Have you played this game?You can rate this game, record that you've played it, or put it on your wish list after you log in.
Playlists and Wishlists
RSS FeedsNew member reviews
Updates to external links
All updates to this page
About the Story
A tale of High Adventure
In the old free days, all you needed was a sharp sword and a straight path to your enemies. Overthrowing the old dynasty was easy enough, but you quickly learned that as a King, no path was straight, and your sword was useless. Now, an old enemy has sent you this abomination through a magical portal, and you face death. You feel alive once more.
You hear your blood sing in your ears, and you crave vengeance. Vengeance upon the dark sorcerer who sent this creature that killed your priestess, Lydia, into the very heart of your kingdom. It is time to take the fight to him. You are the Barbarian. You are the King. You are...
ONE KING TO LOOT THEM ALL.
Includes a story mode and hints!
This game uses custom commands. Consult the Player Primer in the External Links section.
Content warning: Fantasy Violence
18th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
Winner, Outstanding Use of Interactivity in 2023 - The 2023 IFDB Awards
Number of Reviews: 7
Write a review
High-octane action doesn't lend itself well to adventure game engines designed for exploration and puzzles. Indeed, it's almost impossible to imagine parser games without some exploration and puzzling.
But this game presents an alternative and perhaps more exciting approach to interactivity. Originally made for the Single Choice Jam, its spartan design allows no room for superfluous commands for players to get stuck on. You are a barbarian who's taken over the kingdom, not some lowly adventurer. You have no need for the standard Inform 7 verbs: you don't open chests, you > loot them. You > smite any instances of downtime, > regard the rich textual descriptions, and > march toward the antagonist for one final showdown. And if you simply want to indulge in the spectacle, you can switch on and off the story mode at any point in the game.
You are the One King to Loot Them All.
Your interest in this game begins and ends in how interested you are in the spectacle of sword-and-sorcery stories. The game abandons any pretense of more conventional interactive fiction sensibilities; it instead revels in the genre as a pastiche. Love it or hate it, all the cliches are there. It will not attempt to subvert the genre or go beyond. The game simply asks for your commitment to roleplaying as this barbarian king.
This straightforward approach to storytelling may be too old-fashioned for many people, but adapting it to a parser work makes the story refreshing to me. Like Plundered Hearts, the game seems uninterested in IF works before it -- the implementer was unaware of Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom weeks after they started developing the game and the only influence it had was on the help system -- but it's definitely infatuated with the sword-and-sorcery genre and is more than happy to learn from it. The stories of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian and C.L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry are all about escalating tension. They're always in danger, but once they've killed their enemies, more will appear -- and there will be more bloodshed. Only when they've slain everyone will they finally put down their swords and axes. I can't imagine how much effort it would take to adapt these conventions to the Inform 7 engine, but it's definitely worth the effort. Scenes feel seamless as you encounter one obstacle after another. Your actions are always purposeful and move the story forward. And the descriptions feel authentic to anyone who's read their fair share of sword-and-sorcery works. Playing it brought back fond memories of immersing myself in the world of pulp fiction.
But it's more than that: when I type in the words and read the player character swooping the corpses away, I feel like I'm actually interacting with the story. I'm brought into the power fantasy not just as a macho hunk, but as someone who can meaningfully change the state of the game world. To borrow from Jimmy Maher's appraisal of Plundered Hearts, it's close to the "Infocom ideal of interactive fiction" because there's a "narrative urgency" that pushes players and events to move forward. It's interactive and fiction the way I thought of those terms: there's a lot of action going on and we, the players, have to interact with it.
One King to Loot Them All is therefore not just an orthodox version of sword-and-sorcery fiction. It may open up new avenues for interactive fiction as a medium, perhaps taking a cue from a recent review of Plundered Hearts that brought up the notion of "story-forward games" from another review. We can > seize these opportunities if we dare to break this paradigm and try something different. They don't have to be a minority. The promise of interactive fiction is still great, and I look forward to seeing more works with action-heavy plots like this terrific game.
(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).
Without context, One King to Loot Them All would be a weird game. Not so much in its premise – it’s a limited-parser sword and sorcery pastiche set in a funhouse-dungeon that wouldn’t be out of place in an early-80s D&D module, with dracoliches, logic puzzles, and pit traps set cheek-by-jowl without excessive regard for rhyme or reason – but weird in its gameplay, especially the way it provides information and responds to player commands. For one thing, location descriptions are typically quite long and detailed and print out the player’s inventory at the bottom, while examining most objects just unedifyingly reprints the details already included in the location description. For another, it’s extremely solicitous of the player – maybe even sometimes veering to the pushy – in how it prompts you towards the next action. More so than most parser IF, the experience is of being on a ride (uncharitably, one might say a railroad) where doing the one right action gets you a mini-cutscene and moves you on to the next sequence, and anything else is quite unrewarding.
