The Average Gamer

King Arthur II The Role-Playing Wargame Review (PC)

Just because an idea looks good on paper isn’t necessarily a positive indication that it’s going to work in reality. King Arthur II The Role-Playing Wargame suffers from shades of this truism. You can almost imagine the meetings at Neocore; “Do we want role-playing?” .. “YES!” .. “Do we want Total War-esque battles?” .. “YES!” .. “Do we want more than a whiff of games like Might & Magic Heroes 6?” .. “YES!” .. “Shall we mash them all together add custom item creation, endless narrative and Arthurian legends?” … “YES!”

You expect a steep learning curve when starting an RTS and hope the game will hold you hand a little bit and offer you encouraging words, maybe even a gold star if you’re good. You might also expect that something as basic as camera controls via the mouse would be explained somewhere obvious but no. These things should be lit up in big, glaring lights and whilst there are tutorials and you can tell the game is trying to be helpful. It’s either not enough or the usability needs to be revisited. 

Happily the rest of the UI makes sense and is easy to get around; armies, settlements, objectives and research are all easily accessible and the over-head map from which you conduct your campaign is similarly unchallenging.

As Arthur’s son you’re charged with saving the country, saving Arthur and general do gooding all over the place whilst at your disposal there’s: armies, diplomacy and magic .. all very “war game” so far but where does the role-playing come in? You can’t miss it, believe me.

Choices are offered up by the narrator, who to his credit, makes valiant attempts at keeping an awful lot of dialogue interesting but mostly reminds me of Puddle Lane story books. I actually really liked these parts, whatever choice you make doesn’t seem to actually change much of anything which is a bit of a let down on the role playing front but it’s an interesting counter point to the big battles and keeps the variety going and me (at least) engaged.

When you’ve done enough of the talking there’s nothing left but to meet your enemies on the field of war. See, I’m picking up the lingo. If you’ve played anything from the Total War stable you’ll know what to expect here but it’s not as well executed.

Plonk your units where you want them, consider where you think the enemy is going to push towards and start your offensive. Then spend the rest of the battle trying to herd your minions while avoiding spells being flung by the enemy captains. After a couple of goes with me trying to be smart and and use actual tactics I discovered that rushing my units towards the opposing team worked just as well and meant less frustration every time I spied one of my armies having a cup of tea and a sit down instead of waging bloody war.

King Arthur II plays like a whole note-book of good ideas that just didn’t gel together in to a cohesive game for me. As an example, one of the aspects I really enjoyed was the ability to item forge – you’re rewarded with bits of artifacts and you can take them to a magical tower and fiddle about to make better artifacts with which to equip your captains. This adds yet another dimension to the game experience but I suspect that by including all of these components they’ve spent time and effort where it would have been better used to perfect the main game-play features: role-playing and war.

If you’re looking for a mythological Total War then I’d be wary of recommending this game to you. It’s as pretty but not very smart so the satisfaction in winning won’t be there. If you’re looking for something a bit different and don’t mind slightly wonky AI, a lot of talking and a fair amount of micro-management, it’s worth putting this on your list.

King Arthur II currently available as a download on Gamersgate for £29.95 or disc from Amazon for £18.60. The lower of the two prices is worth it but wait for a sale on the downloadable version.

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