Join William Pendragon and other heroes in a bid to restore Brittania to its former glory
When it comes to the subject of King Arthur I can’t help but be intrigued by it. Nor am I the only one. There are plenty of books, movies, and a few video games that attest to how popular the Once and Future King is. In King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, I took part in his rise to power but the sequel does not continue on in a positive manner.
In King Arthur II: The Role-playing Wargame, the golden age of Arthur is no more. Known as the Maimed King due to a magical wound, Arthur and his kingdom suffer together. Monsters roam the torn kingdom, the Knights of the Round Table have disappeared and a new threat looms on the horizon. Now it is up to William Pendragon, son of Arthur, to find a cure for his father and restore the land.
This is the setting in which I found myself.
Boasting turn-based and RTS elements, just like the popular Total War franchise, KA2 isn’t your average strategy game. Alongside standard units of cavalry, spearmen, archers, and infantry there are more legendary units from the Sidhe, Talonfolk, and even the Giants. If that isn’t enough there are also units you can recruit depending on how strong your relationship with the Old Faith and Christianity are. There are also multiple tiers your units can upgrade to as research progresses so that they can become even stronger.
However, it is the RPG portion of the game that makes this title stand out from other strategy games. The rich lore and storytelling is presented to you in a manner akin to a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop setting. The narrator presents you with the situation and you have to decide what your actions will be. Whether settling a dispute, executing a criminal, establishing diplomatic ties, or wiping out a plague-infested village, your decisions will bring you rewards, consequences, or a mixture of both.
KA2’s plot is the highlight of the game with a story that has been able to suck me in. I love the D&D vibe that the game presented me with, which is due in large part to the narrator. The execution of it all reminds me of Castle II: Siege and Conquest, which was a phenomenal game in its day.
With a strong RPG feeling, thanks to the story, KA2 lets you modify your units’ statistics and Hero’s abilities as they level up throughout the game by gaining experience in battle. Main characters, known as Main Hero’s, can also level up through completing quests (albeit infrequently).
You can increase a unit’s hit points, attack damage, and other stats to make them more powerful. Heroes have a range of abilities that can give them devastating attack, healing, or defensive spells along with an assortment of melee abilities. You can also give Artifacts (armor, weapons, staves, and rings obtained via quests and battles; all with various stat enhancers) to your Heroes to make them stronger. If that weren’t enough, you also pick up components that you can then use to create your own Artifacts with the help of a structure.
In essence, your Heroes all have the potential to be a one-man army if you level them up and give them the right equipment.
Yet while the story and units sound great, KA2 wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if the graphics weren’t there to support it all. Lucky for me, I like the look of the game, though I find the color to be muted and a little dark. However, I did come across some glitches here and there. In battle, for instance, there were these strange striations across my screen if I was looking from too high up and in one case some resurrected archers were floating high up in the air.
While these problems didn’t hinder my game in any way, I did find it to be distracting.
As I played through the game there were some things that I found hurt it. Yes, KA2’s plot is great and the RPG elements work pretty well but the game feels like an unfinished product.
While the style of the quests are in the form of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” format, at times it is anything but that. Several times I undertook quests only to make choices that brought me right back to the beginning or repeated a certain part. This makes me wonder what the point was of providing these choices if they weren’t going to lead anywhere. A couple of times, I even managed to come across some quests that didn’t work at all.
KA2 might seem like an open world such as the Civilization or Total War franchises but it is mostly linear. Rather than being able to conquer any territories I took a fancy to, too many of them were locked for future quests that only a particular Main Hero (of which there are three) can undertake. This really conflicted with my need to secure my borders which, in this case, would be conquering the entire southern end of Britannia in order to advance north. Instead, I had many territories on the east and west unconquered and unprotected because there is a limit to how many armies I could have.
This brings me to my next problem with KA2. I could only have a total of three standing armies led by the three Main Heroes for the game. In turn, each army can only have three heroes total; one Main Hero such as William Pendragon, and two other heroes. There came a point where I had several heroes just sitting in my reserve roster doing nothing because my armies were full.
With regards to strategy, the game can be rather difficult with the involvement of magic. You have to make sure that your armies aren’t too close, and even spread out, in order to minimize an attack spell’s effectiveness. In the beginning and even the middle sections of the game using certain spells at the right times will give you a large advantage yet the same advantages apply to your foe as well. Yet it sometimes becomes pointless in the later stages of the game when your heroes get to a certain point in their development.
The economy for KA2 is another issue for me. Unlike many strategy games you don’t mine for resources or collect taxes. In this game you earn money through fighting and defeating other armies or completing the odd quest. At first, I was struggling to replenish my armies and build structures because there weren’t that many enemies to fight. But later on that wasn’t a problem.
Progressing through the game, and defeating army after army in rapid succession, resulted in me having more than enough money. The next problem was that I didn’t have anything to spend it on. Yes, you can pay to research new tech and build structures but, once again, it is all very limited. The amount of structures in the game are limited to buildings that allow you to recruit units and enhance their statistics, forge and purchase artifacts, and teleport around the map.
Further progression through the game made me realize that my heroes were essentially an army unto themselves. It got to the point where I would just march them straight at the enemy forces and leave my regular units behind. My generals could take care of the opposing force all by themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of having units that are so powerful. However, I also enjoy a challenge, which was no longer the case for most of the battles later on.
As an role-playing game RPG, King Arthur II is really good. The story and quests are engrossing thanks to the writing and the narration. However, the game feels unfinished and could use some polishing and patching. The economy and structure building needs to be fleshed out more and become more involving rather than the shallow aspect offered.
The game’s linearity, however, is a big drawback for me. While I can understand Neocore’s reasoning for locking territories in order for the game to progress in a certain way, it also hampers the title. KA2 is a mixture of openness, like Total War, with a linear structure like Starcraft, where you just go from mission to mission with no diverging divergence.
Review copy supplied
Tested on PC