A Glimpse At The Soon-To-Be Future King.
Those fine folks at NEOCORE Games, along with publisher Paradox Interactive, have been working hard to push out the next full installment in the surprisingly good King Arthur Role Playing Wargame franchise. If you recall, the game basically takes the concept of the turn based and real time strategy elements of the Total War franchise, marries it with a dark fantasy setting inspired by classic Arthurian legend, and adds a larger layer of role-playing adventuring to the game, by having players conduct choose-your-own text adventures in between battles.
The first game was great. If you want to read more about it, check out my review here. The followup to that game, a quick little stopgap title featuring a completely linear campaign and some unnessessary story with unlikable characters, was not so great. You can also read about that in this article.
The point of THIS article, however, is to celebrate that the wait is almost over! King Arthur II is launching any day now (the current steam release date just says “January”) but early purchasers can get access to the prologue campaign in the game and start playing right away. Want to see how the prologue is? Read on to find out!
How is King Arthur II? First and foremost, its still the same game. Oh, the interface has changed, new options have been introduced, the graphics look much better, and there are new units and such, but at its core this is still the same game as the originak King Arthur. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since the first King Arthur was a fantastic experience.
As before, you send heroes and their armies around a map, capturing territory and taking on adventure missions, and eventually getting into massive Total War style battles.
In terms of the presentation, KAII takes a few steps forward, and a few steps back. On the one hand, the graphics look gorgeous, especially on the overworld map. They are both sylized and well rendered, and don’t seem to fall into that trap of “generic medival/fantasy” that so many similar games do. The style of King Arthur is unique.
This makes it all the more tragic when the framerate just can’t keep up with things. On the overworld the framerate never exceeds 30, and dips into the mid 10’s when action starts heating up. On the battle maps its just all over the place.
Now, I wish I could say that its probably just my computer, but frankly, it probably isnt. I am running a top of the line Core i7, with a GTX580, and 16 gigs of RAM. There is no reason this game should run like this on my system. Just to double check, I also had Jeff run the game as well, and he experienced the exact same problems on his equally high end system. It’s apparent that the engine itself just can’t seem to handle what the game wants to do, and leads to the game just skipping frames left and right. Its a shame, and it might get fixed in a future patch, but for now the game’s animation tends to just be very jerky because of these issues.
Now, King Arthur II has really upped the game when it comes to story and presentation. For one, the text based adventures now frequely feature many more options on how to proceed, and man there are a lot of them. They are also fully voice acted. This is not necessarily a plus.
You see, I just don’t like the voice acting in the game very much. It’s slow, plodding, and it’s all in this very affected accent, like someone out of a community theater’s production of Hamlet. Also, its clear that the voice direction was somewhat lacking, as the voice actor will frequently mispronounce words, or put the wrong emphasis on them, taking you out of the experience.
I am not sure whether I would have wanted a better voice actor, or none at all, but I think I am leaning towards the latter.
The music, while good, is not quite as stirring as the first game, but since I have only played the prologue campaign, I am hopeful that there will be more variety once the full game releases.
Finally, how is the prologue campaign itself? Well, I think its surprisingly good, considering that you do not play as Arthur, a Knight of the Round Table, or anyone even remotely related to Arthur’s story. You play as a general of a New Roman state in Northern Britain, contending with several other political houses for control of the realm. The story starts strong, with death and betrayal, and then twists and turns, allowing you to approach the various houses as you see fit, whether you want to gain allies or destroy enemies.
It’s actually quite a bit of fun, even if it is a little dissapointing that the actual King Arthur stuff is so lightly touched upon. Again though, this is just the prologue. I would expect the once and future king to be standing front and center once the main game gets underway.
And, of course, the battles are a blast. Think of them as Total War Lite. I love the Total War games, but I always get my ass handed to me. In King Arthur, with just a decent amount of strategic thought, you can usually overcome your foes on the normal difficulty settings. On higher settings… good luck. As in the previous game, controlling your units on the battlefield is simple and intuitive.
I have other complaints and notes but I think I will leave them for the full review, whenever that goes up. In the main time, you can get King Arthur II on Steam for $35.99, and based on the prologue, I would say the game will be well worth your time and money.