Review

King Arthur II Review (PC)

Making a game is a lot like baking a cake. Take it out of the oven too soon and you're greeted by a flat, stodgy mess; too long and you'll burn down your house. King Arthur II: The Role Playing Game is a good example of an underbaked game, one that could’ve done with a couple more minutes in the preverbal oven.

At the moment we're unsure whether the game's intrinsically broken, or its development team has rushed it out the door. Its optimisation issues and the technical grief it potentially gives the player could simply be a patch away. Therefore, it'd be unfair to overly judge the game on its ridiculously long loading times, languid startup sequence and jittery real time battles.

It's raining arrows

It could just be the code we were provided, but research does suggest we're not alone. As a result, if you are looking to buy King Arthur II, it's best to bear in mind it’s a game possibly struggling to overcome a range of complications.

However, we’re not necessary here to judge the entire game on its technical shortcomings for obvious reasons. Games are constantly changing entities, and three months down the line this could be irrelevant.

So, to the foundations of King Arthur II. Realistically, it’s safe to say there's a competent game underneath the unfinished sheen. If you're willing to look past its teething problems, a wonderful blend of RTS, Turn-Based Strategy and Choose Your Own Adventure questing awaits.

Carving itself into English lore, complete with a layer of magic and fantasy, King Arthur II deals out a game worthy of sustained attention. Arguably there are three separate games with King Arthur II.

The first is a conventional real-time strategy title where units wage war on a dynamic battlefield. Comparisons will be drawn with Total War, as will its Campaign map, but there's nothing particularly wrong with such a flattering mirroring. The mimicked control scheme means those familiar with Creative Assembly's franchise will enjoy pick-up and playability.

Watching the landscape

Even if you've never stepped into a King Arthur or Total War game before, you'll be familiar with the concepts. Use a mix of units and military tactics to outsmart your enemy - less fluid than its cousin and still suffering from the aforementioned graphical lag, King Arthur II holds its own as an extremely solid RTS.

Offering an interesting tactical layer is magic. Control points granting spells and buffs are littered around the battlefields, posing an interesting question to players. Do you commit lesser troops to a roman goddess statue, only to see your units elsewhere under supported and massacred, or will the gamble pay off with devastating magical destruction.

It's simple risk and reward, and the supplementary magical component (a magical protective shield) means your spell casting could actually be completely in vain. It’s about striking at the right point in time, otherwise magic is a pointless exercise destined to doom your troops.

The best thing about it is the fact it's interesting to see something new brought into the 'historical strategy' mix. Obviously it fits the setting nicely; a land of vicious bandits, scheming tribes and warring leaders - it’s the land of King Arthur you've heard about, but rarely seen in popular culture. It wasn't always maidens and feasts - this was a broken country under constant ravishing. Magic, the often scoffed school of thought, drives much of its inhabitants.

Beautifully rendered in 3D map form, (again just like Total War), Arthur II carries its strategic quality into its campaign map. Rich in detail, the Campaign map is full of rolling hills, meandering lakes and roaming armies. Split into chapters following a competent, fully voice acted narrative; it rarely seems to skip a beat. The environments are varied and there's always something going on.

So what's left? You'd think a strategy title with a diplomatic simulator thrown in for good measure was enough. You'd be mistaken. As the game's subtitle suggests, there's a healthy amount of role playing involved. Whether in the conventional form of loot, character development and skill levels, or the more literal translation of playing a fantasy role, there's a strong dose of RPG here.

Warring

One of the biggest areas strategy games fall down in is actually making the player feel for the legions they send to their doom. Arthur II rectifies this. Adventure quests exist, offering the player a small dose of story, (voice acted of course) and options to choose as the narrative develops. The impact your choices will have are often unclear and it’s exciting to see the end result. It’s like a return to the fantasy books prior to the computing age where imagination and page-turning was the only option for role-players.

There’s something naturally intriguing about King Arthur II – perhaps it’s the setting. With so many Tolkien RPGs, historical strategy titles and tiresome modern shooters, a game that genuinely captures a new era and source material is stirring. It’s by no means perfect, especially in the technical department, but let the developers work out the kinks and you’ll be rewarded with a genuinely decent game.

Best Moment: Magic.

Videos

Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 07, 2012
SirRoderick
Right, so they pushed it out a bit too quickly. An unfortunately common problem these days. Hopefully it will get some attention and be patched up in a timely fashion.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Feb 07, 2012
nocutius
Was the first screenshot taken at different gfx settings as the other two? The quality seems to be vastly lower.
By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Feb 07, 2012
SirRoderick
Might just be because the first one is zoomed in all the way, while the second on is zoomed out. And that last one looks like the campaign map.
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Feb 09, 2012
nocutius
I think the difference is simply too big, compare the shadows and lights on these pictures. There has to be more to it than just a simple zoom.