When the original King Arthur came out a couple of years ago, I found a very nice alternative to other grand strategy games like the Total War series. I had high hopes for the sequel, but sadly I was left feeling a bit let down.
I was expecting a bold step forward for the series, but it isn’t there, it keeps the same formula of world map adventuring and real time battles, but it didn’t provide anything which made me want to keep going back for more on a long term basis.
That is not to say that King Arthur II is a bad game, but it is lacking a certain spark to push it into must play territory. If you haven’t played the original, then you will likely find King Arthur II to be a challenging and fresh take on the genre, but if you have played the original you might just find it a bit too similar to what has come before.
King Arthur II features a prologue chapter which takes place in a small corner of Britain surrounding Hadrian’s Wall. You take the role of a Roman general and must work to unite the various Roman families together to fight against the Pict hordes which are planning an assault on the Wall. This was the most enjoyable part of the game for me, a tightly focused area to work in with a clear long-term goal. You control your army, roaming the north of England embarking on various quests and diplomatic missions.
These work in the same way as they did in the original, you approach a quest marker on the world map and enter a mini-text based adventure. A narrator describes every scene, though I muted him after a while. In one quest I had to try to gain the allegiance of one of the other Roman families that were vying for control of the English lands, I was able to persuade the family heir to ambush his father in order to gain control of the lands himself. I could have alternatively chosen to support the father and gain him as an ally, but a bit of blackmail later and the son was mine. In another, I had to solve a puzzle to gain an item needed to get one of the other families to agree to an alliance. The clues to the puzzle were found in the big tome of lore that provides much back story to the various factions and events that transpire in the game.
At times like that, King Arthur II really comes into its’ own and you feel like you are playing a top quality title. Sadly, despite some of these adventures standing out, more of them fall into a repetitive routine which simply results in another quest marker appearing on your world map which you rinse and repeat until the quest is complete. This is especially true when you get to the main story mode which features a full map of Britain and puts you in the shoes of King Arthur’s son with a variety of quests to work through, be it finding the cause of a mysterious plague or finding Merlin. The number of quests which are on the map at any one time can be daunting.
This would not be such a challenge if you are able to freely build new armies, which considering how easy it is to bring new commanders to your side, is a bit of a cop out. Another part of the game which feels weak and watered down is in construction and development of your settlements, the majority of buildings available provide small bonuses to your armies. New levels of units for recruiting are unlocked when you reach a certain lore level. After a few turns I stopped worrying about constructing new buildings, and I rarely dabbled in the research, they both seemed to be lacking any great depth.
Battles are fine, but they lack the level of detail that you would find in a Total War fight. I am no great fan of these types of RTS battle, I much prefer a Command and Conquer style approach, but what they do is fun for what there is, which amounts to casting some spells and ensuring your don’t foolishly waste your archers on melee battles. For the most part though, I auto-battled where possible. There were certain instances though where I was unable to auto-fight and had to go hands-on, made sense from quest story reasons occasionally, but there were times when I was puzzled as to why I was unable to auto-resolve a fight.
For the most part, King Arthur II does a good job at carrying on with the series, but it doesn’t do enough for me to make it a must buy. It isn’t a bad game though, but it is very middle of the road. Don’t go into it expecting magic.
Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available/Played – PC
For more information on our scoring system, read this post.