Game Review: King Arthur II – The Roleplaying Wargame
Genre: Strategy / RPG
Developer: Neocore Games
Available Platforms: PC
ESRB Rating: T
King Arthur II – The Roleplaying Wargame is the digital equivalent to a gateway drug. Neocore Games continues with the winning formula from the first game, and has provided a taste of what a quality strategy game experience can be, and intermixed a hint of RPG character development and gear hunting to the equation. What results is a fun, albeit trimmed down, overall experience that will engage a wide audience. Gamers who are hardcore strategy or RPG fans might be a little turned off by the lack of depth, but in many ways, King Arthur II succeeds in providing the best of both worlds in an easily digestible form that, while complex, isn’t too intimidating (and is fun, to boot).
Gameplay in King Arthur II plays out in a variety of ways. You will do most of your work on an interactive map, which is to say you’ll be moving your armies to different areas, taking on quests, capturing landmarks, and doing battle with anyone that stands in your way. You are free to do as much as you can in your given turn, provided you can get to where you need to go. Once you’ve used up all of your movement, you must rest the army until the next season (which is as simple as clicking the Wait button). During the winter season, when movement is not allowed, you can advance your character and army by improving your owned structures, researching and training new skills, and levelling up your army. Otherwise you spend your time advancing the story through quests, which are generally a series of options presented to you with a narrator, text, and sketch drawings. These quests are basically a fancy Choose Your Own Adventure, with your choices affecting the outcome of not only the quest, but your character’s development, and faction standing with other groups. The choices are pretty straightforward, with several ways to accomplish the same task, which will help shape the morality of your character (which is a tracked character trait, and can unlock certain perks based on how righteous or tyrannical you are). Some of the quests can be fairly lengthy, and can include puzzles that need to be worked out. Many of the quests build on each other, so you will see consequences of the actions you take in previous quests play out in future ones. Aside from quests, you can also interact with other families and areas through diplomacy. This option is always available to you, and can involve things like creating alliances, setting up trade agreements, declaring war, or offering gifts. There are also many diplomacy quests available from this menu, and all diplomacy options are generally a single choice version of the quests described above.
Once you’ve had your fill of running around the map, you can get into the other main part of the game: the battles. Typical of other games in this genre, you will command groups of soldiers around the battlefield in an attempt to outflank, outmaneuver, and outsmart your opponent. The typical staple of archers, cavalry, footsoldiers and pikemen are present, but the game also utilizes creatures such as gargoyles, colussuses (colussi?) and other fantasy minions to keep things interesting. Magic is also at your disposal, both in the form of what you’ve learned outside of the battlefield through your character development, as well as via landmarks that you can capture on the battlefield to give you abilities for the duration of the battle. Your strategy for winning will generally involve capturing and holding these landmarks, while working to destroy the enemy through either direct assaults, ambushes, or magic. Other than the unique unit types and special attacks, the battles are straightforward, and offer about what you’d expect from a strategy game of this type.
I found that character development aspect of King Arthur II to be one of its greater strengths. Too often I am playing these kinds of games in a very linear fashion, with the occasional option to choose one path versus another. King Arthur II allowed me to forge a path that was my own, whether that was the ruthless warlord, or the pious caster. I enjoyed playing around with the various factions that needed to be manipulated, and always appreciated the fact that if someone was being difficult, I could always walk over and conquer their lands. Auto-Battle is also a fantastic feature; while I do enjoy the battles in the game, I actually preferred staying on the map as much as possible. The items you can equip don’t change the look of your character, but there are tons of different items you can wear to maximize your efficiency, and a forge to create new ones, should you want to try your hand there. I also liked that for as big as your kingdom will ultimately get, it’s never difficult to maintain everything. King Arthur II does a great job of keeping your focus where it needs to be; either on quests, battles, or character development.
There is a bit of a learning curve involved, and it took most of the prologue chapter to really get a feel of how the flow of the game goes. The tutorial is adequate, but doesn’t go deep enough to help you understand the nuances of all the ways you can develop a character (marriages, fiefdom, upgrades). The narration in the game, while plentiful and of high quality, can be a little over dramatic at parts (and one person does the voicing for all characters, male and female, which can be entertaining). I appreciated the simplicity of the quest delivery, but I imagine some people will be turned off by what is basically a text adventure that offers choices and consequences. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the bugs and crashes in the game. I generally try to avoid mention of things like this, as over time these issues tend to be fixed via patches (and there have been several for this game already), but I dealt with several game-crashing quest bugs, and general difficulty getting or keeping the game running on a machine that met the recommended specs (not just minimum). Considering the long load times the game has initially, and on transition from the map screen to battle screen, it made for a frustrating experience. Again, I know these issues will probably be ironed out, but for the next month or two, buyer beware. Do some research and see if the problems have been resolved, or at least be prepared for some unexpected visits to your desktop.
Tym’s take: King Arthur II – The Roleplaying Wargame is a game that might not appeal to hardcore fans of the genres it’s trying to blend. That’s not to say that what Neocore Games has created isn’t fun; far from it. I just feel that the game isn’t a deep enough Strategy or RPG to please the hardcore contingent of either audience. Personally, I prefer single unit management versus large scale battles, and found that King Arthur II did a great job of making army management feel like single unit development. The quests, while simplistic in delivery, are varied and generally fun. The battles are made more interesting through the use of magic, unique creatures, and utilizing multiple points of control (instead of just running into each others’ units). King Arthur II dips into a lot of different influences, and while the overall experience isn’t as profound as any one of those influences, the end result is a game that, for me, was fun and engaging in spite of its shortcomings.
+ Good blend of RTS and RPG
+ Ability to Auto-Battle keeps action moving
– Not as deep an experience as a singular RTS or RPG game
– Repeated crashing and bugged quests
– Varied, but ultimately simplistic quests
Final Score: 7/10