King Arthur the Role Playing War Game is a mouthful to say the least. King Arthur as I’ll now call it, is an epic RPG mixed heavily with hardcore Strategy in a hybrid that fell a bit short. While King Arthur is by no means a failure or a bad game, the combination of different genres and the unbelievable scope of the game mean that a lot what you play is rough around the edges.
The game is so massive in its scope that I am compelled to say that unless you’re a veteran RTS player such as myself, that you should steer clear of this game. It mixes hero classes, that level and command your armies, grand scale management that is akin to a Total War game, and the cultural options of Civilization 4. It’s amazing and scary all at the same time, you can’t really know what effect your choices are going to have until so much later in the game, but god damn does it make for some great gameplay.
King Arthur also follows the Total War series in the idea that the grand single player story is the crux of the game, sure there is a multiplayer mode and a skirmish mode, but so much of the game is entangled in the evolving events of the Story, that like Total War, you’ll never want to play the other modes.
The story itself is also one that is only able to contain its epicness by being plunged into this behemoth of a title. It’s clear that developer Neocore Games has done their research when it comes to the tales and legends of King Arthur and his Knights. The game contains such a fleshed out and lush England, you feel as if you really are witnessing and effecting the events as they happen. Thankfully though, this Arthurian tale doesn’t base itself in historical accuracy, leaning more to the legends we all grew up with, the tales of Excalibur, Merlin, Magic and the lot.
When the game begins you will find yourself tasked with a bit of Sunday morning work. Go out and unite the warring English provinces. This sounds like a lot of work, and I assure you… it is. But that’s the fun of the game, you begin as a small and unimportant force and through choices as king and as a general you will shape what Britain will become.
You see choice in King Arthur is a bit of a big deal, kind of like how it is for Bioware. Every major choice you make, whether its leaning towards magic or faith, or how you deal with a certain ruler all effect the outcome of the game. You can choose to help another king out, or you can use to walk into his land and show him who the real king of England is. That brings up the other major gameplay aspect of this game, quests. You can’t have a Role Playing War Game without some quests to steer you around. These are usually done in the over world map, A Risk like representation of Britain that the player uses to move his or her armies around, and manage their budding empire. It is here that you’ll also move troops to explore unknown locations and deal with other characters.
When you do find yourself fighting others those of us who have played the likes of a Total War game will feel much more at home than others will. Before you get to enjoy the position of General you are first given a screen which indicates the size of your army compared to your enemies. What’s interesting though is because you have magic, and Knights, numbers don’t mean anything, a good player who uses the tools that they are given will dominate a larger army if they have enough skill.
Combat is huge, sometimes dealing with, and I am not exaggerating, thousands of men, it’s your job to see pass all the crazy killing and lead your army to victory. Battles are fierce and the so is the enemy, it’s one of King Arthurs only big glaring issues, and that is the borderline insane difficulty level. There is no real gradual climb, and you will soon find yourself realizing that the choices you made 3 hours ago are biting you in the ass now, prompting you to either pull out a miracle win, or reload an old save. Thankfully though, while combat can be downright brutal it is fun and balanced.
Visually the game looks great if you can turn everything on high, watching the giant battles and spells is always a treat and guarantees that you won’t become bored with the combat gameplay. The environments to are a real home run, they feel like they’re a classic Medevil English setting, and it helps to pull you into the game. The artwork that you get to enjoy in the load screens and in the UI is also a treat to see, its clear that Neocore Games has some fantastic artists working for them. I wish, however, that the same could be said about the music, its completely forgettable, and the dialog can be hit or miss some of the time, thankfully though combat sounds are pitch perfect and the screams of the dying seem just right.
King Arthur is a PC gamers, game. It expects you to not be a brain-dead gamer and gives you a game that will challenge you on that level. I like that, I like that we, the PC gaming community have developers who build us games that don’t hold our hand all the way through, the guys at Neocore had a grand design they wanted to bring to life, and for the most part they did a great job. Its a job its Christmas time, cause this would make a perfect holiday stuffer.
Review copy provided by publisher.