King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame - PC - Review
To say that King Arthur is a well-known character is like saying we need air to breathe. In fact, the good King has been the subject of so many books, movies, games, comic books, animated adventures and other media that it would be very difficult to actually count them all. So, into this very well-tread chapter of fictional medieval history strides an adventure/strategy game that hopes to garner even more favor for our good friend, Arthur.
Whew, that was long-winded. Either way, King Arthur is, at best, a decent strategy game firmly rooted in Arthurian legend and at its weakest, an RPG-lite title that does a fairly decent job of helping flesh out a tangible and enjoyable story. Now, before I start getting all sorts of e-mails about how there really was a King Arthur, let me clarify something right now. This game takes place in the fantastical land of King Arthur, with magic, the great sword Excalibur and our good friend Merlin the Magician.
As the story goes, Arthur is merely a provincial king and the other lands of Britain are ruled by others like him. In order to unite the lands and become the one true King (Tolkein anyone?), you will need to systematically take over the other provinces through might, magic and lots of cunning and strategy. In order to unite all the lands you need to be very, very careful. Since this is a strategy/RPG, decisions and choices made at one point in the game will cause ripple effects hours down the road. Do you choose to help out another King who is being attacked, or do you go the other way and let him fight on his own? Either decision in this title will lead to speed bumps down the road; how big those bumps are depends on how good a decision maker you can be.
Now, the game is really long, and Neocore has done an admirable job of keeping things updated and fresh with patches and additional content. But right out of the gate you had better be a serious, serious strategy gamer. This title has a very steep learning curve and you will find yourself neck deep in the mud faster than you can anticipate. Of the thousands of games I have played in my years, this is one of the top 10 "hit-the-ground-running" type games where you have got to be on your toes.
From a player standpoint, the game does have a good look to it. The lands you travel and ultimately do battle on are not flat, boring countrysides. In fact, the areas in which war is waged is ripe with hills, impassable rocks, trees and all sorts of buildings. These things are important as you will find troops waiting in ambush (hidden by the terrain) as you run down a small lot of enemy soldiers. Having a good sense of strategy and a keen eye for detail will certainly help you as you attempt to unify the land. You can zoom in and out and take a bird's-eye view of the area while things move in real-time. Fast thinking is required, since while you are preparing for the enemy and separating archers from foot soldiers, you run the risk of being throttled by an overly aggressive horde. The level of detail of the characters is diminished when you get close to them, but from a controlling standpoint, you can see a lot of characters from a pulled back view of the land. It's fuzzy logic if you think about it, but it works.
The control bar on the bottom of the screen works, effectively telling you how strong each class of soldier you have. Archers, while weaker in endurance, can be placed in positions where their range is most beneficial. Full-blown knights will take on several soldiers and win with their magical abilities. It's all in how you want to put the action together, and that is what I liked about the title.
Sound can be somewhat distracting in strategy games, but here it does help motivate and move things along. The game has a massive score that has a theme to it rather than the typical hard-charging rock so many titles have nowadays. In fact, I should note that some of the action sound effects aren't even audible unless you zoom in down close to soldiers fighting, which was a pretty cool idea. I know it has been used before, but for some reason it seemed tighter and more effective with different characters types carrying different armaments.
The single-player campaign is huge. I have addressed this already, but Neocore was also smart enough to actually put in a multiplayer mode that does not disappoint. Playing against other players in highly strategic battles can seem frustrating at first since the chances of you being in a clearly one-sided battle are good, but there has been some patches to help alleviate such problems. I think the dev team has done an admirable job of reigning in the wildness of it all.
You would be hard pressed to find anything like this in recent memory. You will blow it on more than one occasion and you will need to fix those monumental blunders you didn't realize you made FOUR HOURS EARLIER. However, if you are playing this title to begin with, you will enjoy yourself.