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#1 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 06:58 PM

<edit: Thread title altered, as it's not just about King's Field any longer>

Don't know if anybody else here is a fan of these games - I'd have imagined that, by now, with so few members hereabouts, I'd have heard if so.

I've not played very much of the games - a significant portion of King's Field US and I just started Eternal Ring last night - but they appeal to me in much the same way as, say, the Shin Megami Tensei series. They're both dungeon crawlers, but beyond that they're very different. What they have in common is how they both successfully create a palpable atmosphere, a sense of place and time that's unique and far beyond anything that most other series manage.

They're also both series that are informed primarily by older gaming values and design decisions, and that have refused to abandon their traditions in favour of appealing to larger audiences. They're games for the fans, continuing to travel down their own little cul de sac, almost oblivious to anything going on around them.

At least, that's true of SMT. King's Field, unfortunately, seems to have been abandoned by its creators. Demon's Souls is often compared to KF, but that's a general comparison. What DS shares with the KF games is that it's wholly successful in creating a believable and consuming universe, the medieval fantasy thang and the punishing difficulty. And, obvs, that it's from the same company.

There are four games in the King's Field series, plus a bunch of other releases that are basically King's Field in all but name. Afaik, the complete list is:

King's Field (Japan only) (PS1)
King's Field II (King's Field in US, aka King's Field US) (PS1)
King's Field III (King's Field II in US, aka King's Field II US) (PS1)
King's Field IV (King's Field: The Ancient City in US) (PS2)
King's Field Additional (Japan only) (PSP)
King's Field Additional II (Japan only) (PSP)
Shadow Tower (PS1)
Shadow Tower Abyss (PS2)
Eternal Ring (PS2)

The PSP games are, annoyingly, flick-screen affairs, rather than real 3D - I guess From couldn't be arsed with dedicating the required funds towards developing proper KF games on the system. Shadow Tower is considered its own series and Eternal Ring is also a standalone title, with no plot links to KF and with their own gameplay elements that don't appear in KF. There's also a PC-only release called Sword of Midnight, which is an official game-creation package, allowing you to design and release your own KF-alikes.

I bought King's Field US just under a couple of years ago. I'd been meaning to get hold of it ever since short-lived gaming rag Maximum did a feature on it. Even back then (1995-ish?) it looks old-fashion, but that was part of what drew me to it. it looked so different to anything else getting released on the Playstation and it had a real auro of hardcore mentalism about it. When I finally played it, I wasn't disappointed.



(Video of the Japanese version being played on a PC via emulator, as it's the only one I can find without some knob talking over the top of it.)

To begin with, especially coming from a modern perspective, it's a truly bizarre game. Combat doesn't work like you'd expect - you have to perform some pretty odd timing on your attacks to get them to connect. it's a bit ike fencing, I suppose, in that you step in to thrust and them immediately step back to avoid, in case your timing and/or distance from the enemy were wrong and you didn't hit them. You've got to hit the attack earlier than you expect and kind of walk the thrust into the enemy. If you're in an area with more than one or two enemies, you've also got to try and pull them towards you individually, MMORPG-style.

Control is entirely digital, which makes things even trickier. As with the earlier games in From Software's more famous series, Armored Core, shifting your view up and down is performed by hitting the L2 and R2 buttons, which takes some while to get used to if you're only familiar with dual analogue controls. It's actually even more tricky than the old Page Up/Page Down controls on PC first-person games from the days before mouselook. Sidesteps are performed with the other shoulder buttons, meaning circle-strafing is possible, but difficult to pull off smoothly. It's a very useful tactic when facing common-or-garden enemies, however, even though the weird hit mechanics mean that using it makes damaging the enemy even more difficult than usual.