There’s nothing wrong with linear IF in my view, but this is an approach at odds with the traditional strengths of the parser game, where tootling around a map and examining every detail that catches your fancy is typically a big part of the draw. So coming to the game without any context, the player might be scratching their head about why the author took this particular tack. Fortunately, the ABOUT text reveals the secret origin of One King to Loot Them All, which explains quite a lot: the game was originally intended for this year’s Single Choice Jam, where games had to have only one moment where the player could do more than one thing, but missed the deadline.
Viewed in that light, many of its odder features make sense: the descriptions works the way they do, for example, because originally, looking or examining random scenery or even checking inventory would have been disallowed, so all that information needed to be conveyed automatically when entering a new area. Similarly, the limited-parser approach would cut down on the frustration of most commands not doing anything, and since the player could similarly easily get fed up without being able to uncover clues by investigating a scene, these likewise need to be extremely obvious.
One King to Loot Them All, in the form we’ve gotten it, has lifted the most extreme constraints of the jam – commands other than the intended ones are allowed and sometimes marginally useful – but the gimmick is still imprinted deep in the game’s DNA. It has some fun with the concept, too, with a consistent meta joke being the way the protagonist (an off-brand Conan the Barbarian) never met a complex problem he couldn’t solve with immediate violence – when all you’ve got is a hammer… (I kid, but really, the solution to the hoary old “one guard always lies, the other always tells the truth” problem made me snicker).
On the down side, I found the game sort of… lulled me? I’ve played easy games before, of course, but even in an easy parser game there’s typically at least some decision-making incumbent on the player, and again, there’s always the temptation of noodling around (I am an inveterate noodler). Knowing that actually, I should just do the thing I was supposed to do and then move on to the next thing meant that I was acting in as direct a fashion as the protagonist, but also made me feel like my job was just to figure out what the author wanted me to do and then do it – this got me into a flow state of a sort, but it was a sort of inattentive flow state, if that makes sense (it doesn’t).
Of course, you typically don’t just say something “lulled me”, you say it “lulled me into a false sense of security.” And that’s my excuse for why when One King to Loot Them All got to the point where I could make my one choice, I was incredibly slow on the uptake. I’m spoiler-blocking this bit, since it’s the cleverest part of the game:
(Spoiler - click to show)so knowing that there was only one point in the game where more than one action would be productive, I naively assumed it would either come at the beginning or at the end. When the opening half hour was completely linear, I relaxed and, as mentioned in the paragraph above, just played on autopilot, figuring I could turn my brain off until I got to the final scene of the straightforward kill-Foozle story. Even when I went through an odd timey-wimey bit, I still contented myself with doing the most obvious thing at every juncture – and was surprised when it turned out that wasn’t working.
It took me astonishingly long to realize the game’s twist – the choice isn’t so much a choice as a puzzle, and it’s embedded in the middle of the game, not the end. It’s an impressive bit of misdirection that left me clapping my hands, but it also left me a bit frustrated. There’s a fair bit of drudgery involved in experimenting, since I wound up replaying the whole game to that point to confirm that what I’d tried didn’t work, and the logic of the puzzle still doesn’t fully make sense to me: you meet a mysterious sage who blesses your axe, then tells you you need to rewind time to change something that happened before the game starts. So after a bunch of UNDOs you can actually slingshot your way beyond the opening scene and try to change history – but crucially, the axe remains blessed even though you’ve turned back the clock to hours before you met the sage. It’s fair enough, I suppose, since who knows how a diegetic UNDO should work, but in my fugue state, I wasn’t quick enough to figure out the trick, and I didn’t notice any clues (like a telltale new sparkle about the axe, say) that would have helped me out, and I had to use the walkthrough.
To briefly summarize all that blurry text: there’s a really cool twist, but I was too dull to appreciate it, which is mostly my fault though I think some elements of the design could have mitigated the risk of the player being a big old dum-dum like me. I also think the game could have cut itself freer of its single-choice origins while retaining its impact. In particular, making the descriptions more conventional would have made the gameplay a bit more engaging by rewarding player investigation, and kept certain sequences, like the multi-part puzzle to get across the river, from feeling overly constrained.
