|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Neocore Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Neocore Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Neocore Games didn't beat around the bush in coming up with an accurately descriptive title for King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame. The game beautifully blends some familiar and engaging war strategy genres into a powerful concoction that's heavily steeped in Arthurian legend. The King Arthur mythos is ripe with fantastic subject matter and story elements to pluck from, and it's seamlessly woven throughout the adventure in interesting ways. This epic and challenging quest to unite Britain by sword doesn't disappoint, but you're going to need some great fortitude to persevere in your righteous conquest.
The son of the legendary Uther Pendragon, Arthur is prophesized to become the king of Britain and sets out with the magical blade of Excalibur to unite the many warring provinces in the country under one banner. Mythology and magic are as common as the sword and the shield in this vibrant fantasy realm, and the dualities between Paganism and Christianity provide different options for how you'll ultimately shape your budding kingdom. As Arthur, you're free to play the role of benevolent hero or brazen tyrant, and there are many crucial choices to face and decisions to make on your journey.
King Arthur's core gameplay incorporates sprawling real-time battles with turn-based exploration and army management. Starting out on a peninsula with a meager force and little experience, you'll forge ahead to grow in strength, capture territories, recruit new knights for your round table and soldiers to follow them, venture out on important quests, and engage in massive battles across the countryside. At a glance, many experienced strategy gamers will find it hard not draw inevitable comparisons to the Total War series. While there are some strong similarities between the games, particularly in the real-time combat system, King Arthur's RPG elements and numerous other subtle nuances set it apart.
In the overworld map, you can move your armies across the hostile British landscape to capture settlements, check out quests, pick fights with nearby rulers, and hunt out allies. Turns cycle between the four seasons, and you only have a limited amount of movement and actions you can take in each. The warmer seasons are a prime time for battle and conquest, while all armies across the land button down for winter. This lull provides time to resupply and upgrade unit stats for armies that gained enough experience to level-up during the year. Resource-wise, you only have to worry about gold and food for your armies, which allows you to focus more on enjoyable tasks - like stamping out all who get in your path.
Prior to engaging in the chaos of war, you're given a side-by-side rundown that compares your army with your opponent's. This is helpful for gauging whether you're likely to succeed in battle, but it's not always possible to determine success from the numbers, since other factors like terrain, unit levels, special battlefield elements, and the makeup of each army make a difference. An auto-battle option offers instantaneous decisions in armed conflicts, though taking the time to manage your troops directly gives you a better chance at surviving.
Arthur can wield some helpful magic powers on the battlefield, like healing troops, providing morale boosts, and summoning a fog to provide cover from archers. He and the units under him all gain experience points from battle, and you can beef up their stats and in some cases pick new abilities when they level up. Armies can be made up of foot soldiers, pike men, horsemen, archers, and other key units, but the kinds of units you choose and how well you orchestrate them on the battlefield is very important. Some units are more effective against other types, and terrain plays a big role in combat effectiveness. King Arthur also adds some interesting additions, like hotspot locations on the battlefield that deliver special stat boosts when you're within range or magic spells.