Very little is explained in the game and this is, I think, a large part of why it has so much atmosphere. To a large extent, the player is left to fill in the blanks with their own imagination. When the visuals are this basic, that's almost a given anyway - it's not a game that's got much to offer those who want everything drawn out in masses of detail for them. Apart from that, though, the world conjurs a similar kind of feling of loneliness and abandonment to Super Metroid. The world feels ancient and hidden, and because every single aspect of it is so clunky and basic, it's consistently believable.

It's also bleeding difficult. Quite apart from the odd combat, you'll find yourself getting killed from doing things like falling into the water right at the beginning, two seconds into the game. If the first, weakest enemy doesn't kill you on your first attempt at the game, before you've got the hang of the odd attack timing and the almost complete lack of feedback when you *do* score a hit, then you're very lucky. And if you head the wrong way at the start, then you'll face an enemy that you're vastly underpowered to take on.

It doesn't stop there, either. Progress sometimes requires you to discover hidden walls that look no different to regular walls. There's no map (something which continues throughout the series and the off-shoot games). This last point is another of those things that feels very weird when coming to the game from more recent, user-friendly releases, but it works well for the series. For one thing, it means that if you want to be really anal about things, you can map the game yourself. I'm sure this has gained it fans from a particular corner of the gaming sphere. More importantly, though, it shows how brilliant the dungeon design is. We're talking about a game that reuses the same basic textures for all walls within any one section - and these are sub-Doom textures, bear in mind - and yet *doesn't* become confusing to navigate through. That's some kind of miracle, right there.

Oh, and iirc you need to use items to discover what they do, as there's no description in-game.

It does, however, have fantastic music, which adds to the atmosphere immeasurably.

I'd always liked the idea of games like Eye of the Beholder and Ultima Underworld, but the reality of them always left me disappointed - I found them fiddly and daft. Dungeon crawlers have always gained big fanbases in Japan - the continuing popularity of Wizardry is responsible for all of the examples of the genre that have recently been released on the DS (Etrian Odyssey, for example) and PSP (Class of Heroes), and I've always presumed that King's Field was an attempt to bring this kind of turn-based RPG into what was, at the time, the new world offered by consoles that could produce real-time polygon visuals.

Of course the combat was never intended to be clunky - From's designers and developers were working without an existing template, with limited hardware and an even more limited understanding of that hardware's capabilities. What's interesting is that they kept these things that were previously defined by these limiting factors - the control scheme, the combat, the lack of storyline (again as with something like Super Metroid, the story is told through the environments and your actions within them) - and allowed them to become, if you like, the USP for the game. Plenty of other companies would have tried to address them as technology improved, without stopping to consider what they'd be losing in the process. It's to From's credit that they stuck to their guns. In some ways, it's almost a good thing that they seem to have left the series to rest forever, as it means that these core elements won't get fiddled around with.

Despite loving King's Field US, I've never completed it. I said that the dungeon design somehow manages to be unexpectedly memorable, and that's definitely true, but it's also true that if you leave the game alone for a few days before returning to it, you find that you've lost track of where you were, what you were doing and how to get from one area to the next. It's not a game that you can take a significant rest from, then, and that's put paid to me seeing the end credits so far.

As I said earlier, I started playing Eternal Ring last night. In lots of ways it's another KF game, sticking closely to the central values of the main series. It has a similar atmosphere, the melee combat works the same way, the NPCs are as monosyllabic, the AI is as basic, the controls are identical, the environments look like they could have come straight ut of KF. What's different is that the main focus of combat and character development is the magic system. As you kill enemies, they drop gemstones. You find metal rings hidden in chests and on the floor as you progress, and the key to becoming stronger is to turn these items into magic rings. There's a deep system of ring creation in here which provides a real draw for my completionist side.



(Spoilers in the above vid, showing the rings you can create. I've not watched it either, so hopefully it doesn't end with scenes from porn or snuff vids.)

The only real change this makes in terms of feel is that it makes Eternal Ring significantly easier than KF, as you're now fighting enemies at distance and so don't have to deal with the oddities of the melee system (not past the first twenty minutes, anyway).

