by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
King Arthur - The Role-playing Wargame Ė a Grand Real-Time Strategy game developed by Neocore Games Ė showed itself to be a serious contender to the Total War series. It offered a fresh new take on Creative Assemblyís signature formula, mixing a fantasy setting with plethora of small innovations that culminated in one of the most fun strategy titles I have played in years. Now, Neocore Games is back with a new expansion for King Arthur called The Saxons. It takes players back to the now familiar, fantasy-filled world of medieval England. Paganism reigns supreme and only the Saxons are left to defend Christianity from the impending darkness. Your task? To lead vast armies to spread the light and help yourself to the throne.
When I say familiar, I really mean familiar. After installation, the Saxon campaign becomes available through the menu of the main game. Once selected, the game immediately reveals itself as a sandbox game, shedding the somewhat restrictive lines set in the original campaign. A new menu allows you to select and change a number of different options that adjust the difficulty and goals before letting you jump into the game itself. You can, for instance, set victory conditions that range from gathering a set amount of gold to the number of provinces you should conquer to win the game. You can mix and match these freely, though I expect most players will simply want to conquer the entire map.
The knights are back in town
When the map is loaded, you will instantly recognize it as the one you played on before. Every city and special location of the original game is still there. A little disappointing, really. The developers explain this by saying that the campaign is set during the same time of the original, just with a different leader. Fair enough, but discovering new areas and locations is part of the fun of playing any expansion to a great game.
Once you get started, you quickly settle into the gameplay that made King Arthur so great. Building up your major cities, recruiting heroes and units and taking them to the field for massive battles is as fun as ever. The unique use of victory locations and magic and special abilities of your heroes add a layer of depth not found in its competition.
On top of the familiar, Neocore tweaked the game in various ways to better fit its new sandbox surroundings. You can now engage in diplomacy with both rulers and a number of factions in the game. These factions do not necessarily hold territory on the campaign map but once befriended, they can still be asked to take action against rival kingdoms. Pressured leaders may offer their allegiance and become your vassal in return for protection. Opposing leaders may also offer to pay for the release of captured heroes or request to be paid to return one of your own. An excellent way to get rid of unwanted ladies or items as the enemy often values these more than you would yourself.
New additions to the game will pop up throughout the campaign. There are five new heroes to recruit, a number of new hero and unit skills, three new units and loads of new artifacts to find or do battle for. To spice using artifacts up a little, the game now features five sets of artifacts that enhance each otherís effects when combined and given to the same hero.
Expand or extend?
While all the elements of the original campaign are still there, the storyline is notably shorter. I would have liked to see some more variety on the overall map or even in the battle maps but unfortunately these have remained exactly the same. This has to have some impact on the score but it does not mean that the game is not worth purchasing. For 30 hours of gameplay of this quality, $14.99 is a steal.
And if you havenít played the game yet, you should. Yes, I know that Shogun 2: Total war is in the making but that is no reason to develop tunnel vision. King Arthur - The Role-playing Wargame is a great game that is sure to entertain you for many, many hours. All it takes to become a believer is to play the game yourself.
More of the same great gameplay.
No changes to campaign map and locales.