King’s Field Additional II: A dungeon and a dragon, a decade on

This final entry in From Software’s King’s Field series is set roughly ten years after the events of the first PSP game, and takes place in the exact same and thoroughly cursed location it did before. In spite of your noble efforts in King’s Field Additional I the entire area is wracked by mysterious earthquakes, various groups are investigating the crumbling remains of the labyrinth, and the twisting tunnels below still hide plenty of secrets…

Bringing your old (cleared) Additional I save into this new adventure is very simple: just select the “Data Convert” option on the title screen and you’re good to go. No experience levels, gold, or equipment carry over because you’re playing as a new (yet equally nameless and faceless) soul, this clean break sparing you the worry that any early friction—an item you can’t afford, a monster you can’t beat—is the result of something you did or didn’t do an entire game ago. According to a combination of the archived remnants of the official website and this excellent fan site that was definitely correct about everything I did have the time to compare against my own experiences, the decision to either convert old save data or start afresh has a significant impact on the dungeon diving experience that follows. Various NPCs are swapped in (and out), and those shared across both instances may have very different fates. The true ending requires a converted save, the Moonlight Sword is apparently nowhere to be found without one, and the weapon shop features a slightly expanded basic range of items for dragon slaying veterans (if you’re worried about this point: there’s nothing you can buy that’s as good as anything you can find).

Just to be clear: everything written below is based on a converted Additional I save playthrough.

However you come to Additional II one of the first things you’ll notice is how very similar it is to the first game—it’s almost enough to make you wonder if you’ve picked up the wrong UMD. You’ll stay in the same town you did before, and visit the same shops and facilities for the same reasons you did last time. Many of the dungeon walls and traps are if not lifted wholesale then at most lightly embellished iterations of their debut appearances, and the majority of the monsters fought within this dark place look the same as always and are fought using the same old battle system.

Thankfully this repetition is not the sorry result of some half-hearted development cycle, but a conscious choice: Additional II appears to have hit Japanese store shelves roughly a single month after the first game (the first game even mentions the ability to transfer save data to the second on its back cover), the two always intended to be separate halves of a single whole.

As Additional II has been created as a seamless extension to the first game, many of the original’s unexpected kindnesses make a welcome return. Several floors can be skipped entirely once they’ve been passed through or cleared out, and it’s possible to “short circuit” those you can’t thanks to some very carefully placed unlockable doors and path-opening switches; a maze of tricks and traps transformed into a quick and uneventful walk from one staircase to the next. Thanks to these two very much appreciated features it honestly takes just a few casual minutes to go from the outskirts of town to the last boss’ lair once you’ve unpicked a floor, this convenience enabling you to poke around out of the way parts of the ruins purely for the pleasure of it. The infinite-use magical staff that allows you to warp back to town soon takes up its usual spot in the key item part of your inventory, as it can be easily bought for a small amount of gold early on. Maps of the deeper levels may be incomplete, but the bits they do show are always the places you need to go, and the game’s NPCs (there are an awful lot of people hanging around the dungeon) are happy to drop a range of subtle as well as straightforward hints on what to do or where to go next. It’s also a very well balanced game with a smooth difficulty curve—unless you choose to make an unprepared beeline for the deeper areas or hastily pursue what is obviously optional content (chasing the treasure chest placed behind a unique and powerful enemy, for example), you’ll always be more or less strong enough for where you’re supposed to be without any particular effort on your part, so long as you’re careful (and in true King’s Field style, perhaps a little lucky too). As From Software games go, this one feels positively gentle.

There are still a few surprises waiting in the wings though, the game occasionally confusing you with old passageways blocked off by rubble that can never be cleared, new corridors leading to entirely new floors that simply didn’t exist in the old game, and new puzzles waiting in the dark.

One early challenge involves managing an energy door “budget”, making you scrabble around the labyrinth for extra magically powered tiles and thoughtfully shut off any unused gates to make progress. Others ask you to disable traps by destroying supporting pillars on an easily reached sublevel, or to play a game of spot the difference on a magically sealed door, a portion of your health going up in flames with every mistake. There’s a distinct lack of keys to find (in fact I’m sure there’s only one all game—and it’s nothing more than an optional extra) and other very obvious roadblocks in here, the game generally preferring to test your wits or your strength instead.

It may be mechanically very good in the moment but the trouble is Additional II doesn’t do enough to escape the nagging feeling it’s a game devoted to answering a question nobody asked. Additional I felt complete—well, about as complete as a King’s Field story ever does—so trying to meaningfully build upon that isolated base while still retaining the series’ trademark haze leaves the thrust of this sequel feeling a bit hollow, especially as just about everyone you met previously is either dead or simply absent, and anyone who isn’t won’t recognise the new character standing before them anyway.

And because the foundations of this new adventure are a carbon copy of those found in the game that came before it Additional II doesn’t (and to be fair, couldn’t) even try to fix any of Additional I’s fundamental issues either: magic, as interesting as it could be, is still largely pointless outside of the Earth Heal spell because the laborious process of accessing anything you’ve not tied to your quick cast slot is tantamount to giving the enemy a free hit or two, and more often than not a free hit or two is all it takes to send you back to the title screen. You’re still better off running away from random encounters against aerial or ceiling-mounted enemies because you can’t quickly whip out a ranged weapon mid-battle or reach them with a sword.

Regardless of the circumstances, paying twice only to encounter the exact same issues, especially in a game where an intimidating screen-filling enemy of huge importance so closely resembled their appearance in the previous game I honestly had to go and check just to be sure they’d updated the sprite at all, just doesn’t feel good.

Still, for all these issues the passage of time has proved there’s not much that’s quite like From Software’s Additional duology out there, so having another game in that style—disappointing warts and all—is on balance much better than just the one. The game’s packed with optional plot threads ranging from smaller quests to big events and different endings, and there are at least two entire floors in there I’m sure I’ve never touched. There’s lots to uncover, lots of reasons to go back for one more run.

So it’s such a shame this trek into the depths looks for all the world like another story’s underbaked epilogue rather than the grand conclusion to a larger tale. All the really good and surprising stuff happened before Additional II had even turned up—and you know that for a fact, because you were there.

Further reading:

[I wouldn’t have been able to cover this game without the help I receive through Ko-fi!]