|Dev: Neocore Games|
|Pub: Paradox Interactive|
|Release: January 27, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Violence|
by Robert VerBruggen
Hold on to your thrones, because the legend of King Arthur is about to get weird.
In 2009's King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, players experienced the basics of Arthurian legend—Excalibur, Holy Grail, etc.—with some bizarre twists thrown in. But in the forthcoming King Arthur II, it's all quirky, all the time.
The previous game left Britannia a peaceful and united place, and of course we can't have that in a "Role-Playing Wargame." So, in a prologue campaign, a new Roman emperor tries to take over, and you have to beat him back while learning the gameplay basics. Then, the real campaign starts when a woman called the Witch Queen smashes the Holy Grail, gives King Arthur a cursed wound that can't heal, and summons demons to attack the kingdom.
The basic framework of the previous game will return, of course. Much like Shogun 2: Total War, King Arthur II will have gameplay divided into two phases—a turn-based phase in which players craft items, manage their armies, and visit towns, and a real-time phase in which the actual battles take place. Further, your units will level up, giving you an extra incentive to keep them alive, as well as adding an RPG element to the strategy melting pot.
The turn-based gameplay will take place on a map that's roughly twice as big as the world in the previous game. The choices you make throughout the tale will affect the plot, and they'll also determine whether you rank as good or evil in the morality system. The developers have also overhauled the various skill trees to let you customize your play style to the greatest degree possible, and you'll have access to side quests that are styled after old-school text adventures. If you enjoyed King Arthur's previous outing, or even if you're just a fan of turn-based strategy, King Arthur II should give you what you're looking for.
Most of the biggest changes, though, will be seen on the battlefield. Perhaps the most significant update is the addition of flying units. These units are immune to melee blows except when they swoop down to attack, and they greatly increase the importance of ranged units. All in all, they create a rock-paper-scissors system in which each unit is powerful against a certain kind of other unit, but also has a special weakness.
Magic will also have an increased role in King Arthur II, and the system will be simplified. In order to succeed with a magic attack, the offensive level of your spell must exceed the defensive level of your enemy. Also, players are warned before spells are cast against them, giving them time to react—and spells can be interrupted if, say, the caster gets hit with an arrow. When combined, all of this forces players to consider when and how they'll use their units' magic abilities. A well-cast spell can deal serious damage, but casting leaves you vulnerable, and if you attack an enemy whose defenses are too strong, your spell will simply bounce off.
Another major feature of King Arthur II will be the fantasy-style boss fights. Leaving Arthurian legend for the realm of pure fantasy allowed the developers to go crazy with monster design, and this game promises some truly epic fights against some seriously dangerous creatures. Of course, only time will tell whether these monsters are just enemies with insanely high HP, or if they actually require you to carefully devise a strategy to attack weak points without taking too much damage.
The developers are planning to improve King Arthur in other ways as well. A bigger programming team allowed them to create a better pathfinding system, which is always a bonus in real-time strategy games. In addition, the previous game's camera problems should be gone, thanks to a fully customizable viewpoint. Perhaps the only missing feature that won't be added this time around is multiplayer; if you want that, start holding your breath for King Arthur III, I guess.
Finally, if early screenshots are any indication, King Arthur II will be a definite step up in terms of graphics, despite releasing only a few years after its predecessor. Britannia looks as realistic as ever, and the new fantasy elements gave the game's artists a whole new avenue to run down.
As a blend of Arthurian legend, pure fantasy, real-time strategy, turn-based gameplay, and RPG mechanics, King Arthur II promises to be a unique experience. We won't know until the developers have put on the finishing touches—sometime in early 2012—whether the game lives up to its promise, but the early signs are that this will give strategy fans a very interesting campaign.
CCC Contributing Writer