It's still a very strange game, with very little in the way of prescribed narrative. And what is there is as nonsensical as ever - I particularly like the way that, upon meeting the first human encampment, the armoury officer removes your sword and tells you to collect an official replacement from the warehouse. When you get your replacement, you find that it's only two-thirds as powerful as your original. Cheers for that!

And the controls can still do for you. Trying to aim up or down at an enemy while walking bakcwards from them, over a thin bridge without falling off, while *also* trying to select the correct ring on your finger for the attack you want to use, while *also* trying to avoid pulling other enemies into the fray, can be a proper handful.



I just managed to die twice by sidestepping into lava when what I was trying to do was shift my view upwards towards a magically-sealed door, as a result of pressing the wrong shoulder button UNGGGHARGH.gif Yet it's still just as compulsive as original flavour KF, for precisely the same reasons.

Anybody else like the games? I've a feeling that few of them received UK releases, which would obviously limit this board's exposure to them even more.

#2 plopboy

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Posted 01 January 2011 - 09:34 PM

I've got IV I think? Not played it much mind but did get quite lost early on. I might put some more time into it now you have reminded me of it as I can play it through my PS3

#3 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 06:22 PM

There'll be maps online, plop, but half of the fun is concentrating on where you are and remembering which doors you need to return to. That said, I've not played IV yet, so it could well be less well laid-out than the ones I have.

Just finished Eternal Ring, which surprised me loads by being over so quickly. It looks like a game that was designed for at least two runs, though, as I think I missed out on a shedload of content. I didn't craft a fraction of the possible rings, for example.

It suffers from one massively annoying bug, unfortunately - sometimes, a sound effect will refuse to cut out when it should and will instead keep on repeating up until you load a new area. On occasion, even doing this doesn't fix the problem, it just causes the repeating effect to swap for another. It happened quite a lot during my playthrough and, typically, managed to kick in again during the penultimate boss battle, then continued playing throughout the final boss *and* the ending cutscene mad.gif

That said, i think it provides a decent starting-off point for anybody thinking about getting into these games. As mentioned before, the fact that combat is nearly all ranged makes it a lot easier than the traditional King's Field titles, and the game's brevity means that it's over and done with well before you've had a chance to get fed up with it if you find you don't like it.

#4 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 06 January 2011 - 10:44 PM

I started playing King's Field US again after I finished Eternal Ring. I've got to say, there are so many things I love about this game.

As I mentioned before, it's all about atmosphere. The lack of knowledge or info as to what the majority of the items do - the manual goes over about three of them - is jusitifed by the fact that you've been marooned on this island, so you're encountering these items for the first time in your life and the only option is experimentation.

It's not just a dungeon crawler - I know I described it (and the rest of the games) as such, but that was shorthand. It's structured like one, really, but it has the variety that you don't expect from a game with that genre title, thanks to the vastly different environments, and the town and above-ground areas.

Manouvering yourself so that you position one enemy between you and an attacking one, causing the attecker to damage its ally. I know that's arguably no great thing - Doom did it - but it always surprises me when I first see it happening on returning to the game. An awful lot of modern games *don't* do this - have you ever seen an enemy in CoD take out one of his own? - and that's probably a large part of what makes it surprising and welcome.

I love how differnt weapons have different attack properties - slash damage, bash damage, etc - and their own timings, meaning that you have to adjust your thrust/parry rhythm when you equip a new one.

And I love how it feels like a genuine journey of discovery. I just discovered the Pirates' Cave, which is the one area that's always previously evaded me and calle a halt to my progress, and had ten or fifteen minutes of constant joy as a result, new items being found, previously puzzling conundrums being solved and new areas being opened up, all cascading from one realisation (actually not a realisation - I cheated and consulted a FAQ, because I didn't want to end up abandoning the game again. All I had to do was fall off a bridge in the right direction, too blush.gif).