While I’m picking nits, I also felt like the writing could have been a little zestier. It’s technically solid and hits the genre tropes in a satisfying fashion, but I like my sword-and-sorcery prose to be more over the top, with extravagant superlatives and overly-baroque locutions, as in Ribald Bat Lady Plunder Quest; One King to Loot Them All is more workmanlike. Similarly, sometimes the barbarian-y synonyms chosen for the limited-parser actions were strained; OPEN being remapped to LOOT made good sense when I was pillaging a chest, but less so when I had to LOOT a wineskin already in my possession to drink it. But these really are nits, and my complaint above might just reflect that I was a bit tired when I played the game and not sufficiently with it to appreciate its uniqueness and smarts.
Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review
I do my level best not to compare works against each other. I have a nominally objective rubric I attempt to apply so comparisons should not be necessary. Like all such rubrics, subjectivity is merely hidden behind layers of objective indirection. This is brought home to me when works with superficial similarities somehow come out of my cold, mechanical rating machine with different scores.
We all got our own genre preferences. You don’t have to dig deep to uncover mine. Relative to OKLTA understand I’m a High Fantasy tourist. I don’t dislike it, but there’s no spike of endorphins when such a work is on the horizon. This is a Conan riff, kind of a family-friendly version played pretty straight. It didn’t strive too hard to inject humor, plot twists or high concept into the mix, fairly middle of the road there. For me, this is typically a recipe for Mechanical gameplay. Other such works have topped out there.
Where OKLTA did tweak the formula was in basic verb utilization. Instead of >EXAMINE, you are asked to >REGARD. Instead of >GIVE, >PRESENT. Instead of >OPEN X, TAKE Y, >LOOT X and so on. Thankfully most (but not all!) common synonyms still work, but flavorful commands are available. Look, I’m not going to pretend this is a massive innovation - parsers truck in verb-play ALL THE TIME. Here though, the noun and verb space is pretty constrained. Simple things are not implemented. If you only have a limited verb space, why NOT use flavorful ones instead of bland defaults? Despite myself, I found myself chortling at every opportunity to SMITE things.
Oh, it was Notably Intrusive, don’t get me wrong. When the only way to get liquid out of a container is to >LOOT CONTAINER, you’ve kind of gone awry. It can and does sometimes devolve into a ‘guess which new verb will map to a desired, unimplemented verb’ exercise. No clues whether it is the wrong idea or the wrong phrasing. What it was, was playful with the form. It’s like if a crafty but uneducated barbarian wanted to write IF, this is what we’d get. “OF COURSE CONAN LOOT, what else it be fancy man?” That resonance with the story kind of appealed to me!
There was another nifty instance of experimenting with form that again was Notably Intrusive, but kind of playful. At one point, you are asked to rewind time. There is no in-story mechanism to do this, just none at all. The solution requires use of PLAYER powers unavailable to the CHARACTER. Just so, so wrong as a coherent narrative. But as a coy tweak of the form… kind of fun?
While the narrative was unlikely to win me over on its inherent charms, and the puzzles straightforward enough not to bring out my inner thinker, there was just enough of just the RIGHT kind of gameplay tweaking to bring some joy to the proceedings. I also did guffaw at an endgame gag, sucker punching the Magic Child of Destiny trope, which honestly could use a little roughing up.
>QUEST FOR GLORY
>PLUNDER SPARKS OF JOY
>ENDURE NOTABLE INTRUSION
Playtime: 1.5hrs, finished
Artistic/Technical ratings: Sparks of Joy, Notable command fussiness
Would Play After Comp?: No, experience seems complete
Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless
Best fantasy games by MathBrush
These are my favorite games that include some sort of magical or fantastical element. Games with mostly horror or sci-fi elements are on other lists, as are surreal games, fairy tale/nursery games, and religious/mythological games. I've...
Favourite games published in 2023 by manonamora
Like the title indicates, below are games published in 2023 which I really enjoyed playing. There is no real order in this list. And I probably forgot some knowing me... (will update this at some point because I missed some big titles)
Most unusual games by MathBrush
These are games that are very different than most games on IFDB. Some games that are exceptional in execution (like Counterfeit Monkey) are derived from concepts that are similar to other games (like Andrew Schultz's or Ad Verbum). This...
Outstanding Fantasy Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best fantasy game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Suggested...
Outstanding Debut 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2023 by a new author. Voting is open to all IFDB members....
Outstanding RPG of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best RPG of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Suggested games...