A sense of freedom and peril make exploring King's Field's bland and confusing environments surprisingly enjoyable.

User Rating: 7 | King's Field II (PlayStation the Best) PS
Pros: Exploring the game world is a ton of fun; The game does not hold your hand or force you done a single pathway; No loading screens once the game is running

Cons: Bland worlds can be tough to navigate; Sudden difficulty jump late in the game; Some things are nigh impossible to figure out without a walkthrough; Weak combat; Frequent frame rate drops

Demon's Souls and Dark Souls have made large waves in recent years due to their high difficulty and no-nonsense attitude. However, unbeknownst to most players, FromSoftware has been making these types of games for years (albeit much less polished) in the form of series such as King's Field. Surprisingly, King's Field (King's Field II in Japan) holds up remarkably well for a Playstation 1 game.

As with FromSoftware's modern RPGs, King's Field doesn't hold the player's hand at all. You are dropped into the world without any context (the story is about defeating a dragon or something I guess, it was never really clear) and can literally die within steps of the beginning. And you are given no armor, and a weak dagger with pitiful range. You may notice that things are not easy.

However, to the patient player the situation is far from unfair. With the game's open world structure, you usually have several options available. While many routes will end in quick deaths, others allow you to proceed, hone your skills, and level up so you can return to previous trouble spots and progress further. This open-ended, exploration is extremely captivating, since the game allows you to discover things on your own. It's even better when you realize that the game doesn't have any loading screens once you load your save file. For a Playstation 1 game, that's incredibly impressive.

Each of these things has a negative drawback though. For one, to make up for the large world, the graphics are bland, making navigation tough at times. Furthermore, the game still pushes the PS1 a little too hard, with an almost consistently choppy frame rate. And not only does the game not tell you things that it doesn't need to, but it often doesn't tell you things that you should know. Get a new item? The game doesn't inform you as to what it does. Need to go through a secret passage to progress? The game won't give you the slightest hint (hope you like spamming the X button on walls). Or perhaps you want to get a special item? Better hope you stumble upon it or help the right person. Unfortunately, after a certain point, you're going to want a walkthrough handy.

This isn't much of an issue early in the game, when most paths are obvious and most items don't have any unexpected side effects, but later on things get confusing (read: frustrating). To make matters, worse, the end of the game puts extra emphasis on combat and suffers a bad difficulty spike unless you grind. Combat itself is pretty simple, but with slow movement, frequent lag, and most enemies having brain-dead AI, it's a matter of circling around them and hitting the attack button over and over until they die. Bosses aren't terribly different except that late-game bosses are much tougher than the rest of the game, making the last few areas extremely un-fun.

Some parts of King's Field hold up great: the exploration and independent nature are still fantastic in this day and age. However, things like the graphics and certain frustrating segments simply don't hold up. If you fall into the group that loves tough games like Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, King's Field may be worth checking out. But for everyone outside that limited group, there isn't much here worth your time.