustom to control of this type, hence my difficulty to enjoy; but, I felt it laboured the combat for me. I often found myself having to consciously think about how I would attack. This hindered my ability to fully immerse myself in the experience. Albeit, this was only an issue when I played with a melee weapon. As an archer the controls made sense, they complimented the play-style
I was also frustrated by the lack of a jump mechanic, or a crouch ability. Perhaps this is due to having been spoilt by other titles, and therefore I am simply used to having these options. However, there were times when I was bothered by my inability to jump onto a boulder, a simple task of navigating the terrain became cumbersome as I then had to navigate around the obstacle. Small things I know, but still.
Other than the controls however, the game is brimming with potential. If you read extracts from the developer, or comments from the community, it is clear that the OkaM has so much more to offer. The developer are keen to point out that this is an early release title, however I would urge they manage this with caution as the community can quickly turn on a title that is forever in development and forever and early access game, think Dayz and you may understand my point slightly better.
That aside, I have thoroughly enjoyed playing the game as well as watching it being played. What is clear, is that players enjoy this game, in fact, they really enjoy it. There is an anticipation in the air, a hushed silence to see what the developer will include next. From the official website, their will be a plethora of inclusions to follow; such as a tutorial, a refined combat system, additional game modes, an area specifically to socialise and duel other players, a ranking system, further character customisation, a skill / talent based system, a new inventory system, amongst others. It is clear that the developers are passionate about their game and they absolutely appreciate their community. Time will tell how this title will develop, however, it is certainly going in the right direction.
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