King of Thieves: How Greed Spoils a Fun Game
A single player thieving auto-runner combined with massively multiplayer raiding mechanics akin to those found in Clash of Clans (if this concept sounds familiar, Ubisoft tried something similar with The Mighty Quest for Epic loot) sounds like an intriguing concept. Let’s take a look at King of Thieves by ZeptoLab.
Design Your Own Lair
Let’s start with one of the best ideas that King of Thieves has. As you work your way through the single player missions, you earn money. That money goes toward crafting gems and defending your dungeon so that other players can’t steal those gems. This immediately jumped out to me as a mechanic that I want to dive into, and it is ultimately satisfying to see people foiled by your clever design, all the while attempting to sneak around the designs of other players.
ZeptoLab have also implemented a clever method for ensuring that people can’t just buy the best defences with real money and make an impossible fortress that no one can beat – you have to be able to beat your own dungeon. If you can’t, the design won’t be accepted. It’s an implementation that allows player creativity to shine through despite better traps being available for real money.
Free Running Thievery
Each level is about making it to the objective without falling prey to the various traps that are protecting it. Your thief can only run forward and jump but there’s no stop button, so once he starts he won’t stop. He can however slide along surfaces and turn around by bouncing off walls, and this introduces a level of strategy to each level that the game would feel simplistic without.
Each level is pretty small and quick, but that’s perfect for mobile devices where play sessions tend to be much shorter than other devices. They’re certainly not easy, and you’ll be repeating the harder ones plenty of times before you get it right – but the quality of the game’s production will stop you from feeling like it’s anything but your fault, and you’ll be happy to take a number of cracks at the same challenge.
Release Date: 16/12/2015
Available on: baseSystems
The competitive nature of the raiding system really makes King of Thieves stand out in a way that most mobile games don’t. This isn’t a game where you send army of disposable units to attack other players and fight over large patches of land that constantly change hands. Instead, it feels much more personal. You’re attempting to break into someone’s lovingly created dungeon and steal gems that carry a sizable in game and real time value. For that reason, people who aren’t into competitive player versus player games or baulk at the idea of spending ages gathering valuable items that can be stolen at any time might want to stay away.
There are some quirks that leave the system less from perfect, though. For starters, you can’t raid players that are online. Nor can you raid players that are currently under attack from another player. That sounds reasonable, but what it means is if someone steals your stuff just before you came online, you don’t get first shot at retrieving your item. There’s also an annoying shield mechanic that prevents you from raiding other players – although you’re not actually warned of the shield before you attempt to raid them.
Here’s the Bad News
As good as the raiding is, it’s let down by one thing. The lock pick mechanic. Once you’ve beaten someone’s ingenious design, you’re given a shot to steal their gem through a lock pick lottery. Pick the wrong one and you leave empty-handed. You have a limited supply of lock picks and the random nature of the lotteries that you spend them in don’t feel so random.
Here’s an example. I started a session with around five lock picks. The first dungeon I raided, I ended up spending all of them before getting the correct lock on my last try. Great. So now the badly disguised energy system means that I can’t really play until I get my hands on some more lock picks.
The next time I picked up the game, I had just the one. Surprise surprise, as I hadn’t played for a while, the next time I had to face the lottery I got it right first try. Coincidence? Or a gamed ‘random’ system that’s meant to frustrate and coax people into spending real money? I don’t have enough confidence in the games industry to rule out the latter, and that’s sad.
What this also means is that the nature of the energy system is at direct conflict with the very nature of the game. King of Thieves is a super hard platformer. One that you’re meant to get frustrated with and spend time playing the same levels again and again in order to progress. Yet it has an energy system that directly blocks this from happening. This is an implementation that makes no sense to me.
King of Thieves is a great little game that’s unfortunately somewhat spoiled by the energy system and the way it pushes you toward spending real money by blocking your progress when it thinks you’re hooked. Go into it knowing that, and you’ll have fun with it.
King of Thieves is developed by Zeptolab.