Released in early access a little over a year ago, the turn-based role-playing/tactics game King Arthur: Knight’s Tale was finally released in final version last April. Back to a game that had potential, but also some darker points.
Death is just the beginning
As the battle for Albion’s throne rages on, King Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordred, his own son. In a final gasp, Arthur manages to deliver a fatal blow to his son. This is how the story of Arthur and Mordred in the Arthurian legends ends. And that’s where the King Arthur game begins. Because while the body of the king was brought back by boat to Avalon, a mysterious storm sinks the ship. An army of undead soon begins to threaten Camelot, led by a living Arthur who has become the champion of an evil force. To put some order in all this, we must kill Arthur, the Lady of the Lake is convinced. And who better to achieve it than the one who has already done it once: Mordred, also back from the dead.
A seat at the Round Table
Let’s make it clear from the outset: with King Arthur, we are in the presence of a turn-based strategy game, embellished with some role-playing elements. From Camelot, which serves as our base, we can send a team to carry out various missions whose heart is always the fights. Because Mordred obviously cannot do everything alone and he must surround himself with new Knights of the Round Table. You recruit most of them according to the missions and the number of characters that you can have at your service is quite limited.
It should be noted that King Arthur does not shine with the wide variety of classes available. We only find the great archetypes of fantasy: a tank, a big nag with a two-handed weapon, a ranged combat specialist, a class focused on stealth and a class oriented magic. This is not very serious since the teams are limited to 4 members per mission. In addition, King Arthur compensates for this low variety by equipping the characters with varied starting skills. Our first archer can for example use a flaming arrow where the second has an attack that can hit several aligned enemies. Each character has his own list of skills to unlock and improve over the levels.
Always to bring a little variety, each character is finally defined by character traits, both positive and negative. One character heals more quickly from wounds inflicted on him while another refuses to go on a mission if he does not have all his health. More embarrassing, we even find some whose loyalty decreases for each mission in which he does not participate. A point not to be overlooked, because this loyalty system can grant sacred bonuses (or penalties) to a character. Mordred on the other hand has a two-axis alignment system, each unlocking their own perks and special characters to recruit.
King Arthur is very complete when it comes to the issue of turn-based combat. We therefore find the classics of the genre: action points and movement grid, possibility of deferring one’s PA to the next turn and monitoring principle. Aware that the game mainly used melee units, the developers of Neocore Games on the other hand, paid particular attention to positioning. Indeed, if the game has a cover system, it also gives importance to the orientation of your characters. Thus, it is not recommended to be attacked in the back and a character equipped with a shield can block attacks if it is oriented in the right direction. Of course, that also applies to enemies, no favoritism.
Even more interesting, Neocore took into account the fact that you mainly play knights and that these are often equipped with armor. There are thus 3 gauges which symbolize the health of the characters. Armor first absorbs damage until it is destroyed. The life points then, which you recover naturally between each mission or using spells/potions/rests on the ground, and finally the vitality, which is only affected if the other two are empty. Be careful though, damage to vitality can leave your characters with wounds that can only be healed in Camelot, for time and money.
Loot and Camelot
Because Camelot is not just the starting point of your adventures, but also a city to rebuild. Several buildings are just waiting for you and your resources to be rebuilt and provide you with their services. From the classic Merchant to the Cathedral that heals your wounds, all have a purpose and can be upgraded. Better, it is possible to assign a knight to a building to take advantage of a small additional bonus. We also note, and this is rather a good point, that the game has the intelligence to offer you a way to advance the characters that you do not send on a mission. Convenient for not suddenly finding one with several levels of delay.
The game does not forget to be generous in loot either. Less than a hack&slash of course, but enough all the same for it to be relevant to review what you have obtained between two missions. Indeed, the bonuses provided by the equipment have an impact on the way you play. Some can thus improve a specific aspect of a character’s skills (make the bleeding inflicted by one of your knights last longer) or increase their survivability on the battlefield. Or even grant you new powers, on occasion.
Dead too alive
I’m going to make a confession to you: I am nevertheless bored with the game. This King Arthur reminds me of the Van Helsing from the same developer: mechanically, it works, but it lacks the little extra that gives flavor to a game. Several tracks can explain this lack of salt. The difficulty seems to me at first poorly regulated. The beginning of the game is thus relatively easy and we tend to raise the difficulty beyond the normal to find challenge. From act 3 on the other hand, it is the opposite which occurs with a large peak of rather artificial difficulty. Neocore too often favors fights against too many enemies rather than fights against few enemies, but with interesting abilities. Yes, the ghosts whose body must be destroyed within 3 turns of their death, I came back quickly.
We can make a bit the same remark for the arenas where the fights take place. During his tutorial, King Arthur encourages you to explore the locations to discover several deployment areas for your units. In practice, however, this possibility only concerns a very small number of fights, most of the time when going from the outside to the inside of a building. Finally, many secondary missions lack variety in the objectives they offer. Not all of them, especially when they introduce a new character, but the contribution to the overall story of the game is often very limited. Too bad these secondary missions are so necessary, both for the experience of your team and because the “mission” is the unit of time for the majority of services offered by Camelot.
Technically as heavy as full body armor
“120GB, seriously? is certainly the first comment that will accompany the installation of this King Arthur. A comment all the more relevant that it is a little difficult to see what justifies such a disk occupation. The game only features English voiceovers and has few cutscenes. In fact, the textures of the game are in uncompressed 4K definition. With the consequence of loads that drag in length. For a visual result far from crazy: it’s Dark Fantasy, so a world that overflows with joyful colors such as gray, black and their nuances. On the other hand, I would have liked an option to limit the omnipresent haze of the maps.
Knights in the Mist
It is with a mixed feeling that I end this test. I have no doubts about the qualities of this King Arthur: Knight’s Tale. It does have some issues, mostly balancing and optimization, but nothing that can’t be fixed. However, the game failed me to hold on to it, even eventually getting boring when it decided to try to overwhelm me with waves of enemies. I would therefore recommend it more to fans of Dark Fantasy, preferring melee combat to ranged skirmishes.
Test conducted by Grim on PC from a version provided by the developer