KingsRoad on track to bring the AAA RPG experience to social games

Rumble Entertainment’s gearing up to launch its debut title, KingsRoad, on both Facebook and its own web platform. We’ve spent some time in the game’s beta program, and it looks like KingsRoad is poised to deliver a mainstream PC gaming experience for the low, low cost of (optionally) free.

KingsRoad is a free-to-play RPG that’s been in development for quite some time. Players initially assume the role of a knight who quests across a sprawling kingdom while battling foes like bandits and monsters. Areas of the kingdom are broken up into smaller linear levels, but there are dozens of these maps to complete at the moment.

When we talked to Rumble CEO Greg Richardson in May, he told us Rumble was focusing on creating a title that avoided monetizing with mechanics like energy bars and forced player invites (which are standard in most most social games). Instead, the game features hard currency diamonds which can be spent on premium items, new character classes and things like expanding one’s inventory capabilities. At the moment, there’s only one extra class (Archer), but it can also be unlocked if players are willing to grind in the game and reach level 5. Rumble tells us the next class to launch will be the Mage, which is coming in a few weeks.

Bringing mainstream to social

KingsRoad is designed to simulate a AAA game experience, and it is reminiscent of PC dungeon crawlers like Blizzard’s iconic Diablo series. The graphics bear special note, as they look like something straight out of a recent mainstream role-playing game. Even with the game’s visual settings cranked up and in full screen mode, KingsRoad looks just as good on an 11-inch Macbook Air as it does on a new 27-inch iMac (a screenshot from that is above). Admittedly, much more of the game canvas can be seen on the latter machine.

Although this is a title designed to appeal to core gamers, it still provides a (relatively) snackable experience, with the levels we’ve played through only taking less than 10 minutes to complete. The mechanics will automatically feel familiar to anyone who’s played through an RPG in the past: Mouse clicks direct player characters to interact with bystanders/items or attack enemies, and there are a number of keyboard shortcuts for the use of items and special abilities.

Likewise, the game’s social mechanics also take a note from mainstream games instead of social titles. While most social titles ask players to ask their friends for in-game gifts like rare items or extra energy, KingsRoad’s social experience is based on cooperative play. The game makes playing co-op missions with friends a rewarding experience, since groups are encouraged to play through levels on “Heroic” difficulty settings; this high challenge level provides more experience and there’s much better loot to be found. Even if a player doesn’t have any Facebook friends in KingsRoad, the game has an option to randomly join parties.

Energy isn’t necessary to quest through levels in the game world. Indeed: If one wants to endlessly grind through levels, they can do so without hitting a paywall. Players do have health and mana bars they have that don’t regenerate terribly quickly, though there are in-game items like food and potions that can be purchased and used to replenish these bars while one’s in the middle of a mission. Likewise, there are other consumables to provide users with buffs like temporary experience bonuses.

What else is coming?

One RPG staple that has yet to be implemented, though, is player-versus-player gameplay. However, Customer Experience Manager Brett Bates tells us not to rule a PvP mode out in the future.  “PvP mechanics were certainly on the table and are still a common request on the forums,” he says. “But if Rumble is going to do it we want to take our time to do it right.”

While mid-core games have been growing in popularity among social developers, these titles have typically combined strategy and citybuilding genres. Social action RPGs are starting to appear more often, both on and off Facebook, with Rebel Entertainment’s Dungeon Rampage and Bossa Studios’ Merlin: The Game serving as recent examples. The audiences these games appeal to are known to be lucrative, but Rumble is splitting its eggs between a few different baskets, including its next title Nightmare Guardians and a publishing program (which just got its first developer partner with Brazil-based Aquiris Games Studio).

KingsRoad doesn’t have an official launch date yet, though we’re told to expect it sometime in March. If you’re interested in signing up for the game’s beta program, you can do so over at the official site.