It's such an open-ended game - when you start playing, you've got a ridiculous number of avenues of investigation open to you and absolutely no indication as to which is the "correct" one to take first, so one person's passage through the game is guaranteed to be different to anybody else's. That's also why it's possible to end up a little baffled, as I've been on past attempts, if you miss a passageway and end up wandering around the areas you've already explored forever.

About the only annoying thing (bar the slowdown in larger and/or packed areas) is the design of the Termite Nest. Every single time I start the game over I end up getting hopelessly lost in that place. I don't even know why, because the exit's in plain sight!

#5 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 12:36 AM

Finished! Fantastic game, but it does drop off a little right towards the end - there's a key and door puzzle that I can't imagine *anybody* has ever completed without either trying every combination until they fluke the right one or else giving in and consulting a guide.

And I feel that I cheated a bit during the final moments - had heard about "sword magic", but hadn't figured out what it was, how to obtain it or how to pull it off. Apart from one fleeting moment last night where I seemed to cast a spell by accident. Anyway, I looked online and then used it against the final boss. I don't know if that's cheating or not, but I do feel a little cheap for having resorted to it.

I forgot to mention one of the awesome things from the opening sections of the game, when you come to a switch, a withdrawn bridge over a chasm and a guard on the other side. The switch moves the bridge into position, but you can also withdraw it again. It's inevitable that, having done this a few times, you decide to see if
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
And you can! laugh.gif

Really like what they do with the end credits:

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «


It's a very smart way of tempting the player to go straight back in, to reload that last save point and go on a treasure hunt.

Word up for the localistion, too. It's not that the writing's amazing - there's not much of it in there, after all, and even then there are some typos - but that it not only fits with the offbeat, sinister atmosphere, it also retains the Japanese storyline. Considering that the original game never got an official US or EU release, and considering the standards of the times in which this one was released, you'd probably not be surprised if the US publisher decided to abandon all links to the first game and insert an entirely new, unrelated plot into the game. So it's to Ascii's credit that they tell you (albeit in the manual) all of the things that happened in the first game and that lead up to the opening of this one. It helps the feeling that this is a world with real backstory immensely.

Think I might have a crack at Shadow Tower next.

#6 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 22 January 2011 - 02:36 PM

I had a quick go at Shadow Tower after posting that, but couldn't figure out the timing on attacks. Not sure if it's just because it's different than in KF, but it felt a hell of a lot more difficult, as though even more precision was required. So I decided to play something else instead.

And then I discovered that there's another series that From developed which also uses the KF-style first-person POV and controls: Echo Night. Three games in the series, two on the PS1 and one on the PS2, but only the first and third were localised into English. Bloody Agetec - if you're going to localise a series, don't miss out the middle one mad.gif

I've just started playing the first.



I'd post up some gameplay vids, but, as usual, it's impossible to find any that don't have some prick talking over the top of them, or inane captions added to the visuals. Cheers for helping decrease the already perilously low IQ of the internet population, YouTube!

It's a totally different style of game from KF - it has a lot in common with PC adventure games, or point 'n' click releases. However, it's clearly using some interation of the KF engine, and the controls and movement (the headbob and whatnot) are immediately familiar.

When the game kicks off, it's 1937 and you're looking around the charred remains of your old man's house, accompanied by the fuzz. You can inspect certain items, pick others up and colelct others into your inventory. Upon finding a book, you're whisked back in time by thirty-odd years, and are suddenly riding a steam train through a tunnel. Shit happens and you end up back at the destroyed house.

You then find a painting and get pulled into the ship from the above video.

It's a mystery game, btw, so I'm being deliberately vague on details. Not that anybody will bother picking it up and playing it anyway sad.gif

On the ship are two different types of ghosts. Those that are filled-in with colour are demons and will kill you, given half the chance. You can get rid of them only by turning on the lights in the areas they inhabit, but it's not always that easy - some lights won't switch on until you've solved a puzzle. The other ghosts take the form of three-dimensional 'shadows' - the core of the gameplay is that you have to help these lost souls, releasing them from their torment and progrssing through the ship with the aid of the items you're then given.

