King Arthur II Review

Justin Clouse | 13 Feb 2012 18:30
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I really want to love King Arthur II - The Role-Playing Wargame. On paper, this should be the gaming equivalent of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, combining two great things together into something that much better. I relish the feeling of directing my cavalry to charge into a unit's unprotected flank while my heavy infantry clash against their forward ranks. I also enjoy making a lasting choice of what to do with these plagued villagers, which will affect my progress and reputation. However, while specific elements of King Arthur II are solid and interesting, as a complete package it is held back from its true genre-blending potential by some technical issues and some poor design choices.

If you've ever played any games in the Total War series, then you have a pretty good basis for understanding King Arthur II. Like those games, King Arthur is primarily split between the strategic level of moving your armies on the overworld map and directing the individual units during battle. On top of this, King Arthur II adds RPG elements and narrative, soyou'll have a much closer connection to your hero and greater control of your army's development. You also won't simply be fighting for only the sake of defense or conquest. It might, for instance, be because Merlin's apprentice is locked a dungeon and you need his help to track down his master.

The story elements are really interesting at times. King Arthur II takes the approach of grounding the fantasy in a bit of reality; Hadrian's Wall is something that exists in this world. It just so happens to be this massive, magical, crystal structure. The game also adds grim elements to the grandeur that's typically associated with the lore. In the main campaign you're taking the role of William Pendragon, son of the Once and Future King Arthur. The Holy Grail has been shattered, Arthur is plagued with a wound that never heals, and the Knights of the Round Table have all left either in treason, gone into exile or are simply missing. Now you have to somehow put the kingdom back together and find a cure for your father as demons from another world are breaking through to our plane.

The individual quests and stories associated fill in much of the choice in King Arthur II. After discovering a plot by a noble's son to stage a coup against his father, you're given the option of various ways to let that play out. Do you support his actions? Do you help the father and arrange a double cross where you ambush the son? Do you simply wash your hands of the whole proceeding? These choices will all affect your reputation and future dealings with this family and have long-reaching implications in the diplomacy gameplay in addition to immediate rewards. Other questing choices may drive your morality, which unlocks specific bonuses on a grid of Righteous vs. Tyrant and Christian vs. Old Faith, or present you with choices that require you to weigh the scales and balances. Do you sacrifice one of the magic items you've just discovered to escape the dungeon or drain some of your magical power in the next battle to keep them all? There are even some missions that draw on old school text adventure elements as you attempt to solve riddles or figure out the correct path through a maze.

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