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.

- Meryl

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.

- Meryl

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