There are some reallly cool ideas in here. I'll spoil the first of the ghosts:

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «


Not every puzzle is like this - the next, for example, has you mixing a favourite drink after figuring out the ingredients.

Neat game.


#7 plopboy

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 10:16 PM

Just started playing Eternal Ring myself and am relly enjoying it, though compared to KF is is fairly easy so far.

I'm up to the

» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «


Graphically I really like it, it may be a bit dated but in my humble opinion it is a really good looking PS2 game. I've got it running through component and it looks sharp and really crisp.

The only thing I would say it does make me a tad queasy playing it for any long period (2 hours in this case), I have turned off the annoying bobbing up and down but I seem to be still getting a bit of motion sickness.



#8 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 06:08 PM

I'm the same with Wolfenstein 3D. I suffered really badly from motion sickness when playing it when it first came out - presumably it ran choppy on our PC at the time - and still feel the urge to upchuck nowadays, even on things like the XBLA version. I think my brain must just associate those visuals with the feeling of nausea.

Eternal Ring does move very strangely in comparison with most other first-person games, though. Having to use the shoulders to move your view up and down probably doesn't help.

#9 plopboy

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 07:36 PM

Did you ever get the analog sticks working? I turned them on in the menus but they did nothing?

#10 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 08:38 PM

The analogue controls in the menu are actually for the face buttons, plop - you know, the ones on the PS2 controller that react to how much pressure you're putting on them, as seen in Metal Gear Solid 2 and little else. They really could have worded that screen more accurately.

#11 plopboy

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Posted 14 November 2011 - 08:43 PM

  :glare:



#12 plopboy

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 10:49 AM

I had a bit of a retro PS session last night ending in a go of Shadow Tower and I really liked it up until I got to a save point and realised my memory card was full :( but I did think that was par for the course with these games :)

 

I really liked it though, but it did take me a few goes to get used to the combat, that the manual telling me the enemy had to be in the center of the screen to take damage.

 

I think I might try and emulate it and map the L1,R1,Left and Right to the right stick as I think that might help.



#13 E. Randy Dupre

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Posted 15 November 2013 - 04:32 PM

I tried playing Shadow Tower as soon as I'd finished King's Field, and couldn't get the hang of the combat at all. It's really confusing going from the one game to the other, as the visuals, controls, concept, etc. are all so similar, yet the timing of attacks is so different.



#14 plopboy

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 08:26 AM

Oh time to update this lovely thread :)

 

First up I managed to pick up a copy of Echo Night: Beyond for the PS2 which is set on the Moon and you are a chap stuck in a space suit (having crash landed) wandering around a ghost infested moon base.

 

There are bad ghosts and ghosts that will help you if you help them find peace (i.e. do a task for them). Bad ghosts will increase you heart rate and if it goes above a certain amount it is game over. You basically just run away from these and try and find a way around.

 

It also has a nice intro

 

 

From what I have played so far it seems a real nice departure from shooting and hacking and there are 3 different control options, I suggest option C is the best.

 

and the second thing is I managed to get this off ebay

 

Attached File  photo 1-1.JPG   137.42KB   0 downloads

 

Attached File  photo 2-1.JPG   117.7KB   0 downloads

 

Attached File  photo 3-1.JPG   102.91KB   0 downloads



#15 uiruki

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Posted 31 March 2014 - 08:40 AM

I think all of From's PS1 games are on Japanese Plus for free. Shadow Tower is still a good fun hack and slash. Even if you're not playing it seriously it has the power to just suck you in for an hour or two and the enemy variety is so much greater than their early games. I always really liked the way those games controlled, couldn't really get away with the Souls games not letting you move freely while your attack animates.




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