[media-credit id=15 align=”aligncenter” width=”741″][/media-credit]This Jan. marks the release of King Arthur II, sequel to King Arthur, the unexpectedly successful RTS/RPG hybrid released in 2009. Some time after the events of King Arthur, the kingdom assembled in the first game is in dire distress once again as portals to the underworld spew trolls and dragons alike to wreak havoc upon Britannia. As the Once and Future King himself, it is the player’s job to make all right and good with the world once more.
For those who have not played the first game, the setup is similar to the Total War franchise, with a campaign map in which players can move and manage armies and provinces — cutting to a battle interface whenever armies clash with another. Due to a ticket system that revolves around controlling specific land marks on the map, it is even possible for the smallest army in the realm to take down the largest — though unlikely. On the quest for righteousness, players are presented with various opportunities to recruit knights for the Round Table, who can be gifted fiefdoms and even a spouse. In return, they lead armies into battle and help maintain order throughout the kingdom. With the proper hardware, it is worth playing with high graphics, as the battlefields can be breathtaking given the detail to both the environments and the individual units.
While the RTS aspect is made evident through armies’ engagements, the role-playing elements are what set apart the franchise. As players emerge victorious time and time again, surviving knights and units will gain experience and level up, granting skill and attribute points which can be allocated freely to suit specific playing styles. If one wants a number of powerhouse generals to charge into the fray like the legends of lore, this can be done; if knights who delve into the arcane arts, calling forth thunder from the heavens amidst the chaos of battle, this can be done too; players can even be that boring person who makes their knights great at governing, granting peace, prosperity, and loads of extra gold from the fiefdoms they have been granted. As if that were not enough, the game incorporates old school role play in the form of text-based adventures that you can encounter throughout Britannia. Thanks to some impressive voice-acting, these miniature epics give the feel of a Dungeon Master narrating an elaborate game of Dungeons & Dragons.
Of course, all this so-called freedom begs the question, why play it by the book as some kind and rightful king? The short answer is: don’t. While some objectives are mandatory because not fulfilling them would bring about the complete destruction of the world, a number of them allow gamers to play the more villainous side of the story through branching decisions. These types of decisions result in a change of alignment, represented by a 2-D chart of behavior, with one axis ranging from Christianity to Old Ways (religion) and the other from Tyrant to Rightful (morality). This system should not be taken for granted either, as each combination (Christian Tyrant, Old Way Rightful, etc.) grants various perks, unique high tier units and even knights who will join or take up arms against the king.
King Arthur II meets all the expectations of a sequel and more, having polished and re-mastered the features that made its predecessor so impressive. As for what is new, flying units have been added to the game. This opens up a number of tactical possibilities, for both players and enemies (nothing intimidates like a dragon raining fire on troops from on high). This time around though, multiplayer has been completely removed in favor of a more rich and rewarding single player experience. While this is certainly the case, one cannot help but wish players could duke it out with fellow Arthurians. Past experience with the first installment means there ought to be decent maintenance in the form of patches and various DLC, and multiple alignments means there is literally hundreds of hours of game play at your disposal. If you are looking for something different than the norm, King Arthur II is worth a look, especially at only $40.