by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
As your knights and units win battles, they start leveling up. When a unit gains a new level, you can assign him additional offensive and defensive points or improve their loyalty. The latter serves to increase their willingness to fight for lower wages, a trait that should not be underestimated. Knights can be upgraded with both active and passive skills that range from doing additional damage in combat to powerful spells that can wreak havoc on an enemy unit or provide healing to badly wounded units. Apart from these skills, you also get to spend a point towards one of five traits that improve a knight’s ability to govern, lead or do magic.
As mentioned before, you start out with only a single knight. Additional knights will join you as you progress through the game. Many of these can be found during the many quests and side quests that propel you through the game. Quests are offered at the start of each new season (turns) and are a mix of short text-based adventures and battles. The text-based adventures remind me of a game called Castles II that (somewhat) older gamers may still remember. Like most of the game’s quests, they appear as floating scrolls on the map where a knight can be sent to in order to start the adventure. The player is then offered a series of questions and answers that lead to a conclusion that may involve rescuing missing children or destroying a nest of bandits that have been plaguing the province. Your reward for completing the quest depends on the choices you make and make range from winning or losing cash, retrieving an item and a huge wad of experience for your knight. But beware, some quests may end in battle, so do bring your army along.
Items can be equipped by your knights and occasionally sold for good cash. Some items contribute to your knight’s loyalty, a factor that should not be overlooked as an unmotivated knight will leave your service in a hurry. The easiest way to motivate your knights is by granting them the rights to the provinces that you have conquered. This needs to be done with caution though. Not every knight is made to be a ruler. Each knight has a number of inherent traits that can’t be altered, only mellowed down. Some traits such as inspiring loyalty or being a great merchant are beneficial. However, a greedy knight may well have a detrimental effect on the amount of tax money or food that reaches your treasury.
Besides the items and the improvable traits that can provide some counterweight to inherent traits of a knight, there is one other way to improve his negative traits: marriage. Eligible ladies aren’t growing on trees however. Most can be found during quests or gained through trades with other rulers but some may also come in the form of a ransom payment for knights that you have captured during your battles.
A rich, deep experience
It is difficult to convey the full richness of the gaming experience that King Arthur: The Role-Playing Game’s offers. I hope my review has given you some idea of what to expect but even after several days of playing I have the sense that there are many things still to discover. At this point, you may wonder why I did not award the game a higher score. The answer lies in some of its shortcomings, the most important of which is how the game controls its difficulty factor, especially early on in the game. Enemy rulers seem to have an inordinate amount of cash to spend on crack units while you are still researching stronger units yourself. Additionally, as you can only play as Arthur and follow the same story, the replay value is somewhat limited. Fortunately much of that is alleviated by the order and availability of quests so that the adventure never plays out quite the same. So don’t let these small shortcomings put you off. King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame is one of the most refreshing strategy titles I have played in a long time. Go play!
Refreshing new take on the Total War formula.
Much of the difficulty is factored in through a cheating AI.