Early Access is a bizarre concept.
In no other artistic medium is it considered appropriate for a creator to charge money for an unfinished version of their work. Only with video games are consumers so eager to get our hands on a hotly anticipated title that we’ll endure an incomplete product, all for the chance to get an experience a little early.
Early Access games are incredibly difficult to judge fairly for this reason – it’s hard to know what to make of a game like Of Kings and Men while it’s in Early Access, as so much of the final experience is still dependent on the promises made by the game’s developer, Donkey Crew.
As it currently stands, Of Kings and Men is not a complete experience. The game is being pitched as an open world medieval MMORPG with plenty of real estate to explore, a nuanced trading network, and a customizable progression system. If Donkey Crew can deliver on this promised experience, it will certainly be a site to behold.
At present, though, the game doesn’t show any of these features working at their intended level of polish. While the upcoming (but temporarily delayed) release of the game’s open world mode, ‘The Epic,’ will introduce some of the game’s missing parts, they’re still a long way from being properly balanced and implemented within the gameplay.
This, however, is not to say that Of Kings and Men isn’t a worthwhile experience as it currently stands. While the game lacks a wider, fine-tuned RPG experience, the current focus of its Early Access gameplay is its combat, which is in and of itself a pretty phenomenal experience.
Of Kings and Men allows players to engage in wonderfully accurate medieval battles – specifically, it lets large teams lay about each other with melee weapons in real time, as players hack and slash against opponents in small groups upon a larger battlefield.
Up to two hundred players can take part in these skirmishes, as two large forces find themselves split down into smaller one-on-one fights amid the heat of battle. The end result is a chaotic mess that, while at first appearing to lack any nuance or subtlety, is actually incredibly clever in the way it forces players to fight for space on the field.
The combat system does feel a little clunky at first, and some players might be initially turned off by the experience of swinging a sword repeatedly, but those who bear with the learning curve will find a surprising amount of sophistication to the game’s combat system. Most importantly of all, however, is the fact that the game can handle such a large mass of bodies slamming against each other very well, without any lag or slowdown in the majority of cases.
It’s hardly surprising that the combat works this well – Donkey Crew has developed a cult following as the creators cRPG, a mod for Mount and Blade: Warband. This mod introduced plenty of key RPG elements to Mount and Blade, and it built a more comprehensive online trading system into the experience – suffice to say, this development team has proven that they know what they’re doing when it comes to medieval online play.
It’s for this reason that Donkey Crew’s promises for the missing features in Of Kings and Men are taken so seriously by the game’s already burgeoning community. With experience in delivering an online open world RPG experience, the team has proven that these elements are achievable. Players are for the most part willing to be patient with the features that are currently missing from Of Kings and Men and are happy to enjoy the combat alone until more of the game becomes available.
It’s the community that this game has developed that really makes Early Access an appealing option. After all, a game that allows hundreds of gamers to battle at once in a confined space only works if there are enough players available to fill a match. Thankfully, due to the hype surrounding Of Kings and Men, the PvP experience is peppered with plenty of opponents and allies, helping to make the combat feel substantial enough to make up for the lack of an open world.
Strength in numbers isn’t the only thing the community has going for it, though – as Of Kings and Men has grown out of mod projects, players of the game are for the most part warm, inviting, and friendly. Newbies are welcome, and everyone is free to share their thoughts and ask for advice in playing the game.
Donkey Crew is a significant part of the reason for this – the team is open and forthcoming about its development process and more than happy to hear player feedback. All of this makes the wider discussion surrounding Of Kings and Men feel very laid back, and it goes some way towards making up for the lack of open world features at this stage.
Of Kings and Men is a long way from being finished. Most of the key standout gameplay elements are nowhere to be seen, and what has been implemented lacks the standard level of polish that one would expect from a commercial game.
While normally this would be a cause for suspicion, Donkey Crew appears to be capable of delivering on its initial promises, if given enough time and patience from the game’s exceptionally welcoming community.
In the meantime, the PvP modes that are available in Early Access are a real joy to experience – there’s enough here to keep players engaged if only thanks to the sheer size of matches and the simple, yet effective combat system.
Ultimately, if you’re taken in by the promises of n medieval open world RPG with real time combat and player trading, now might not be the time to get into this game, although this is definitely a title you’ll want to keep your eyes on.
If, however, you’d just like a chance to hack and slash at a field full of human opponents, there’s enough even in the Early Access version of the game to keep you busy for quite some time.Related: Co-op, Donkey Crew, Green Man Gaming Publishing, MMORPG, Multiplayer, Of Kings and Men