Story and Strategy Go Hand in Hand
Making a good game great is a difficult proposition for any developer, but this is exactly what Neocore Games is doing with King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame. The original King Arthur was reminiscent of The Creative Assembly’s Total War series, but it lacked the level of polish for which that strategy franchise is known. Regardless, anyone who played King Arthur could readily see the game’s potential. Taking a hard look at their previous work, the team at Neocore developed a brand new engine, kept the best bits of the original, and incorporated a number of new elements to heighten both the role-playing features and strategic elements of King Arthur II.
During our guided demo at E3, it was plain to see that the devs are really trying to set King Arthur II apart from other strategy games out there by making the flavor every bit as important as the crunch. As the game’s subtitle indicates, this is a role-playing wargame where story, kingdom building and governance, as well as large-scale battles are fundamental. This is an RPG – RTS hybrid that features a rich fantasy world based on mythology and legend that acts as the perfect setting for the complex, large-scale battles.
- Greater unit variety means more strategy options -
King Arthur II’s slogan, "When the greatest tale of chivalry ends, the nightmare begins" nicely sums up the turmoil and transition to a dark world which players will experience. The relative peace and prosperity of Camelot is shattered when the Holy Grail is destroyed and King Arthur himself is mortally wounded by the Witch Queen Morgause’s attempt to assassinate him. With Arthur’s wounds festering, the king’s magical bond with the land of Britannia is weakening, allowing (perhaps causing) a demonic horde to spring forth to terrorize the kingdom. As such, it is up to a new hero to rally the king’s power base and subjects to fight off this new threat.
In addition to a well-crafted tale fueled by legend, the role-playing side of King Arthur II is reinforced through extensive unit and hero progression, intricate out-of-combat realm management, constant diplomatic challenges, and a decision-making system that brings consequences for your actions, shaping the evolution of the kingdom and the progression of the story. Through these mechanics, players are consistently challenged and rewarded, helping make King Arthur II a tailor-made experience.
Many additional elements of King Arthur II that were revealed to us piqued our interest. For example, leader alignment (benevolent or tyrannical) and religious affiliation (Christianity or “Old Ways”) open up new options and challenges, as well as dictate which kinds of skills and spells will be available for your armies, encouraging multiple plays through the game. Players can also find, forge, combine, and employ powerful artifacts. Moreover, the world map is fully twice as large as what was available before, encompassing not only the south of Britannia but the midlands and northern reaches of the realm as well. Finally, an intricate diplomacy system, which lets you communicate with other leaders in Britannia, will help you rally forces and territories behind your cause; answering the pleas of besieged subjects, satisfying important vassals, and liberating land through direct confrontation with the enemy hints at a comprehensive approach to strategy implementation that goes beyond simply marshalling troops about a battlefield.
Of course, the appeal of massive RTS battles cannot be denied. During battle, King Arthur II is reminiscent of table-top wargames, as terrain features such as elevated mountaintops and narrow valleys greatly impact unit efficiency and therefore battlefield strategy. As levels play out, players will be required to come up with new plans of action on the fly, taking advantage of enemy weaknesses and shoring up defenses according to the flow of the battle. A ton of new units, including some that fly, require players to employ an even more layered strategy. There are even boss confrontations within battles which challenge players to take a more hands-on approach.
- Minions aren't the only threats in KA II -
As in King Arthur, powerful spells are at your disposal, but this time around the implementation of a new magic resistance and spellcasting system allows players to better prepare and defend themselves against the magical abilities of enemy armies. Thanks to the new graphics engine, called Coretech II, these magical effects are brilliantly rendered. This new toolset also means players will enjoy 3,000 – 4,000-soldier battles across detailed environments. You can zoom in and out of the action on the fly, and special attention has been paid to unit and hero animations explicitly for this.
King Arthur II is far more visually engaging than its predecessor. The game will take advantage of a number of interface refinements, greater unit variety, more expansive environments, and deeper strategy employment backed by an interestingly-crafted narrative. Overall, King Arthur II should be a more refined experienced, scheduled to launch in September 2011.
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Cutting his gaming teeth at Aladdin's Castle and on the Commodore 64, JC entered into video game journalism in 2008. Helping run GameDynamo as its director is both a dream and a rewarding challenge.
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