King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame isn’t the kind of game I normally buy. To say that real-time strategy games aren’t my forte would be to understate just how bad I am at them, and that RTS ineptitude typically prevents me from experiencing any kind of enjoyment from the genre. However, I do have a love affair of sorts with text-based, choose-your-own-adventure gameplay. There’s just something about them that’s totally sexy, and their presence in King Arthur made the game impossible to resist. Buying this was kind of like getting involved with a succubus in that I expected things to end badly, but was so enchanted that I went in anyway.
Unlike getting involved with a succubus, I planned in advance and set the difficulty to the easiest setting to compensate somewhat for my inability to function in RTS games. It was still barely enough to get through the game, which is… really, really sad, honestly. It boggles my mind that I can come up with complex strategies in turn-based strategy games that border on brilliance, but the second things switch up to real time I’m basically playing from inside of a metaphorical short bus.
But I digress. The game itself is actually quite good, and my expectations of playing through a total train wreck turned out to be totally unfounded. That’s not to say that the game is flawless, but the flaws are typically so minor that they’re barely worth mentioning. For example, there are several spelling/grammar errors, most notably with randomly placed and/or missing commas. Feast your eyes on this:
I also experienced a weird graphics glitch where setting the resolution to the highest my monitor would allow caused the terrain to disappear randomly both on the world map and in battles. This went away when I switched to the next lowest setting, though it doesn’t seem to change the size of the actual window since all my screenshots are at my monitor’s native resolution. A non-issue, really. More troubling are the load times, which you’re constantly having to contend with. Transitions in and out of battle mean load screens, and the wait is significant compared to most games. It’s something you learn to deal with quickly enough, but it’s still annoying.
Aside from those problems, I enjoyed the game immensely. Much of gameplay is spent on the main map, managing different areas and building up armies. Everything that happens on this screen is turn-based, which I was very thankful for. Much like in Heroes of Might and Magic games, your individual army/armies can only move so much in a single turn, and the map is littered with other armies that are building up their strength. Luckily, you can make allies and avoid having to fight certain people (if you want), or you can just charge ahead, taking over everything in sight. Each turn moves time ahead a season, with summer being the best time to fight and winter being a time when it’s not possible to move your armies (but this is when you’re able to level up your units and heroes and really focus on building areas up).
While you focus on expanding your kingdom and decide whether to be a good king or a tyrant (and also deciding whether to believe in Christianity or the Old Faith, a decision that determines potential allies), random quests pop up that you can take or ignore. Some have a turn limit, especially those that are disaster-related and stunt the growth of certain areas, but the important ones sit around until you take them. Some quests are combat-focused, while others are trade-focused. Then you have the choose-your-own-adventure ones that are awesome. As your knights level up through combat and solving quests, there are a number of traits that they can become better at; you might pump up the magical ability of one knight while improving the leadership of another, both affecting the knight and/or their army in different ways. Their traits affect their abilities during the adventure sections, with certain choices only being viable to those leveled enough in a specific area. For example, in one adventure, the knight I sent got in a duel. However, their “fight” skill (which determines how well they can fight in combat, as well) wasn’t leveled enough and they lost, the result of which being that a villain escaped. I reloaded, however, and instead sent a knight who had invested in that skill. They won the duel and brought about a better result, which can often be important because adventures frequently affect relationships and allow you to gain items and allies.
Sometimes adventures can lead to battle. While most of the time this plays out in text, sometimes it can mean having to switch to the RTS kind of fighting. The RTS sections aren’t that bad, but I noticed that they’re a bit imbalanced; some skills and spells are simply extraordinarily powerful compared to others. Then again, I was playing on an easy setting so I can’t really speak to how well this particular aspect of the game works, especially compared to other games in the genre. I will say, however, that once I got the hang of it, even these sections managed to be quite entertaining. It’s possible to automatically resolve a battle and avoid the whole thing, as well, which is nice because it means avoiding the loading screens, but you’ll probably wind up losing more units than if you had done it manually.
Graphics are good. You’re just looking at the map for the most part, and while it’s not ugly, I wouldn’t consider it jaw-dropping, either. The graphics in combat are similar, being passable and sometimes even nice-looking when you zoom in on units, but most of the time they’re just average. Where the game stands out, however, is the art. While it’s static (for the most part—cutscenes zoom and add elements one at a time to appear more animated), it’s so visually interesting and well-done that it almost makes the loading screens enjoyable. It’s very moody and distinct, and it provides the game with a unique flair that matches the coolness of the choose-your-own-adventure sections. The art is just present enough to add a lot, but not so ubiquitous that you ever get the feeling that the game is leaning on it as a crutch. The music is similarly interesting, being understated and hidden away in the background for the most part, but nonetheless contributing quite a bit to the atmosphere.
Here’s what you should do: