Trying to find a new and better life for yourselves is never easy. The path is always thwarted with danger, and minor errors will undermine your chances. Nonetheless, you mustn’t let this dishearten you! No matter how many times you get knocked down, you must brush yourself off and start again. This is the premise of Royal Frontier, an old-school title that’ll drive you nuts.
Developed by Woblyware and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a rogue-like turn-based and real-time adventure title. Set in a fantasy world full of traps, quick time events, and monsters, you’ll have your work cut out for you. Like others in the genre, it’s hard work, requires an awful lot of grind, but it’s fantastically addictive.
Royal Frontier relies on luck.
The story behind Royal Frontier is as old as the hills. Subsequently, the plot is familiar and doesn’t offer any surprises. However, don’t let that discourage you from giving it a go, as it’s reasonably challenging. You control a band of 3 heroes who undertake a dangerous expedition. They must survive 45 days while battling creatures, uncovering mysteries, and defeating bosses. If they are successful, they’ll make it to New Haven, where their lives will be transformed.
So, nothing too complicated about the plot, or the core concept. Nevertheless, the developers are evil as they make it tough to progress. Consequently, you’ll be frustrated by the gameplay grind and the repetitive nature of the beast. Unlike its peers, Royal Frontier relies more on luck than it does on skill. Sadly, this weakens the tactical elements and makes the action feel unbalanced.
Your 3 heroes must battle their way past endless amounts of monsters. During these encounters, you must decide whether to attack, use items, or special abilities. This is all very standard fare and didn’t shock me. However, there was a glaring oversight as you couldn’t dodge your foes’ advances. Subsequently, no matter what you did, you would always take damage! This was bloody infuriating as you simply waited for harder monsters to wipe you out. Therefore, it was a massive mistake from Woblyware, as it made the gameplay almost unbearable.
Turn-based and real-time combat.
Where the developers have tried to alleviate this problem is the use of real-time combat. Here, you must press buttons when the character flashes in order to strike an opponent or defend an attack. This element ensured there was some finesse and tactical moments. However, it wasn’t enough. Yes, there was some variation to the button pressing, but it fell way short. Sadly, the key moments in the combat were seriously lacking.
This, unfortunately, continues in the turn-based elements. There is no indication of which hero will go first, so you have to play it by ear. Consequently, this adds to the frustration, as you won’t know who to attack or whether to heal your characters. The only thing you do know is that your team goes first and the enemy second. Other than this, the rest is anyone’s guess.
QTEs, blessings, and heroes.
I’ve examined every way that Royal Frontier lacks a tactical approach. So, let’s look at its positives. These lie in the QTEs, the blessings, and the heroes. These mechanics are the saving grace in a title that would otherwise be bitterly disappointing.
The QTEs randomly spawn on the map and offer you game-changing choices. You’ll visit shrines, steal from bandits, enter caverns and more. Whatever you choose is up to you, but you must live with the consequences. Yes, you may get rich, but you could lose everything. Alternatively, you could increase your health or your strength. Whatever happens, it’s bound to add spice and an element of uncertainty.
The blessings add permanent upgrades for that playthrough. Whether you increase health, strength, XP, add scrolls or more, they give you a tactical advantage. These magical embellishments are unlocked as you progress and are key to a unique experience. I loved this element of the gameplay and wish the rest of the action was as good.
In total, there are 6 heroes to pick from. However, you open with just 3 and the rest must be unlocked. As you defeat each boss, you’ll earn new characters and this should be exciting. Sadly, though, they add little to the gameplay and this was disappointing. Yes, they look different, have a unique set of stats, and have special abilities, but they don’t alter the gameplay. Hence, it matters not who you pick, as the action doesn’t vary.
Royal Frontier has a simple style.
Much of Royal Frontier lacks sophistication, so it is fitting that the artistic style is clean and simple. Each playthrough takes place on 3 maps made up of 15 nodes. On top of this, there are 3 paths that contain monsters, treasure, shops, and more. Each of these routes is limited and you must select whichever you fancy. This basic world map has a board game appearance and is easy to follow. The combat elements, on the other hand, have a more detailed 2D approach. I loved the old-school sprites, the vivid colours, and the variety of enemies.
The audio embodies a dated style with its shrill and upbeat tunes. The aggressive music emphasises the drama of each battle without being OTT or annoying. This is also true of the basic sound effects. Sadly, though, they are not unique, yet they offer enough quality to be of interest.
It’s easy to play.
I unfairly expected this to be complicated and tough to play. Luckily I was wrong! Instead of a challenging mess, you get a simple to understand title that’s easy to play. On top of this, the buttons are responsive and the controller layout is well-considered. In short, it’s a basic game that can be mastered in moments.
In theory, Royal Frontier should keep you playing for hours. However, in reality, it won’t. Sadly, much of the gameplay is mundane and repetitive. This doesn’t change when new heroes are introduced or blessings are unlocked. Unfortunately, its simple approach undermines its replay value and longevity.
Royal Frontier should have been great.
Royal Frontier left me wanting! It was irritating as I could see the potential and it had the ingredients to be terrific. Sadly, however, it never got going, and this was disappointing. Instead of playing an addictive and demanding title, you get something that is mediocre. I loved its aesthetics and simple story, but everything else is understated and lacklustre. Subsequently, I don’t recommend you to buy it. Can you traverse the dangerous terrain to find a new home? Pick your heroes and your route and hope luck is on your side.