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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)
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Number of Reviews: 3
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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 Originally made for the Single Choice Jam, its spartan design allows no room for superfluous commands for players to get stuck on.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 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.
I was looking forward to this one, and it did not disappoint! I knew it included (Spoiler - click to show)a clever use of the “undo” command, so I thought that aspect wouldn’t be a surprise when it arrived—but it actually still was, and it was delightful. (Spoiler - click to show)I love time shenanigans in games, so I found it very fun to rewind to the beginning and play out a different version of events.
Given the Single-Choice-Jam origins, the game is rather on rails, guiding you the whole time to the single correct command for that turn (as such, it isn’t possible to die or otherwise hit a game-over). You won’t get much out of examining things (typically the description from the main text is just repeated) or trying to explore; rather, it presents a kind of “guess the verb” puzzle of figuring out which of the custom commands is needed at which time. I found this aspect fun, and one of the game’s charms; while it took me a bit to hit on the idea of (Spoiler - click to show)looting the wine bottle in order to drink the wine, it was very satisfying when I did make that connection. I also liked having to (Spoiler - click to show)smite corpses, plural, in order to win that battle; the game really does reward thinking like a barbarian! So I think adjusting your expectations is key to enjoying this game—don’t look for typical parser conventions, but instead appreciate the clever new things this game does with the format.
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