by Derk Bil
reviewed on PC
In the thick of it
Battle maps come in a larger variety and feature a number of changes that impact how a combat session unfolds. One change is that victory locations are… well, locations but they no longer contribute to your victory. They still give you a special power such as a lightning strike or the ability to resurrect fallen warriors, but to win you will have to clear the map. Another is that there are far more areas that are too steep for your ground units to climb, forcing you to go around them, often turning a number of sections into natural killing grounds.
Archer units no longer reign supreme and not just because they have become slightly less powerful. No, the real change is that everyone seems to be out to get them, and they get a lot more abuse than the other units in your fold. It’s not really all that surprising, considering that archers are initially the only class that can take on the newly introduced flying units. Sages can certainly help getting rid of pesky winged minions, but their most effective spells will wipe out those you are trying to protect just as easily. There is no such thing as a friendly fire ball. As the diversity of your armies increases, dependencies on your archers will decrease as well, up to the point where you yourself will command the necessary airborne units too.
Your first magic spells will most likely fizzle against your opponents’ magic shield. Each spell has a penetration rating that determines whether you will get through or not. If you don’t, it will contribute to hurting the shield so that it lowers. Relics, captured locations and even units in the field affect the shield by either buffing it or lowering it. Once through though, the spells are more satisfying than ever. A well-positioned fireball cast by the right hands can wipe out an entire unit and dispelling negative effects on your units can turn tables against the enemy they are fighting in a heartbeat. Healing and resurrection spells feel more meaningful as well, as does the use of magic as a whole.
Some of the combat sessions will be challenging but unless you chose to confront enemy armies labeled as impossible to defeat, most can be won without having to give up any of your own units. Adventure-triggered battles, though, can be tough at times and it is there that you will see the AI come up with its most brilliant plots. Weaknesses in your formations will always be exploited and enemy cavalry will actively seek to do the most damage by flanking archers and light infantry. A breach in your battle line will cause enemy units to poor through and take aim at weaker archers and your valuable sages without fail.
A leap of faith
Having fewer armies means spending a lot less money on recruiting, upkeep and on replenishing them after battles. The only really costly moves are when you change existing units in different unit types. Instead, you can invest your hard-earned cash in improving your provinces, building useful upgrades which will benefit your liege lords and their armies. Provinces no longer provide income – that is gained almost exclusively through battles, quest rewards and selling relics – but they do provide experience, health and other bonuses to your troops. But at least as beneficial as conquering a region and claim it as your own, is the forging of alliances with their respective kings. Doing so, you gain access to all kinds of benefits that are otherwise unavailable such as accuracy upgrades for your archers, trade income, new heroes, scientific bonuses and much more.
Another way to gain special bonuses is through King Arthur II’s adventures as well as through diplomacy. Many of your choices in the game give you points towards your Christianity or Old Faith rating, as well as towards your Righteous and Tyrant rating. Strong ratings towards any of these will let you form powerful armies and cast spells, consistent with the decisions you have been making in the text adventures and through diplomatic actions.
There is an amazing level of detail present in the game. During combat, you can zoom into the thick of the action to see exactly what your units are doing. Obviously it is virtually impossible to be an effective commander like that but it is worth gawking at the graphics a little before going back to helicopter view to continue slapping your opponent around some more. And the campaign map is truly stunning, featuring lush rolling hills, dark looming mountains and all sorts of magical and fantastical looking locations.
The game is not entirely bug-free but when you hit them, they are never game-breaking and Neocore is actively patching the game to squash them.
Like its predecessor before it, King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame successfully melds role-play, adventure, diplomatic and combat elements into a cohesive, one of a kind experience. The additions and changes make the game feel almost as fresh as its predecessor and discovering them is almost an adventure by itself.
Magic is more satisfying than ever, campaign map is stunning.
Only three army commanders allowed, no income from provinces, a bit short.