King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame
Systems: PC (Previewed)
System Specs: Intel i7 950, Corsair Dominator 6 GB 1600 XMP, Asus P6X58D Premium, Evga GTX580 FTW Hydro Copper 2 x2 for SLI, Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard, and Logitech G19 Keyboard
Developer: Neocore Games
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: TBD – January 2012
King Arthur II follows the fine traditions established by the Total War strategy games. The player will switch between turn-based strategy (TBS) and real-time strategy (RTS) segments, but all primary character development will take place during the TBS portion of the game. The RTS takes place on the battlefield, where taking command of your army could mean a narrow victory or an utter defeat.
The era that this game takes place before the events of King Arthur, the Round Table, and Merlin. The player takes the role of Septimus Sulla, a war hero who has fallen in battle and subsequently saved by a familiar yet portentous nature person. The role playing takes root at this very early stage, appearing in cutscenes. What you say obviously effects this person’s reactions, but I can’t say exactly how given that this is a preview.
At this point, you take Septimus Sulla and his army into battle. Here you have a choice to Auto-battle, Battle, or Retreat. In the preview, you can only choose Battle, and this is the first time where it changes from TBS into RTS. This real-time battle is your first foray into how differently this game handles combat, special field abilities, and your special items for your heroic units. This will be further flushed out after you make other choices.
This can be a little overwhelming, but the tutorial does an adequate job of keeping you aware of where, who, and what is important both on and off the map. During my first battle, the enemy was capable of hurling lightning bolts into the middle of my army. Having a cannon is one thing, but not knowing it was coming was a fun little surprise. The battle music was very inspiring; I felt the need to leave the battle with no man left standing on the enemy’s side, and that’s just what I did.
After the battle, you’re given a rundown on what you’ve earned from the battle, who’s survived, and who’s been lost. As another role-playing element, you earn items for each battle, and how efficiently you handle them is what determines what you earn at the end. After this battle, you return to the TBS portion of the game, where you head to the senate to reclaim your rightful place as a senator.
This, of course, leads to more role playing. However, the choices you make here immediately show their respective consequences when you conclude these interactions for now on. This affects your diplomacy and how each separate house views you. Keep in mind that these choices have long-lasting effects on your relationship with these houses, so choose wisely. The noble houses bicker like cats and dogs, of course, following their own agendas. Some choose to work the senate for their own ends, and others work in the shadows to achieve their goals.
After you’ve reclaimed your seat, you help shape the end result of how you will be welcomed back and given restitution. Opponents and supporters arise with every suggestion you make, which is a small taste of things to come another place where you must choose wisely. When that’s concluded, you take your spoils and move out to defend another part of the land. They can be handled in a diplomatic way, or you can go in with your sword at the ready. Some choices require you go into battle and others that could lead to a battle if you aren’t careful.
The TBS portion is the primary part of the game. This mode gives you the time to manage your active and reserve units, upgrade your holdings during winter, other diplomatic options with support nations, move units towards your next objective, and much more. This is truly the heart of the game here, and what you choose to do or not do here will affect you until the end of the game. There were things that I could not access during my time in the preview, but what I have played is in depth and fleshed out well. I have no doubt in my mind that these will add a new twist on the established scenarios I’ve already played out.
I noticed a few problems that were very notable bugs in the build I got to preview. If you’re set up for multi-monitor gaming, you’ll have to turn this off. Yes, you read that right: turn it off. The game doesn’t offer you to go to any other resolution that is below multi-monitor. This causes many game bugs: for instance, you won’t be able to see your complete after-battle reports on the TBS map, so you won’t be able to progress further because you can’t clear the window. Also, a tutorial box comes up when you start your first battle, but you can’t read it.
There were also minor bugs that I ran into, but they aren’t show-stopping and should be resolved by the time of release. The music gets repetitive, unfortunately; though it’s very well done, I hope to hear more than just one track for my battle engagements in the full release. The narrator can also be irritating at times. Some voice actors for the noble families can be the same way, but I look at this way: at least they are voiced. They tried to make it interesting, and I’m not reading a text book.
The weakest points of this preview was the multi-monitor settings and other miscellaneous bugs I encountered. They obviously put some effort into multi-monitor support because during the real-time battle, the HUD was on my center monitor the whole time. This is something that other game developers never put the time into. There were some frame rate issues on both multi-monitor and single-monitor gameplay, but that can be chalked up to drivers without a doubt.
However, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel here for all of these bugs in that this is a preview build. This means they’ll have time to resolve these issues, both in-house and over at driver level before release. The latest Total War: Shogun 2 had many technical issues at release, such as not having DirectX 11 support out of the box. King Arthur II game has far fewer graphical disappointments, which is nothing short of amazing.
The greatest strength of this game is in the choices and consequences of your actions. I felt that through the entire preview when I had played it. The role-playing and the fantasy elements meld together with the traditional Total War mechanics in fantastic ways. Because of this King Arthur II is shaping up to be a worthy addition for any strategy and Total War player.
Disclosure: The writer was given a code of the game to preview the chapter Dead Legions through Steam. At the time of press, the writer had completed 80% of the preview material on Normal difficulty.