Princess By Dawn

HIGH The simulation of absolute monarchy.

LOW Grinding for gold to get to the next highlight.

WTF I just reformed the church so I could marry objects!

Fit For A King is successful in delivering a unique experience. This top-down, 8-bit, text-based open-world adventure is reminiscent of the oldest titles in the genre, and it also affords the player the ability to make some crazy decisions. However, this initial novelty doesn’t hold up.

King doesn’t push any boundaries on a technical level. Movement is tile-based, commands have to be typed instead of chosen, and clues to what’s next are as nonexistent now as they were in the old games my dad used to tell me about. There is a short and convenient tutorial for the basics, though.

The story’s a simple one with historical origins. The player assumes the role of a king in a fictional universe. As a ruler with absolute power, the player can control nearly everything, especially regarding marriage and execution — a clear reference to the infamous Henry VIII.

At first, the possibilities seem endless. I could marry my wife, sentence her to death, then forgive her on the execution line or carry through with it and say my goodbyes. Diplomats can be threatened, priests can be overruled and enemies can be outmaneuvered, if utilized wisely. There are no cutscenes or obstacles to hinder imaginative ideas, and most options are available from the off.

However, there’s little narrative pressure on choices made because the objective of King is quite trivial — just impress a rival king in an upcoming summit. Until then, investments must be made to acquire ‘impressive’ things like jugglers, fireworks and choirs. None of this is free, of course, so we come to the dull part — the gold needed has to be extracted from a location or person. Taxes can be collected, chests can be opened, and later on, treasure can be dug up.

This is easily the most frustrating part about King. The merit of the title comes from its self-aware comedic dialogue and flexible options such as allowing polygamy or marrying animals and/or objects. However, to make any progress, a tedious cash-grind is required. I was so desperate for coin at one point that I dug up my whole courtyard in the search for gold — it’s not exactly majestic behavior?

This quest for cash slowed the pace of play and dulled its flair for originality by forcing me to play through obvious filler. It’s almost as if King’s hidden message is that even a monarch has tedious struggles. Potential point taken, but the negative effect on the game is significant.

King also struggled to keep my interest. The more entertaining experiences were usually small historical nods — there’s a hidden Bacchanalia reference, for example, or when a bunch of townspeople are all coded as ‘servant’ and therefore homogenic to the king — but these little pleasures aren’t supported by larger components. After only a couple of hours, boredom is a serious factor.

If Fit for a King‘s narrative was brimming with historical or pop culture references, or maybe if it had a deeper underlying message to discover, I might’ve been able to look past the tedium of gold gathering. As it stands, there’s novelty in making crazy decisions as a monarch and finding a few neat nods, but that novelty wears off quickly.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Disclosures: Fit For A King was developed by Brent Ellison and Tanya X. Short and published by Kitfox Games. It’s currently available for PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher. Approximately 2 hours of play were devoted to the singleplayer mode, and the game wasn’t completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: Fit For A King has no ESRB rating. I haven’t encountered any offensive language, but there are executions and religious references to be both read and envisioned, although simplified.

Colorblind modes: There’s a different graphic mode which gives the entirety of the visual image a green taint. It’s accessible by pressing G on the keyboard.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The text is fully descriptive of the events taking place. There are no audio clues, although there is a lute that can be played. This title is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: There are no remappable controls. Movement is with the directional pad, other controls are shown in a convenient menu.

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