The Rise of King's Field Series

King’s Field is the precursor of the Souls games.

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In the first three years of FromSoftware as a game developer, it only focused on a single franchise, the King’s Field series.

The first three games defined what FromSoftware is, a creator of challenging fantasy games with slow and arduous combat and obscure game mechanics.

In retrospect, these are the characteristics that will define and make the Souls games beloved by fans worldwide, but during the first three years, the majority of the critics and fans disliked them.

The birth and growth of the Souls games didn’t come from a vacuum. They started somewhere. And this entry will conclusively prove that FromSoftware has the foundation that enabled the creation of Miyazaki’s dark fantasy games.

Discover how the King’s Field series was created and the development story behind the first games of FromSoftware.

In total, FromSoftware created four major King’s Field games. The first three games were developed consecutively. Since the third game was unsuccessful, it took FromSoftware four years to release the final and last King’s Field.

Games in the Series

  • King’s Field - released in Japan only, Dec 16, 1994
    • Developed for Playstation 1
    • Miyazaki is 20 years old and is at the University
  • King’s Field 2 - released on Jul 21, 1995
    • Also released in the USA
  • King’s Field 3 - released on Jun 21, 1996
    • Disliked by western critics
  • King’s Field IV - released on Oct 4, 2001
    • Developed for Playstation 2
    • Miyazaki is 27 years old and works for Oracle

The King’s Field Games

The First King’s Field

The first King’s Field was released exclusively for Japan on Dec 16, 1994. It’s a typical fantasy game where the hero kills monsters while going through various levels of dungeons. However, as early as the first entry, the root of the Souls games is already present - the stamina bar.

Attacking through weapons or spells consumes stamina, which gets depleted with each action and has to refill afterward. This is the foundation of combat for all souls games, except for Sekiro.

The Second King’s Field

The second King’s Field builds upon the foundation of the first game. Similar to future Souls games, it allows free roaming; you can go anywhere you want. The flow of exploration is structured, but you are never placed on a rail.

Another characteristic of future Souls games that are already present in this entry is the usage of sound to alert you of game intent. You can hear the sound of monsters from a distance, and it gets louder as you get closer to them.

And similar to future Souls games as well, the story does not encumber the player. It is not a burden that the player must go through but something to be discovered while actually engaged in active play.

The Third King’s Field

By the time the third game is released, the series has already established a following, though not as large as those of the Souls games. Unlike the first two, the third game received much criticism from western reviewers. Most of these criticisms are focused on:

  • Movement - slow and sluggish
  • Combat - clunky and tedious

It will take four years for another King’s Field game to get released.

The Fourth King’s Field

King’s Field: The Ancient City is considered the best game of the series. It’s also the last major game of the franchise.

For the first time, the game introduced the concept of weapon deterioration, where weapons diminish in effectiveness after continuous use but can be repaired by visiting the blacksmith. This game mechanic will become present in all the Souls games except for Sekiro.

The previous observations about movement and combat being slow and tedious are still present. We can say that the game is consistent with itself, and it was never the intent of its developers to change this characteristic, even after reaching the fourth iteration.

However, this could be one of the reasons for the series’ demise, as even the highly acclaimed Souls games evolved through time: movement became more fluid, and combat turned faster, smoother, and more aggressive. And with each change Miyazaki added to the Souls games, the market reach and critical acclaim increased.

Influence of King’s Field on Hidetaka Miyazaki and Yui Tanimura

The King’s Field games have an influence on the two major directors of the Souls games, Hidetaka Miyazaki and Yui Tanimura.

For both directors, King’s Field is the reason why they know From Software. It played a role in the hiring of both directors.

King’s Field and Yui Tanimura

Yui Tanimura, the director of Dark Souls II, shared that King’s Field is the reason why he entered the game industry and why he joined FromSoftware.

Tanimura: The King’s Field series brought me to the game industry. I like playing games and was fascinated by epoch-making games such as Wiz, Quake, and Diablo, and one of the unforgettable titles for me was King’s Field. I thought King’s Field was a western game due to the game universe and state-of-the-art game technology. Then I realized that it was a made-in-Japan game created by a Japanese developer called FromSoftware when I accidentally found a job offer in the job center of my University. To be honest, I did not have a strong wish to be a game creator at the time, considering my long-term career, but I decided to try the interview since King’s Field was my favorite game. As a result of that, I am now creating games in FromSoftware. So I feel it was by chance that I engaged in game development.

King’s Field and Hidetaka Miyazaki

After Miyazaki decided to leave his analyst position at Oracle, he applied to various gaming companies, and one of the positions that granted him an interview was FromSoftware. He felt a familiarity with the company as he is a fan of the series.

Miyazaki: There were only a few companies that would hire a 30-year-old inexperienced planner. I got lucky with FromSoftware, as I was actually a fan of King’s Field. Personally, the first King’s Field was one of the games I truly liked when I was just a gamer myself.

Will King’s Field Return Under Miyazaki?

Now that Miyazaki is the president of FromSoftware, and has a say on what games the company will develop, he is often asked whether there will be future King’s Field games. He is very clear, though, in his stand that there will be no more future King’s Field games, as the series is a legacy of the previous company president and would prefer not to make a new sequel or remaster.

Miyazaki: I believe that King’s Field and Dark Souls are two different games. As a start, yes, the perspective is different, but primarily they are guided by differing core game design concepts. As for the revival of the King’s Field games, it is a very difficult question. This is due to King’s Field being the brainchild of FromSoftware’s former president, and if I or anyone else were to try a revival of the series, we would only risk creating a pale imitation. The first King’s Field game was one of my personal favorites when I was just a gamer myself, and I do believe that there would be fascinating ways to bring it back, but all of these ideas would depend on Jin serving as the game director.