King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame

7 Overall Score

Huge amount of gameplay, interesting story and setting

Extremely steep learning curve, some technical issues

Written by on February 13, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

So I’ve had King Arthur II for about a week now on Steam, and I’m not sure I understand it any more than I did when I first acquired a copy. The game, from Paradox Interactive, came out on Steam a while back, and while I’ve played a fair amount of it, I’m still not sure I’m equipped to review it all the way. But I’m going to talk about what I’ve done with it, how much fun I had, and whether or you you might enjoy it, so we’ll call that a review.

King Arthur II starts with a Prologue of Septimus. He’s one of the few remaining Roman generals in old England, and determined to hold his land against internal schemes as well as invasions from barbarians and various awful creatures from the wilderness. In the course of the game you’ll manage armies, diplomatic connections, and level-up systems.

The meat of the game comes in the form of turns on a large map. Strategy fans should be somewhat familiar with this. Your army can move into battle or resupply based on location, and territories you control can produce various useful structures. As your character moves around you’ll encounter diplomatic and combat encounters. The diplomatic encounters are fairly straight forward dialogue trees, but the combat is where the game gets interesting.

Combat is set on the order of thousands of units. To someone used to working within the confines of a Starcraft 2’s handful of units, the first mission (in which my army of 1300 faced off against a rabble of 2000+) was a bit daunting. The gameplay doesn’t do much to mitigate this issue, as mousing over any unit brings up a whole host of numbers. Fortunately the controls are pretty easy to figure out. Right-click on guys and your folks will head that way and make with the murder. Setting up basic tactical approaches (flanks, running calvalry into archers) works reasonably well, though the passage of time takes a bit of getting used to. It’s very easy to watch your carefully-laid formation fall apart within the first thirty seconds of movement.

Beyond the army combat you’re managing a hero unit. The leader of your army has a small contingent of men to stand around while he murders everything in sight, and a couple spells. These can be gamechangers, as lightning will smack into the middle of your units and decimate them, others will be slowed to a crawl on the verge of the cavalry charge. These powers are great, but knowing when to use them and how to mitigate the effects of the enemy general can be tough.

To top it all off there’s a level-up mechanic for both your armies and your character. This is perhaps my core problems with King Arthur II; it’s immensely dense. I’ve seen forum posts trying to cover everything from diplomacy tactics to disengaging and setting proper ambushes. There are extensive guides in the game to cover these tactics, but it’s a lot to try and dig into at once. I want to play a game to enjoy it, not to study. Starcraft can get away with the need because it offers intuitive ways to ease you into complex mechanics, and the campaign is fantastic at this. King Arthur II struggles here, and those early missions can be painful.

The game can be confusing to your PC, as well. King Arthur II is extremely demanding, and not great about setting itself up. On a rig that can handle Skyrim and other contemporary titles on medium the game crawled until I manually changed a number of settings and went back to DX9 mode. These are small issues, and they’re fixable, but its easy to see all of this putting a gamer used to the download and play ease of Steam off. That part’s unfortunate, because I do like the game behind this.

There’s a whole lot to like about King Arthur II. The story is different, bringing Roman and Celtic mythology into a world largely dominated by variations of elves and dwarves and hobbits. The combat is deep and interesting, and never feels unfair; there’s always a logical solution to the problem you’ve been presented with. It just takes so long to get into the game proper that it can be hard to wait out the things that aren’t fun. The introductory film, for example, takes almost twenty solid minutes and offers next to no gameplay. It’s a horrifying first impression for a game to make and, when coupled with the technical issues and daunting early levels it’s amazing the game has a (fairly dedicated) following.

If you have time to muddle your way into King Arthur II, you’ll find a ton of enjoyable gameplay. You can throw hours at the prologue alone, let alone the main campaign. The story is interesting, and the leveling mechanics add a nice level of depth to the strategy combat. The scary thing is how much that start kills and otherwise alright title. If you’re a strategy fan, get to this one. It has problems, but this game’s still pretty alright.

A copy of King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame was provided to The Married Gamers for review.


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Author: Zach Snell View all posts by
Hi there. If you're reading this you've probably read some material of mine. If you want more go here and read my stories about a guy who punches wizards.

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