Logo for King's Field

King's Field is one of the earlier From Software games. The first, if Wikipedia is to be believed! What most people know as King's Field, at least in the west, is actually King's Field II. What I'm talking about here is King's Field the first, released only in Japan. When compared to the rest of the series, it's a lot more simple, a lot more straight forward. You're in a dungeon, you're crawling. It's hard, you will die. It will not be fun if you're not ready for that. That said, if what you're looking for is a completely opaque action adventure game that will tell you nothing of how it functions or what to do, then this will be your shit. If you liked how Dark Souls or Demon's Souls (depending on which you played first) just dropped you into the action with little to no tutorial, then you'll be excited to hear that King's Field does the same.

The thing with Soulsbournes though: They've been in the mainstream for so long that if you want to experience that same feeling of being completely lost in one, you have to play the night it's released. And even then, the formula is kind of known at this point. Nothing is really going to be that difficult to figure out. You find a bonfire, you kill things to get souls or blood or whatever, bosses are generally after fog walls, sometimes there are really hard enemies that won't respawn, etc etc etc.

However, when it comes to King's Field, a lot of people might know it exists, but you're not really going to just know (or have an idea) of how the world works. I could sit here and name off items and enemies and mechanics and you really wouldn't have an understanding of them because the context would be totally new. And with that said, I also don't want to do that because then you'd be going in with some knowledge of what to expect and I'm sitting here saying you shouldn't do that!

So now that brings us to this. I'm exploring King's Field for the first time. I've already gotten pretty far and I want to write about my experiences. If you want to experience this game yourself, which I highly recommend, then fuck off and go play it before reading any more. Cool? Cool.




The First Floor

So when the game drops you off, you're just kind of in a dungeon. There's some exposition about a story but it honestly doesn't matter. Basically you're in a big graveyard thing. It doesn't matter. You move forward and might discover a shop, the first save point, or a bunch of monsters. Whichver happens first, you'll end up getting to the monsters. And this is where I made my first mistake. When I first tried playing, I decided to use save states and try and just progress until it was less hard. This could work for you, for sure, but for me it just kind of removed all the stakes, which led to me just not caring any more, which ruined the experience. I put the game down for a bit then tried again a few days later, this time sans save states, and that's when the game really dug its claws in.


A totally real screenshot and totally not an artist rendition of the game.

This is basically what the game actually looks like. This might as well be a screenshot.

You see, the thing with the combat in this game is that it's slow. It's so slow. It's slow and lumbering and clumsy and awkward and perfect. When you first start playing it probably will just feel like garbage, but the more time you put in, the more you get a feel for it, you start to realize why the enemies are moving back and forth while in combat with you. You start to realize why the sword swings so slowly. You start to realize why your reach is so short. Once it all clicks in your brain, it's clear that it was deliberate.

The next thing that really got me with King's Field is probably because I had the context of the Souls games. As I worked my way through the labryth, through the first caves you'll probably be stumbling through, it just seemed endless. It was clear sometimes that there was a circular path, and that I'd end up at the same crossroads I'd been in before. But every time this happened I just picked the path that had monsters. Seems like the logical way to determine which way I had not been before. I did this for at least an hour, thinking was going deeper and deeper into this wild labrynth before I ended up back where I started, at the mouth of the cave. How the fuck did I get here? No way did I really tread a big circle. The walls must be moving. There must be something more going on. There must be more to this game than I could have ever imagined! While that's true in general, it definitely wasn't in this case. Once I looked down the hall I had originally entered the cave through (the entrance immediately has 2 paths to go down), I saw monsters. As silly as it might seem, the fact that monsters were respawning without me hitting some sort of checkpoint had simply never occurred to me.

What hurt even more is about an hour later when I found the fucking map. Yeah, there's a map. And what I learned learn with the map is that the area I was lost in for who knows how long, wandering around in winding hallways and being completely lost? It's like 4 or 5 different hallways. I saw that and I just... It's like some kind of weird stockholm syndrome where my kidnapper stabbed me in the gut and I immediately fell in love with them. Isn't that messed up? Not as messed up as the fact that the map isn't even fucking accurate. Sure, the places on the map are correct but the entire floor isn't on the map at all. Huge chunks are missing!


A partially marked map of floor 1 of King's Field.

