Od Studios -- King Arthur: The Roleplaying Wargame
||King Arthur: The Roleplaying Wargame -- by sector24, 2011-09-17
Developer: Neocore Games
ESRB Rating: Teen
Genre: Turn Based Strategy with Real Time Strategy combat and Role Playing elements
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: 11/24/2009
What is King Arthur: The Roleplaying Wargame?
King Arthur is a hybrid game in which the campaign map is a turn based strategy game, but combat is resolved like a real time strategy game. There are heavy role playing elements including quests that are resolved like text adventures. Think of it like a game from the Total War series but based around Arthurian folklore.
What does this game do well?
Wargames are not always pretty games, but King Arthur bucks this trend by being extremely visually appealing. The loading screens are gorgeous, the unit cards look good, and there are tons of items and portraits and little images interspersed throughout the quests that really give the game some graphical polish.
The campaign portion of the game is like a streamlined turn based strategy game. You have army stacks which consists of soldier units and your Knights of the Round Table, and you move them around the map capturing territory or partaking in glorious battle in the name of the king. When two armies bump into each other the combat is resolved in a real time battle.
One of the nice additions to the genre here is that as the attacker you get to choose the battlefield. A primarily infantry/archer army may want to fight in the forest where they can ambush unsuspecting foes. A heavy cavalry army may want to fight on the plains where their speed and ability to charge is a huge advantage. You can also choose maps based on how many victory points each location contains.
Victory points add context to the fight because they must be captured in order to win. The player with more victory points forces their opponent to steadily lose morale, and if the morale bar drops to 0 then the player loses regardless of army strength. This also means you can't just throw your whole army at the other player without any thought to tactics because you at least have to capture enough victory points to break even.
The game is heavily quest and role play oriented. Your Knights of the Round Table are more powerful than full units of soldiers, can use equipment, have wives, govern territories, and learn powerful battlefield abilities and spells. Knights can go on quests which can create alliances or wars, secure new magical items, even recruit more knights. Quests play out like text adventures in which you are presented with a series actions to take and choose one, then read the result. These are well narrated and have mostly realistic responses to choose from. Not only does the end result of the quest affect you, but even individual choices during the quest can have a big impact on the outcome of the game.
As you make these important decisions, your overall attitude is reflected in a religion/morality chart where you can go either Christian/Old Faith and Rightful/Tyrant. It pays to go all out in one direction, because the rewards at the far ends are extremely powerful. The biggest rewards are powerful units that are not easily available any other way, but you also get access to things like spells and army commands.
What could this game have done better?
When I bought the game I was really hoping for a "Total war in the fantasy universe" kind of game. What I got was close, but not quite what I was looking for. My biggest gripe is that combat is not particularly strategic. Early in the game, archers rule the field, and choosing the same battlefield results in nearly identical troop deployment and outcome. Some of the maps are designed in such a way that your enemy can camp and you have to come to them, while others are so open that the enemy takes the victory points and then forgets to defend them so you can slip right in and steal them away.
Later in the game it's all about spells. Teleporting, life stealing knights and magic resistant armies are all that matter and again the game is not strategic. I miss those epic battles from Rome: Total War that seemed so well balanced between javelins, pikes, cavalry and infantry.
The campaign map is even less balanced. While your humble beginnings in chapter 1 are fairly easy to handle, the game advances chapters based on you completing major events, but it doesn't tell you what those events are. You can start multiple chapters at the same time and sometimes they spawn difficult armies for you to take on (Note: too difficult). It's very easy to get yourself overwhelmed, wiped out, and unable to proceed, so save often. It's also possible to conquer territories too early in the game which ruins quests that spawn in later chapters. Overall the campaign is a mess the first time you play through it, although with a little experience you can have a good time of doing everything in the "right" order and exercising a degree of control over the course of events.
Should I buy this game?
King Arthur is a neat game, and the roleplaying elements are a real draw, but ultimately I was just wishing that I was playing Rome: Total War. It's a very ambitious game that gets a lot right, but the core of the game is what's missing. If they did a better job on the combat and unit balance I could recommend it but for now I'd say wait for the sequel to come out.
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