Waypoint 101 –– King's Field IV: The Ancient City

This is the official forum thread for the current Waypoint 101. This time, we’ll be playing… King’s Field: The Ancient City!

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With Elden Ring just around the corner, the Waypoint crew are delving into the mysterious depths of another From Software RPG. The dungeon crawling King’s Field series is some of Fromsoft’s earliest work, with the first King’s Field from 1994 being the very first game they ever released. King’s Field IV (or Kings Field: The Ancient City as it was released in North America) was released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2, the last entry in the series, and many consider it to be the closest ancestor of the Souls series. An oppressive tone, dark fantasy setting, and unforgiving difficulty with deliberate combat will be familiar to fans of From’s more recent work. Watch out for skeletons!

Use this thread to discuss the Waypoint Crew’s streams on Twitch, the podcast episodes, and share your own experiences if you’re playing along!

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This game owns. I revisit it now and again just to hang out in its various spaces. I really wish FromSoft would make another attempt at a first person role playing game like this (or more like Shadow Tower Abyss, specifically), but the popularity of the Souls formula makes that pretty unlikely.

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This has high-key been something I’ve been thinking about since I played KF2 a year or two ago. I’m slowly making my way through KF3; KF1 is a little too crusty for me, and while I think Shadow Tower is maybe a work of absolute genius and might be my favorite one of these, I haven’t finished it because it’s also very, very hard and I’m scared of it. I’m under no impression that King’s Field doesn’t feel crunchy and clunky, but that actually lends to such a cool feel that I want to get more of. But unfortunately we probably won’t ever get another one of these games. (I intend to send an e-mail about it to the pod.) At this point, I’d be happy with a just a re-release of these games.

Hot take aside: While we might be getting mecha souls very soon, It’s my opinion that a mecha souls would look more like a King’s Field game than a Dark Souls. Having to strafe and manage your turn radius, the slow and clunky sword wacks, and the meter management seem like great fits for a mecha game.

My big question, I guess, is: Why won’t we get another one of these games? I have my own answers, but I’m curious what others think. I also feel like there is a surprisingly lack of games that try to pick up the torch. The only spiritual successor I can think of is a little game called Fiend’s Isle, a roguelite which is very clearly pulling from KF, even copying the font. I played a demo, and it was alright, but it didn’t quite scratch the same itch. KF had such a specific vibe that it seems like a league of successors would be inevitable, but I can’t seem to think of any. If people know of games that kind of pick up this legacy, please tell me!

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Also an important tip just in case. Not really a spoiler, but just to be safe.

The little meter that empties and fills up after you swing your sword determines how much damage you do with the attack. If you swing it when the bar is full, it will do full damage. Once I learned this mechanic in the previous games it all clicked for me.

My big question, I guess, is: Why won’t we get another one of these games? I have my own answers, but I’m curious what others think. I also feel like there is a surprisingly lack of games that try to pick up the torch.

I think the answer is that this game is extremely similar to the Elder Scrolls games, just with less dialogue. When I try to think about what has been inspired by Skyrim, the first game that comes to mind is Valheim. It’s not an intricately designed world, but it has stiff, difficult combat, and a focus on exploration, so I think it’s reasonable to compare it to KF.

KF had such a specific vibe that it seems like a league of successors would be inevitable

I feel like most games with a similar atmosphere are 2D Metroidvanias or roguelikes? They’re 2D instead of 3D for budget reasons and because the games they’re most inspired by are 2D.

I guess my conclusion from the stuff I said above is that, while I can’t think of many things that are directly inspired by KF, there are a number of things that are inspired by the same things that inspired KF and have a significant amount of the same appeal.

Edit: I should also mention that Games | dungeoncrawlers.org has a list of real-time, first-person dungeon crawlers, which is probably the more direct answer to your question. There are a number of recent games in that genre, but none of them are very popular.

I’ve always been curious about From’s earlier work and where the eccentricities of Demons’s Souls originated from and how hard they would be to go back to.
I’ll definitely have to get my hands on KF4 to experience this along with the 101.

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From Soft has a lot of good odd games from the PSX/PS2 era that are worth checking out. Echo Night is only like 6 hours long I want to say but the ideas it had for what s horror game can be are interesting. Also Echo Night Beyond is really good Twitch steam material I think. Really atmospheric space horror with a very odd plot.

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A cursory search seems to have shown me that the only way to really play this game without shelling out ridiculous money is via emulation. Are there any other relatively simple ways to access it nowadays, assuming one has whatever console one needs?

edit: thanks @notanimal for the clarification. I will no longer redact the word emulator lol

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Unfortunately there is no way to purchase the game on any digital platform outside of Japan. It sounds like the version on Japanese PSN isn’t in English either.

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Because it’s applicable here, and to dispel any questions about the boundaries of conversation, here’s rule 7:

Feel free to reach out to the mods with any questions!

