Review | King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame
Format: PC | Genre: Strategy | Publisher: Ascaron | Developer: Neocore | Release date: 11/06/10 | Price: £30
Just in time for its UK release, J.D. Richardson takes a British history lesson with KING ARTHUR: THE ROLE-PLAYING WARGAME.
IMAGINE OPENING your closet only for a corpse to fall out on the floor. Unless that was the body of your latest victim, that’s going to be shockingly unexpected. I had the same sensation when I first played King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame and discovered that it was actually pretty damn good – which, interestingly, is the opposite feeling to what you would get if a corpse fell out of your closet.
You know, I can’t actually remember having ever played a game based on the King Arthur legend and after playing The Role-Playing Wargame I fail to understand why more games do not take advantage of this rich and varied mythology. This game revels in the source material, which incidentally is based on the proper King Arthur and not that terrible American version where he was a Roman general. I mean, come on: I think we know our own legends better than Hollywood, thanks.
First things first, though, the game’s title is slightly misleading, as it has more in common with the Total War series of games. Yes, there are role-playing elements, but anyone expecting a traditional RPG will probably be either disappointed or pleasantly surprised to find you like it anyway, much in the same way I did.
You take the role of King Arthur after he has drawn Excalibur from the stone and begin with one county of Britain, Cornwall. From here you must recruit knights for the Round Table and build your armies to conquer and unite Britain, repelling the dark forces from the north. The strategy map is very much like the aforementioned Total War games, with the country divided into counties, each one having villages, towns and other points of interest such as standing stones or castles. When two armies meet, the game switches to the battle map, where the bloody violence begins in glorious detail.
So there’s the basics, which will be instantly familiar to most PC gamers, but what King Arthur does so well is that it starts piling on extra features and details at an alarming rate. The entire first chapter of the game is the tutorial. Don’t roll your eyes like that, though, because it’s actually a really good tutorial – in fact, half the time you won’t even realise you are playing a tutorial: it’s just a great way of drip feeding you all the different functions of the game in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you right at the start. There’s so much stuff here that you won’t actually get to use the research and chancellery screens until Chapter Two. Believe me, this is a good thing.
What’s in a name?
You may be wondering why King Arthur has “The Role-Playing Wargame” affixed to the end of its title. Well, there are three aspects of the game that justify this. The first is that you can develop your Knights of the Round Table in the traditional levelling-up way of most RPGs. You can improve their stats, such as fighting and adventuring, and choose different abilities and spells depending on their respective class. You can also equip them with artefacts such as weapons, armour and charms.
Unfortunately, you can’t really do anything with yourself, King Arthur, apart from get a wife. It would have been nice to be able to charge into battle personally, but never mind.
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