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King Arthur II Review

by on March 1, 2012
 

King Arthur 2 first impression: “This looks like Heroes of Might and Magic crossed with Total War.”  Turns out I wasn’t too far off.  The game is full of mythical creatures and magic spells, and the combat is played on huge terrains with hundreds of troops.  When you’re not fighting, most of your energy is spent running around building relationships with nearby kingdoms.

This game is basically a lot of wandering around with your army reclaiming villages that were stolen by the Formorian (demon) menace, and the completion of story quests.  The quests are primarily choose-your-own-adventure style, which at first I was interested in (they were nicely voiced over and I like the King Arthur lore), but after a while I found myself skipping through to get back to the action.  Occasionally they’ll throw a puzzle into the quest line, presumably to make sure you’re paying attention (although you’re usually given the option of just busting down the door instead of figuring out the correct sequence of levers to pull), but for the most part it seemed like there are no wrong answers on the quest chains, just + or – whatever reputations happen to be associated with your choices.  To win, you need to conquer or ally yourself with all the territories on the map.  Although there is some benefit to allying yourself with your surrounding kingdoms, conquering them is a lot easier.

One thing that stood out about the quests was the number of choices that you are given to resolve them…each affecting your reputation with one or many of the different lords.  On a given quest, you might have 10 different choices depending on how you want to handle the situation.  These choices earn you bonuses (or reductions) in morality, gold, and reputation.  Your morality grid (left) is a combination of religion (Old Gods or Christianity) on the horizontal axis, and your flavor of justice (Rightful or Tyranny) on the vertical.  Depending what quadrant you’re in (for example, the lower right would be tyrannical Christian) you get different combat abilities and bonuses.

Unlike many RTS games with their flat (or maybe 2 or 3 level) combat terrain, KA2 sports some pretty sweet battlefield topography which can be used to your advantage.  KA2 also has king-of-the-hill style objectives on the battlefield, which once captured, grant the owner a combat spell or some other buff.  One feature I liked was that you can assign a pack of spearmen to cover your archers so they don’t get immediately overwhelmed by enemy cavalry or fliers.  Once you do this, the two become one unit until you order the spearmen (or other applicable melee attacker) to disengage.

The only real trick to this game seemed to be deciding how much money to spend each winter on research and town upgrades, and how much to save for replenishing your armies (running out of money is ill advised).

This game has a few rough edges, but it kept me busy for 20-30 hours (I doubt I’ll replay this one).  The game has a handful of achievements, but nothing very challenging for an achievement monger.  I don’t know that I’d spend $50 on this (including the Dead Legions DLC), but for the patient King Arthur enthusiast I’m sure Steam will hook up a big discount on the next seasonal sale.

Pros

  • Pretty!  The weather effects, and time-of-day/season shifts between turns are really cool.
  • Huge three-dimensional battlefields.
  • The tutorial does a pretty good job of getting you started.
  • Combat spells and other hero abilities are a nice change of pace from Total War.
  • At least 20 hours of game play (with the DLC)

Cons

  • When upgrading your kingdom, you need to select each building individually (which becomes quite a few buildings by the time you get into the main campaign a little ways).  As you can see on the left here, that’s a long list (most of which have multiple buildings in them like the three shown)…and that’s only about half the list.
  • The diplomacy screen could be made a little easier to use.  I have a 27” monitor, and the territory icons you click on to interact are still very small.  I’m not sure why they didn’t just make the diplomacy map full screen.
  • This game crashed my VPU twice, and after the first time, the in-combat blur effects got really grainy and pixilated.  =(
  • Lack of hotkeys for selecting which army you want to control on the main map.
  • No Steam interface support.
  • Item crafting is too random and not really worth the effort.  The whole item system seems uninspired, just one more clunky menu to navigate.
  • Although you’re given a lot of choices on the quests and with diplomacy, the game feels pretty linear.
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