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So, I’ve played KF4 for a few hours now, and damn! This game is unforgiving in a way that makes Dark Souls seem extremely generous by comparison! Save points are scarce, and enemies are extremely deadly! Along with the slow animation speeds for combat, these things make for a game that must be played deliberately. The game ends up being much less stressful than a Souls game because you don’t need to worry about frenetic action, but you get the same loop of trying something out, dying, considering how you could do it better, and then trying again. It’s almost relaxing! It’s really good!

Not to say it’s without its challenges. My brain has been forever warped by my need to play every old survival horror game I can, so the tank controls don’t really bother me, BUT I can see that being a hurdle that will be hard to clear for a lot of people in 2022. Also, the menus can be finicky and unintuitive.

Anyways, I hope more of you all have the chance to at least try this game! It’s a treat so far!

Also, quick rec for people who don’t want to commit to something like King’s Field IV! Eternal Ring, another PS2 first person dungeon crawler by From Software, is on PS4. It’s easier than KF4 from what I’ve played, plus the PS4 version controls like a modern first person game!

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This is so cool! I have Eternal Ring for PS2, but my PS2 is packed up somewhere because I moved at the end of last year. Modern controls? Sign me up.

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If any of you play KF games remember to keep talking to NPCs repeatedly until they repeat themselves and and there’s a dialogue log in the menus.

Ancient City is so insanely fucking good, such great atmosphere.

There’s some simple combos you can do to mix magic with your regular attacks

Ancient City’s version of the Thief Ring is a must have, I wish I could experience finding it fir the first time again, such a simple cool little secret

The special chalice dungeon chests in Bloodborne are based on the elaborate secret room treasure chests in some King’s Field games. <3

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So, I’ve been playing this game exclusively since I started a week or so ago, and it’s sooooo good! I think I’m on the last area, so I’ll come back with more detailed thoughts when I’m done with that, but damn is this game good!

I’ve watched the Waypoint streams as well, and at the pace they’re going, they probably won’t get to the end before Elden ring comes out. That’s a shame, because there’s some REALLY cool stuff as you get deeper into the game. There are plenty of “holy shit!” moments as you go on that will be cool to see on stream. There’s also a level that is pretty clearly and explicitly called back to in the Dark Souls series that will make for some great stream material. Hopefully they continue streaming the game until they finish, because this game is really special, and I want more people to experience it!

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I finished King’s Field 4, and it was really good! I think what was most surprising were the ways that it actually seemed to be an inspiration for Dark Souls, which ended up being more surface level than I expected. It has the same disorienting, almost dreamlike tone. Everything is just a little too still. People speak in terse, somewhat nonsensical prose. But, in King’s Field, that doesn’t feel like it was necessarily the intention as much as a byproduct of technological and budgetary constraints. The story is told through random text strewn around and vague dialogue, but that doesn’t feel as deliberate or thematically appropriate as it does in the more modern games. While on paper the narratives of KF4 and DaS1 are pretty similar, under the surface there’s not much going on in the former. What the Souls series does is take the basic structure of the KF games, and makes the vibes part of the text and integrates them elsewhere. Playing this game has changed my perspective on the Souls games, and made them even richer texts!

I don’t want to come off as if I’m saying KF4 is in any way lesser to the Souls games though! It’s honestly one of my favorite first plays in YEARS. The interconnected world that many praise in Dark Souls 1 is already here fully formed! It feels smaller, but that almost adds to the joy of it, as you’re able to anticipate when you might be looping back around to somewhere you’ve been before. The level design is often cramped and claustrophobic. This both evokes the feeling of exploring a long abandoned structure, and makes the times where it does open up even more awe inspiring. The weapon and magic leveling mechanics were a treat as well! I’m sure they would have been explained in the manuals back when the game came out, but figuring out what their effects were was a joy.

King’s Field 4 is good! By the end I was both looking forward to Elden Ring, and eager to go back and play PS1 games!

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Meant to post this after the first stream but I learned that FromSoft put out an editor for Kings Field called Sword of Moonlight that lets you make your own standalone Kings Field games and as a demo they included the original Kings Field to learn from. So I guess technically you could put out a brand new Kings Field game in 2022 for PC.

http://www.swordofmoonlight.com/

http://en.swordofmoonlight.org/wiki/Sword_of_Moonlight_Extension_Library

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This rocks???
I wish this was more of a thing with modern games, in the very least Unreal engine has… well, Unreal assets, and the Source engine has assets including characters from half life in it (iirc), but this is still such a cool addition.

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It is actually criminal that no one has told me this existed until now.

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A year or two ago I tried to wrap my head around Sword of Moonlight but couldn’t even manage to download it. If anyone has any luck, please let me know!

I found the first KF, which was JP only, to be interesting but a bit too crusty to enjoy. Maybe I’d feel differently with SoM.

Just about a year later they dropped KF2 (the first KF that came out in the US) and it’s a massive night and day improvement over the first in every way, highly recommended. Fun tip as soon as the game starts instead of entering the cave and beginning your adventure turn around and walk onto to the docks to the top of the lighthouse to get fire magic.