Kingsway transports you to a fun fantasy realm via an arcane operating system

I've been cursed! I know this thanks to an unblinking eye that has appeared as an icon in my taskbar, the same taskbar where I adjust my volume and receive important quest notifications. The curse arrived while I was fighting a skeletal boss, appearing as a small window on my desktop, moving and jittering as I desperately tried to click the AVOID button that would spare me, while also trying to click an attack button on another moving window and glug a potion by clicking on yet a third (thankfully stationary) pane. This how things work in Kingsway, an RPG roguelike from Adult Swim that delivers its fantasy adventure by emulating an Windows 95-ish operating system.

After choosing a character class and a creating an avatar, you step off a boat on the western edge of a mysterious world, and begin exploring, fighting, and looting. It's all done on a virtual desktop, where movement and combat are represented with progress bars and everything from the map to your inventory to your friendly and enemy encounters appear as movable (or moving) windows. It's a clever concept and thanks to years of minimizing windows, using menus, clicking icons, and closing pop-ups, it's immediately easy to grasp.

As you travel between locations, more icons appear on your map: dungeons, towns, spooky cabins, mysterious shrines, and random encounters. It's tempting to try to visit every location you spot, but you can't spend much time dilly-dallying. There's a tentacled cloud moving slowly east, cloaking the world in darkness, and if you tread beneath it you'll be swarmed with deadly, shadowy creatures—it's a bit like FTL's enemy fleet constantly hounding you across the map. At the same time, you can't just make a beeline east—the further you travel, the harder things get, and with a limited amount of space in your inventory you will need to backtrack from time to time to sell or store gear in a city.

Combat begins simply as you travel: low-level monsters such as the zombie-like Unburied, skeletons, giant snakes, sentient fungi, and other creatures randomly appear while you're moving between locations. The enemy's window appears on your screen, slowly drifting, and it displays a progress bar as it attacks. You can fight back by clicking a button, block by clicking another, and as you gain experience and levels you'll add new combat skills, some passive and some, like poisoning the tip of a blade or completing a rush attack, that require an additional click.

Some creatures' windows move faster than others, making it harder to select attacks and skills. One monster, when it hit me, could minimize some of my panes (I always keep my inventory windows and character status open in case I need certain items or to swap gear) making me hurry to get them back up on the screen. Windows representing arrows (fired by a bandit or from a dungeon trap) fly in an arc across the screen, bombs will float up and then down emulating a lobbed explosive, and curses will shake and waver as you attempt to click the button that lets you avoid them.

Fighting multiple enemies is trickier. One dungeon boss I fought kept summoning lesser skeletons (as bosses do), and the skeletons' windows would pop in on top of the boss' window, meaning I either had to kill the skeleton quickly or drag its window out of the way to deal with the main event. It's all the frenzied clicking and multitasking you need to do in standard RPGs, but with windows and panes. It's a really clever way to create an adventure game, and can be legitimately stressful at time as you trying to click and reshuffle all the windows cluttering up your screen.

Quests are randomized, and due to that fact I've only completed a few. In one game I was asked to collect four skulls for a reward, and only ran into a single skeleton. In my next game, I collected almost a dozen skulls, but never got the quest requiring them. It's the familiar, often frustrating dice rolls that can determine whether a session is fun and rewarding or a just bit blah.

Dying in a roguelike can be heartbreaking—all those goodies and progress lost forever—but each life earns you gems you can spend on items to help your next character a bit, or even on hotkeys you can use so you don't need to manually click on everything.

I only wish the writing had a bit more flair: strip away the impressively clever interface and it boils down to some pretty standard fantasy fare, at least from what I've seen so far. I'm not asking for Dungeons of Dredmor levels of hilarity, with its Dire Sandwiches and Traffic Cone helmets, but a bit more pep to quest text and item descriptions would be welcome. Still, Kingsway is good fun to play and pretty addictive, and at only ten bucks on Steam it's well worth the price.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.