King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame is not your standard strategy game. The game features an interesting and immersive story that provides pretty solid RPG elements with narrated dialog, along with a decent battle system. I’ll admit I am not the biggest fan of this genre, but I told myself to give this game a try and honestly I’m glad I did.
For those of you that have to have your amazing cut scenes that throw you in on the action of the story you may be disappointed. King Arthur II simply uses sketch animations and narration. So if you can appreciate a well written narrative you will probably find the scenes that play out pretty enjoyable. I felt like I was having a book read to me throughout the game which was different from what I am used to, since most games try to bring that blockbuster movie feel.
The game begins with a sort of back story leading up to the events of this installment in the series. You play as King Arthur’s son William Pendragon, and through narrative and still shots you learn that the King is near death after the Holy Grail has been shattered into pieces. With the King “bound to the land”, Brittanica begins to fall into shambles and evil demons known as the Formorians are ravaging towns and the countryside. Of course because of the dire situations the Knights of the Round Table have separated to fight the evils of the land, as apparently no one else is employed to do so. These series of events leave only you, William Pendragon to solve them, find a cure for King Arthur, and bring peace and justice to Brittanica.
Most strategy games are not known for their groundbreaking visuals, but the world your tiny William Pendragon runs around slaying demons and righting wrongs is extremely well designed. Although it is not exactly something that will engender a sense of awe, it does its job of bringing you into the world of Britannica and William Pendragon. The game wants you to realize just exactly what the Formorians and King Arthur’s deteriorating condition are doing to the lands of Brittanica. This is shown very clearly as you will see harsh-looking lands surrounding the Formorian dwellings and the unhealthy condition of vegetation in other areas.
Through a series of RPG choose-your-own-adventure questions, you build the backstory of William Pendragon in which he can be anything from a warlord to a sorcerer. This style of roleplaying is used throughout the game. For every quest that appears on your world map a dialogue box will appear where the narrator (who reminds me of the narrator from the movie 300 for some reason) will tell you the story behind the specific quest. You are also given a list of decisions to make that can either result in you going to battle or circumventing it all together. A number of quests do not have the possibility of battle and in its stead you simply earn rewards, gold, and reputation points with other rulers or groups that may aid you in future battles.
The gameplay through King Arthur II brings many things to the table. Each turn in the game is a separate season. During each of these times of the year you have some important activities you can do, the most notable being winter. During this season you cannot engage in any battles. The winter season is devoted only to leveling William Pendragon and your troops as well as renovating and constructing new items in your towns. The main resource for this season is gold. If you do not have enough to buy reinforcements, retrain existing troops, or build features in your provinces, this will be difficult and has some ill effects when it comes to battles.
Some other factors brought into the game are the diplomacy options. Here you can make or break alliances with other rulers or clans. While doing this the narrative screen will appear and present you with various options in how you interact with others. During these you can gain points towards the new ally by giving them support via troops, gold, or you can simply make a non-combat treaty. This is an interesting concept as the allies you have can determine which land you may cross in your efforts to destroy the Formorians. If you choose not to complete many diplomacy actions the game can sort of punish you for this and you will be unable to enter lands that contain a needed quest. This is just the surface of the different systems King Arthur II will provide. You also have a morality system which when you make certain decisions will add to your standing as a tyrant, or completely good. The standing you have on the morality system plays out in the bonuses you receive for battles, so play how you would like when it comes to this.
Battles in King Arthur II follow the typical strategy game formula. Battles within the game can be completed quickly or take a good while. This is all determined by the type of troops you have, whether they have all their numbers and whether you have artifacts that work with the chosen troop stats. While it may be better to use the standard medieval strategies, where you have your archers behind your heavily armored troops and have your cavalry flank your enemies, you are free to work and see what strategy works best for your style.
Alternatively the game provides you with an “auto-battle” feature that does not seem to use a chosen strategy as much as it uses the numbers of your troops and their given abilities to decide for you. This option gave me a 50/50 chance of victory for most battles and left my men dead a number of times. Although this may be a better option for those who would rather focus on the narrated quests I found I enjoyed it more to simply play out the battles using my own strategy. By having my troops run at the enemies like a super crazy horde or you know, use a thought process behind my battles and win that way. No matter which way you like to experience your battles, I’m sure you can find it here.
Overall King Arthur II: The Roleplaying Wargame brings together an old-school RPG feel and combines it with the strategy games of today pretty well. Although you won’t find anything here that is exactly groundbreaking, I will say that this is an extremely solid game. All of the features and systems are brought together exceptionally well and intertwined just right so that it gives you exactly what it says it will – a roleplaying wargame.