That big chunk of map on the top right that's blank? Yeah there's a whole bunch of shit there.

So with all of this, I think it's pretty clear that this game is going to be confusing and interesting and I was super excited to explore deeper. As of right now I'm on floor 3 or 4 (I last saved on floor 4 but I'm trying desperately to get back to floor 3 because I know I'm missing shit). There's been so much more to this game than I would have ever thought, which I think I said earlier on (I'm too lazy to go check. This shit isn't getting proofread lol). There's been mirrors and harps (actually a lyre) and new weapons and magic and it's just wild. I've been procrastinating at writing this all up because the idea of making a website was pretty daunting but I want this stuff in my own realm, not trapped within the format of someone else's service (even though neocities is a service I'm using, shut up). I'll probably write up floor 2 tomorrow once I refresh my memory on what went on there.

The Second Floor

So after finally finding a bunch of keys and new weapons (that change the way combat flows!!!) and shutting off some traps maybe, I hit the second floor. This floor felt very different, and it was strange. The environments were a lot more uniform. Less twisty turny caves and more uniform passageways and right angles. It made the second floor really feel like a new environment, which was very welcome. I feel like having x number of floors all be too similar would make the game get boring real quick.

Floor 2 introduces some new enemies, like the ghost, who gives you the Dark status effect (literally just makes the already pretty dark game darker) and fucking giggle at you as they float around. I still haven't figured out how to hit those fuckers and I'm 4 floors in! They're so annoying! They barely even hit you, they just giggle and get in the way. There's this one really precarious walkway over a pit of death on floor 3 with a ghost on it that just gets in the way, and when you walk against things your character automatically tries to step around them so it's very easy to accidentally fall off. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


A drawing of those FUCKING GHOSTS

These mother fuckers are the absolute bane of my existence.

Anyway, floor 2 is where the game starts to introduce the really weird stuff. I've found doors with huge dragon symbols on them that just say SEALED when you try to interact with them. I found this mirror that I gave to an old dude and he taught me magic (healing magic no less!). I found another dude in an unmarked cave who wanted a fruit, and in return gave me a harp (it's actually a lyre). He says he hopes the harp can lead me somewhere good, which apparently means to play it in front of pits that make magic platforms rise out of the darkness to give safe passage. The game didn't tell me this, by the way. I just had to walk around and play the harp anywhere I could until I heard a noise, then followed the noise until I found platforms that came out of nothingness. I love King's Field.


A drawing of a harp and a lyre

On the left is a harp. On the right is a lyre. Important distinction. Harps don't summon magic walkways.

The other thing about floor 2 is that a lot of the enemies you're fighting look the same, but have the most subtle coloration differences to show that they're a stronger version. I'm kind of a huge fan of that because upon first stepping onto floor 2 I was like "oh, more of the same huh? :/" but then I start fighting them and they're taking a lot more hits, dealing a lot more damage. Then I notice that the color inside the mouth is a little different, the color of the eye is a little different. It sets me up to realize I need to be looking for these subtle differences in enemies to prepare myself for future encounters, because this game really does not have a gradual difficulty curve. In all honestly, it's kind of all over the place. King's Field is not your friend.

There's not really that much more to say about floor 2, to be honest. It introduces a lot but it's still pretty straight forward. Eventually I found the path to floor 3, and floor 3 is where things start to really get wild. I'll see you there soon.

The Third Floor

Wow, the third floor.

So the third floor is big. It's just really really big. And when I say big I mean there's a huge tower inside a giant bottomless pit????? How does that even work? It's really scary too. Like you're just walking along and suddenly the floor drops out from under you and you realize you're climbing these stairs and on one side of you is a wall and on the other side is nothingness and there's these lizard men walking around shooting fucking fireballs at you and the DAMN GHOSTS KEEP GETTING IN THE WAY and then you realize that the seal stones you (hopefully) found on the second floor go in two different rooms here but there's two other rooms and where could those stones go???


A picture trying to explain how a giant tower could exist on the third floor of an underground dungeon

This is my educated guess of an artist rendition of how a giant tower could possible exist on the third floor of a sprawling underground dungeon that has floors above and below it. Shit's pretty non-euclidean in-game. This does not do it justice, I promise.

