King Arthur Knight’s Tale pulls a bit of a bait and switches right out the gate. You don’t play as the titular hero. Instead, you are tasked by the Lady of the Lake to actually take Arthur and his corrupted Knights down! The “you” in that sentence happens to be Arthur’s evil offspring Mordred. Apparently, the forces you unleashed in the final battle have corrupted Arthur and his Knights blighting the land and you are now the only one who can put that genie back in the bottle.
The game is a Kickstarter success story having raised just under 156 000GBP for Neocore Games, a studio situated in Budapest. The game bills itself as a Dark Fantasy set Role-Playing Tactical Game and the early access version released recently certainly bears that out. The mood and art style are suitably dark and grim with Camelot having fallen into ruin and the surrounds being overrun by monsters and bandits.
The art style reminds me of the production design of the 1980s classic Arthurian retelling, Excalibur. This film was a dark retelling of the legend known equally for the dismemberment of combatants as well as showcasing the talents of some future British Hollywood stars such as Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson. The maps show off a land that has lost all hope and is overrun by evil. Many maps have swarms of insects buzzing the player, fields are fallow or have sickly crops rotting in the fields. The bodies of villagers litter the land and around every corner, you run the risk of running into bandits and possibly monsters that Mordred unleashed during his final battle with Arthur.
The colour palette is suitably sombre mainly browns and beiges and while it certainly does set the mood, it can become somewhat bland and boring. Being Middle Ages England and Wales, I would expect to see more greens and thriving trees, games like The Last of Us showed that a colourful post-apocalyptic world can be deceptively beautiful. Despite that little annoyance, and it a small one, the art style overall sets the mood and impresses on you that the land is in desperate need for a hero, any hero.
Given that the game is a tactical squad-based game, a distinctive character design is a must and thankfully the designers have ensured that each character is distinctive and easily recognisable from the overhead perspective. Each knight in your squad’s armour is highly stylised, to the point of being completely real-world impractical, but easily recognisable immediately. This makes a wonderful change from the generally uniform look of the soldiers in XCom where if you lose concentration for a second you end up picking the wrong soldier to do the wrong thing.
The attention to detail paid to the art style is lacking a little bit in the sound design as many phrases are repeated too often. Even the combat sounds tend to be shared between characters, but then again there are just so many ways for metal on metal to be varied.
Combat is your typical grid-based map whereby you have a certain number of Action Points to move, cast spells or attack and defend. Each character has a different pool and managing that is key to ensuring your team survives. In this version, it looks like death is permanent, but that’s because certain Camelot building upgrades are not available so if there is a hero resurrection facility it wasn’t available yet.
Combat itself is not overly complex, the game tends to rely on overwhelming the party with large numbers of enemies who are relatively weak. Because the maps are large you will run into various hordes as you explore and make your way to the final battle area. These enemies are easily dispatched but will wear down your armour and health making that final battle a more challenging affair in your weakened state. This is mitigated by having up to two campsites dotted along with the map as well as shrines with the former allowing you to rest and recover some health or armour for the party while the shrines allow you to heal one of your party. This needs a bit of work in the final version as I would rather have smaller maps with fewer, yet more challenging battles. At the moment the battles encourage an almost turtle-like a tactic in that you are encouraged to group your party close together instead of splitting them apart to try and flank enemies.
If this game was simply a combat simulator like Gears Tactics it would get stale quickly and this is a double-edged sword. In XCom I find myself hating the base building game as it takes too much time and you never really know if what you are doing is going to help you reach the endgame. At the same time going from combat situation to combat situation becomes tedious no matter the variety in objectives and maps. Base management here is simpler, you just choose which buildings you need and have the resources for, and they are built immediately. Same with the upgrades to the buildings.
That simplicity extends to the character levelling. As you complete battles your party acquires XP and that is then used to level up the characters allowing them to “learn” new skills and abilities. The RPG mechanics are simple in that you can choose skills to acquire and equipment to equip. The real opportunity comes with the morality chart that you navigate by the responses you are faced with in missions and after. The responses are a simple choice between righteous and “evil” but the chart itself moves you along different paths that allow you to follow a more complex role-playing opportunity. This allows you to be more complex in your responses swinging between the two as the situation requires. This is an interesting mechanic and one that helps set the game apart from its competitors. Planning your responses allows you to unlock path specific perks such as certain Knights that may round out your party or skills that may impact the missions you have access to. It is going to be interesting to play a full campaign with this chart in play and should lead to players sinking hundreds of hours into the game.
F is in early access but what they have shown so far across four main missions and about as many side missions is extremely promising and makes the four to five hours of gameplay available worth the relatively low price on Steam. I look forward to playing the full game when it releases.
Name: King Arthur: Knight’s Tale
Genre: Dark Fantasy Role-playing Tactical Game
Platforms: PC (Steam), PS5, XSX | S
Early Access Release Date: January 26, 2021
Release Date: Q1 2021
Early Access Price: $34.99
Grab your copy of the game here on steam for £27.79
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