Both mythological and legendary.
For a long time now I have been yearning for a mythological or fantasy based Total War game. It is not that I don’t like the historical reality that one can experience in any of the TW games. But my world is strictly based within the realms of fantasy and, as such, taking that wonderful gameplay and adding some magic and monsters would really make my day.
King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame appears to fit the bill for me in that respect. It also has what is possibly the worlds worst title for a game, but never mind. Brought to the PC by Neocore Games, King Arthur is, as the title suggests, a wargame with role-playing elements. The player takes on the role of the legendary King Arthur and endeavors to unite Britannia. This is not the historically correct King Arthur, but rather the myth and magic Arthur of children’s stories.
The player begins with but a simple handful of troops and, as the game progresses, they will gather under their banner Kings and Knights, each of which can control their own army and move around the map independently. The game is split into two distinct types, with the campaign map being turn based and allowing movement, troop management and access to quests and missions. The combat is real time strategy, played out in 3D on various battlefields.
The campaign map allows the player to move around Britannia with their forces and try to unite the country under the banner of Arthur. It has been stated that King Arthur is an RPG strategy game and the RPG element comes from various encounters that lead to a choose the correct response style dialogue. The player will work through a sometimes slightly long winded encounter, choosing the correct responses to each given situation. These encounters, depending on the outcome, can lead to war, some much needed advantages or a loss of opportunity. As the player enlists Knights, they may be assigned troops and sent off to perform some of the quests that appear on the map which will inevitably launch one of these RPG sessions.
Through these encounters, the player will be making decisions that will affect how the game pans out. Will the player be leaning more towards the growing Christian faith, or will they follow the old Pagan ways? These two religions are evident in most of the encounters and the players “allegiances” will dictate how they are received. Also within the RPG element, the player will constantly have the choice of being ruthless or kind and this will again affect the game.
Whilst on the campaign map the player has the opportunity to take care of their army management needs, such as enlisting new units and such. Each year within the game is split into four seasons, at one turn each, which have a bearing on what the player can do. The winter season is so cold and unpleasant that battles do not take place, giving the player a chance to get organised in preparation for the upcoming turns. Knights and units can all be improved through experience as they are successful on the battlefield. Along with some wickedly powerful weapons, some of which may need a curse removed before they can be used, there are also spells that can be cast in order to improve your chances.
When it comes to battles, the player is first presented with a screen showing each sides units and the chances of succeeding in battle. There is the option to go into battle or auto-resolve for those of you who are less interested in the real time strategy aspect. Choosing to manage the battle yourself you will be given full control over all of your armies units and placed at one end of a 3D battlefield. Anyone who has played one of teh Total War games will instantly feel at home here, although it should be noted that the camera control is a bit unreliable. Battles can be one by completely obliterating the enemy, or more simply by capturing certain points on the map.
It may have already been noted that I like strategy games. But this does not necessarily mean that I am any good at them. I am afraid that the most in depth strategy that I can come up with revolves around getting as many units as possible and just overwhelming the enemy. This is where I come unstuck on King Arthur. The games difficulty is set quite high. My first few encounters went quite well and left me with a warm fuzzy feeling in my belly. But that feeling was soon to leave me as I came across a series of encounters that were very testing. You see, my method of overwhelming the enemy with numbers was hampered by the lack of numbers in my force and the lack of more troops, or at least better troops, available. Don’t be thinking that the auto resolve will help either. The game deals with auto resolve strictly by the numbers. Check how many units each army has and check the quality of those troops because, if you don’t have a clear advantage, your chances of winning are minimal.
Graphically, King Arthur’s real time combat mode is maybe a couple of releases behind the TW series. Don’t get me wrong, as far as this genre of game goes, King Arthur is certainly one of the best looking. But the TW games have raised the bar substantially. However, the campaign map looks glorious and well detailed.
For all of its similarities, King Arthur offers something that the TW series has yet to try, a fantasy based RTS on an epic scale. The added role-playing element offers something fresh and certainly did not feel out of place. King Arthur is not perfect mind you, the high level of difficulty is sure to put some players off. But if you are up for a challenge and fancy entering a rich and well known time of myth and magic, King Arthur will not fail to entertain.