Also this is likely going to be the first time you notice false walls. They exist on the first two floors for sure, but this floor has a room where a golem will just walk out of the damn wall and then you realize "well fuck, there's probably a lot of those all over the place" and yeah, there's a lot of those all over the place. This one hides one of the many Dragon Seal Doors, which offer no explanation of their existence or function except for having a rad dragon carving on them and just saying SEALED when you interact with them. Thanks, King's Field.

This floor also introduces some pretty wild shit. There's these huge faces on the walls that shoot wind projectiles at you. They're, naturally, guarding the wind seal stone. There's another stone on this floor, the fire one I think, but there's nothing fancy protecting it. Now that I think about it, the wind stone is the only thing with a thematic resting place with thematic traps thematically protecting it. Kinda lame! It would've been super cool to dodge flame blasts for the fire seal stone, boulders for the earth seal stone, rushing...water...something for the water seal stone. But instead only the wind seal stone has a cool thing. Oh well.


the stone faces guarding the wind seal stone

Here they are. The stone faces what shoot the wind. They're weird.

So anyway I put the seals in the tower (it's called the Tower of Prayer, by the way) and that opened the tomb of the king before the last king, whose name I forget. There was a bunch of lizards in there and also some really nice armor. It was weird and took too long but honestly, it was worth it. And now it's on to floor 4. This floor felt so much bigger than the previous floors but also felt like it ended really quickly. Not sure why that is. I think it was just a lot more straight forward. Don't get used to that.

The Fourth Floor

Yo, fuck the fourth floor. Me and my homies hate the fourth floor. This shit is so full of twisting and turning hallways, and the map isn't worth SHIT here! There's like a grand total of 3 hallways shown on the map. At least 90% of the floor isn't on the map. It's ridiculous. Thankfully, after working your way through the infinite golems in these fucking pink hallways, you might find the Wizard's Map, which shows you the rest of the floor! Wow!


the difference between the keeper's map and the wizard's map

The left is the first map, the Keeper's map. The right is the Wizard's map. Look at the difference in information!

All joking aside, I actually love the fourth floor. It's the most King's Field this game gets, which I understand makes no sense because the whole game is King's Field and is probably the most King's Field the King's Field series ever was or ever will be. No I have not played the other 3 games yet.

Once you figure out the maze of this floor, or once you pick up the Wizard's Map, you can start making real progress again. And wow does it get super dangerous. There are tons of traps, tons of bottomless pits, tons of golems of multiple varieties. Every time you turn a corner, you're at risk of death. It's wild and I love it. This floor is also where you'll find the final key, which unlocks shit throughout the entire game, even all the way back to the very first chest you come across. If you're observant, you'll also most likely find the stone sword. It's a sword that's made entirely of stone and it's not very good. It's also the most important thing in the game so probably grab it.


a drawing of the three types of golems

The three golem types: Clay, Stone, and Gold. The first two are whatever, but the gold ones suck. They chuck bricks at you and you only ever fight them in groups of 2-6. It's wild.

You also get a taste of the insanity of floor 5 when you face the dark magician, who upon taking a single hit of damage transforms into a wild 4 armed bone monster who throws explosions at you while also sending demon-y devil-y dudes at you. He's pretty easy to take down but like I said, it's just a taste. Now that floor 4 is complete, and all those magician key chests are opened up, it's time to hit floor 5.

The Fifth Floor

You step out of the teleporter. The walls are a grotesque pinkish red, like the color of raw flesh. Before you can take much more of the scenery in, you spot the two suits of living armor who have lept high into the air and come crashing down into your head with a Dante from the Devil May Cry seriesTM-style helmsplitter attack. It hurts like fucking hell. Welcome to The Fifth Floor.

Oh, what's that? You like puzzles? You like atmospheric dungeon crawling? You like weird high fantasy horror? Fuck you. It's time to fight. Floor 5 is only a few rooms, but the biggest of these rooms is just fucking LITTERED with demons of various colors, shooting various elements, living suits of armor that leap all over the place and are fucking impossible to hit, and crazy skeleton dark magician fuckers who, again, THROW EXPLOSIONS AT YOU. Combat throughout this game has been frantic in the sense that you'll be stuck in tight spaces, dodging the attacks of one or two enemies while trying to get a hit in where you can. Floor 5 is a whole other type of frantic. You're in a huge open space with somewhere between 5 to 7 enemies (it's dark, the draw distance is pretty close to the camera, there's a lot going on so it's hard to count) dodging their projectiles and jumping attacks and FUCKING EXPLOSIONS and it's exhilarating in a way I never expected this game to be. If From had tried to do this in more than one room, I would have hated it.

