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One King to Loot them All.zip
Contains One King to Loot them All/OneKing.20231027.ulx
Parser version (Inform 7), for the 2023 IF Competition.
Requires a Glulx interpreter. Visit IFWiki for download links. (Compressed with ZIP. Free Unzip tools are available for most systems at www.info-zip.org.)
Player Primer
For the Inform version.
To view this file, you need an Acrobat Reader for your system.
Spring Thing 2024 page
Choice-based (Twine) remake.
Play this game in your Web browser.
Walkthrough and map
by David Welbourn, for the Inform version.

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One King to Loot them All

by Onno Brouwer profile

Fantasy
2023

(based on 15 ratings)
7 reviews

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!

The parser version of this game uses custom commands. Consult the Player Primer in the External Links section.

Content warning: Fantasy Violence


Game Details


Awards

18th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

Entrant, New Game Plus - Spring Thing 2024

Winner, Outstanding Use of Interactivity in 2023 - The 2023 IFDB Awards

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Member Reviews

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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Weapon of choice, May 16, 2024
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023, Spring Thing 2024

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp COMBINED WITH a review of the Twine version entered into Spring Thing 2024 -- scroll pas the original review for that).

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.

------Twine version review starts here ----

This is a remake in Twine of an Inform game entered into last year’s Comp; it was originally intended for the One Choice Jam, whose requirements called for games that only had one moment where the player had any options. One King, in its original incarnation, had a clever interpretation of the theme, and its essential linearity was disguised by its nature as a parser game – having a whole bunch of potential options, only one of which is productive at any particular point in time, can be de rigueur for such things, after all. The plot, characters, puzzles, and text all seemed unchanged to me, so on all those points I’ll just refer back to my review of the original game; the short version is that this is an entertaining Conan pastiche with straightforward but satisfying challenges and solid prose. So how has it been changed by its new choice-based interface?

Some things that I found frustrating in the game’s first iteration have definitely been streamlined; the sometimes-cryptic limited-parser verbs are no longer a barrier, for one thing, since you just need to click on stuff to interact with it. The use of an inventory sidebar also helps make one of the harder puzzles fairer by making obvious an option that previously required a bit of a leap of intuition. While navigation links aren’t highlighted, leading to some potential confusion – the opening scene has two separate “broad dark stain” links, one of which provides additional detail text, the other of which advances the plot – the game’s linear nature (and the always-available undo button) means this is no big deal.

There are some places where the interface does get a little awkward – trying to open a chest can require clicking two or three times, which is a few too many in the abstract and also creates challenges if the player’s also trying to use an inventory item to break it open and isn’t sure when they’re supposed to do that. And while it’s nice that there’s a new achievements feature, it’d be nice if the game told you when you’d unlocked one, or told you the names of ones you haven’t found yet, since as is I just looked at them at the end of the game, went “huh”, and closed it down.

All of which is to say that this is a clean and faithful translation of the parser game: that trick with the one meaningful choice is still really smart, the puzzles and story seem to work just as well as they did in the original, and that one puzzle at the end about heading off a “circling” enemy still makes my head hurt. If you’ve played the game already, there’s probably not much need to revisit it unless you’re interested in doing comparative analysis on the different interface schemes (which is totally legit, I actually enjoyed doing that!) But if you’ve hesitated to take the plunge, this is version hits all the same high points and is more accessible to the parser-averse to boot.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
IFComp 2023: One King to Loot Them All, October 7, 2023
by Kastel
Related reviews: ifcomp2023

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.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Unique game with single correct choices and clever mechanics, May 26, 2024
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 1 hour

Review for Twine version:

In this updated review, I'll mainly focus on the differences between the two versions, while a summary of the content can be found in my original review below.

Transitioning to Twine altered the feel mechanics of the game in an interesting way. The original setup was more or less 'one correct action at a time', leading to the next possible action. Due to the nature of parser games, the main interaction with the game was trying to guess the correct command to proceed.

By limiting the set of possible commands through Twine links, this revision on one hand eases the pain of 'guess the verb', but on the other hand limits the feel of exploration. I think it's a net positive, though, as the interface with its inventory and 'nested' sub-links still allows for a feeling of achievement.

My expectations for parser games and twine games are different, so seeing this game in Twine gave me a new viewpoint on the storyline. It's not unusual for parser games to flimsy plots and bizarre settings, as many classic games like Adventure and Zork focused more on interesting set-pieces rather than cohesive storytelling. But Twine has a history of attracting expert storytellers, so the bar is set higher.

There's a lot that doesn't make sense in this game. Why is there an entire chest, locked, containing (Spoiler - click to show)a single gold ring? Why is there (Spoiler - click to show)an altar that requires sacrifice, but that sacrifice isn't killed, just trapped inside? Later on, most of these concerns are addressed, because it sets up (Spoiler - click to show)the second playthrough(Spoiler - click to show) as a resolution for many of these questions, but it's a bit bewildering on the first go through. On the other hand, the game is influenced by the Conan series of books, movies, comics, etc. and there is perhaps no better way to show tribute to the original writing style than to have a flamboyant, bigger-than-life story that doesn't quite make sense but allows Conan to hit a lot of things really hard.

Overall, I felt like this was a satisfying play. It has different strengths and weaknesses than the original, and I think I ended up liking both version about the same. I did laugh at the jokes the second time and enjoyed the details in the writing, and I feel like overall the 'Conan-style' writing is my favorite feature of the game.

Original review:

This game is one whose development I have followed for some time.

This is a parser game set in a Conan The Barbarian-like world, with a muscular barbarian king who travels about fighting monsters and wizards and generally destroying things.

There is a cast of memorable NPCs and the writing has a strong voice, with complete customization of almost all messages and a rich setting.

This was originally developed in conjunction with the single choice jam; this game, instead of having exactly one action in the whole game, like most other entries, has exactly one correct action in each location (or, more appropriately, only one allowed action in each point in the game, since some rooms require consecutive correct actions).

There is also a limit on available verbs (customized to have clever names), so that means that at any point, to progress, you need to figure out which of the available verbs to use. Theoretically, this means that you could progress at any point just by trying all of the verbs on all of the nouns. The author works around this by frequently requiring unusual or surprising combinations.

Overall, it took me around 1.5 hours, and I found it clever and richly descriptive.

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One King to Loot them All on IFDB

Recommended Lists

One King to Loot them All appears in the following Recommended Lists:

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Polls

The following polls include votes for One King to Loot them All:

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 Use of Interactivity in 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 an outstanding game of 2023 that felt truly interactive. Voting is open to...

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...

See all polls with votes for this game




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