King’s Field III, PlayStation

King’s Field III is the second sequel in FromSoftware‘s classic first-person RPG series and was first released in Japan in 1996. It was published in North America by ASCII Entertainment under the title of “King’s Field II” (because the original King’s Field was only released in Japan).

For my money, King’s Field III is the best of the three PlayStation King’s Field games, with larger, more interesting environments, and a bigger scope than the previous two games. The graphics are still borderline laughable, and the controls are still cumbersome, but the gameplay has evolved reasonably well in the space of a couple of years.

In this game you play as Prince Lyle, on a quest to once again retrieve the stolen Moonlight Sword and save the kingdom from evil. The events in this game take place fifteen years after the last game and require Lyle to visit four of the greatest mages in the world to acquire magical powers in order to complete his quest. Once again, monsters have taken over the land and must be defeated in combat, or just avoided altogether.

Combat is once again a challenging mix of melee and magic, governed by stamina, with the established technique of timing hits then backing off to avoid damage and to recharge stamina, before going again. Standing in front on an enemy and just hacking away is suicidal and not recommended. In this game some of the early monsters will fire at you, often poisoning you, so you have to be extra careful when engaging. The best technique when dealing with enemies is to circle them and not let them face you, because they mostly only attack you when they’re facing you. There are also mushroom creatures that eject spores that will always poison you if you time your hits wrong (or get unlucky). Skeletons are also much more dangerous in this game, although they have been increasing in danger level as the series progresses, and dealing with them can sometimes be problematic (especially when they jump out of chests in enclosed areas).

In true King’s Field tradition, Non-Player Characters (NPCs) continue to offer quests and will mostly help you whenever you talk to them, and their dialogue evolves over time, changing depending on what you’ve done and where you are in the storyline. The first character you meet, outside a hut literally where you begin the game, is a key-maker who will prove to be very helpful later in the game. Other characters are sometimes merchants who will buy from and sell to you as you progress, but like the other King’s Field games it’s not always wise to spend your hard-earned gold on new weapons and armour because what you find in the wilds is often the cheaper and better alternative. Patience and exploration will generally lead you to whatever the merchants are selling inside chests that are spread across the land.

Secret doors are in abundance in this game and it’s probably wise to spend time pressing the action button while facing walls in every new area, which can be a little frustrating at times. Acquiring magic is much the same as before: at certain key locations you’ll find these weird coloured vortexes that, when stepped in, will play a pre-rendered cutscene showing one of the aforementioned mages conferring some kind of magical ability onto you, which you can then equip to a button and use to fire that kind of magic at enemies.

One interesting feature to note in this game is that, when leaving one area and entering another, there are no loading screens. The game seamlessly loads in the next area while you walk. There is a slight noticeable pause when this happens, but it’s minuscule. This zonal approach to area loading contributes to King’s Field III‘s open world setting and allows you to explore a pretty large section of the map from the outset, or at least: once you’ve gotten past a certain point in the opening of the game.

Overall, King’s Field III is a pretty innovative and absorbing game. Definitely the best of the three King’s Field games on the original PlayStation. The next game in the series, King’s Field IV, moved onto the PlayStation 2 and was first released in Japan in 2001.

Note: if you’ve never played any King’s Field games before it’s maybe worth watching this guy play through King’s Field III. He does a good job of demonstrating what’s good about this series, probably better than I can do with just words and screenshots.

More: King’s Field III on Wikipedia

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