Once that room is cleared, there's some exploring to do. Like I said, floor 5 is pretty small. It's probably half the size of the next smallest floor, which is pretty wild. But there's still something really cool to find. In a hidden room, you'll find a fairy. I didn't mention this fairy before because, to be honest, I completely forgot. When first meeting her, she basically just says "You're the chosen hero. Vanquish darkness!" The second time meeting her isn't much different except now she has a DRAGON behind her. It doesn't move or speak or do anything, really, but it's super cool. It's a dragon! Anyway, she takes that stone sword and unlocks the seals on it, turning it into the Moonlight Sword. Yes, that Moonlight Sword. That awesome blue glass/crystal blade that has shown up in basically every Soulsbourne is THE legendary relic in the world of King's Field. It was basically From's mascot for the first few years.


the fairy unlocks the power of the moonlight sword

I didn't want to do a drawing of this one because I didn't think I could do it justice. Just look how cool this is!

So now that you have the epic holy weapon meant to vanquish the powers of darkness, it's time to press forward. The next room is a Super Mario Bros 3 World 4 style giant area, where you fight a bunch of giant snakes and giant living statues. It's neat but only one short room that you just kind of enter and leave. Anyway, now it's time to fight the final boss. It's the current/previous king (it wasn't super clear) who has turned to the powers of darkness and transformed into a hideous monstrosity that shoots magic beams and summons demons and throws EXPLOSIONS at you. Meanwhile the walls are lined with his face shooting wind magic at you. It's really fucking weird and really intense.


the final boss

This is him. The weird monster of a king. He's like a flesh tree with a mask. It's weird. King's Field is weird.

The only way you can kill this dude is by shooting magic at him because there's a huge pit in between you and him. I really hope you were leveling your magic skill because I know I wasn't. I had to go somewhere else and shoot magic at enemies for a little bit, and also eat all of my green magic-enhancing gems. But eventually I just started summoning walls of fire on him and he was destroyed. I headed back to the teleporter and was greeted with the credits. I'm a huge fan of the credits scene as well because once it ends, it just sits there showing a field (the King's Field, I assume) with a field of stars slowly rotating in the sky. It will stay this way until you turn the Playstation off. Real Super Nintendo vibes. I fucking love it.

Final Thoughts

King's Field is weird. It's just a really weird game. It explains nothing, the hallways all blend together, it's ugly as fuck. But wow it's so good. I loved it so much. The sense of exploration, the sense of being compeltely lost and the sense of satisfaction I got every time I learned something new. It's pretty rare now to find a game where I can, in real time, feel myself getting better at it and understanding it more. When I started, I was dying stupid deaths to the first few enemies, and by the end, when facing the final challenges of the final floor, I felt like I had grown into the SWORDMASTER the class field in my stats said I was. It's a truly unique feeling that I don't expect many games in the future to really inspire in me.

I'm really excited to get to King's Field II, but I already know that it's a pretty different game. For one, it's not quite as ugly. The controls are different. It has more of a story and more of a fleshed out world that it takes place in. Because of that, I'm going to take a break from the series for a few months. I want to separate myself from this wonderful game so I don't go into King's Field II expecting or wanting the same thing. I don't want to set myself up for disappointment, even if it is a better game.

Would I recommend this game? Abso-fucking-lutely. It's so much fun. It's short, too! Very small time commitment for the amount of enjoyment it gave me. I will say that you might want to use maps you find online, or a guide, or something. The complete fuck-you-obtuse nature of the game is not going to be for everyone, and that's understandable. So if you just want a simple dungeon crawling with really engaging yet really simple combat, give it a shot with guides. If you want to feel like you're groping around in the dark for a lightswitch that doesn't exist, stumbling your way through until you find the will to create life yourself, go in without any of that. Forget anything you read in this and just go play it. Have fun, and hey, maybe write about it! It might be fun!

I said weird 11 times (12 now) in this document. Could I have said it more? Probably. Should I have? Almost definitely.

- Meryl

09/14/20

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Logo owned by FromSoftware, Kadokawa Corporation for King's Field (series).