- Dark take on Arthurian mythos
- Managing and strengthening your base and units has depth
- Combat gets monotonous
- Small-scale conflicts
- Voice acting
When King Arthur: Knights Tale was released in April of this year, I quickly asked for a review key. The TRPG is one of my favorite genres, but usually comes with an anime twist or as one of the many Warhammer titles. So I immediately saw a game that takes a completely different approach.
That review key didn’t arrive at GameQuarter until August due to a technical problem. Not exactly in time for a 1.0 review as we originally envisioned, but it’s also a shame not to do anything with it. And so we took a look at what the game is like now that made it to version 1.2.2.
No hero king Arthur
In Arthurian legends, King Arthur is the hero. Not surprising, of course, given the name. However, he was far from perfect, judging by the fact that he gave birth to a bastard with his own half sister. This bastard was Mordred, a knight nicknamed Dread Knight and in many legends the one who nearly kills Arthur.
It’s no different in Knight’s Tale, only the two heavyweights now kill each other in their final battle. Arthur, as the hero of the legends, is then taken to Avalon to get his well-deserved rest in the afterlife. At least that’s how it should have gone. In reality, His Highness is unable to come to terms with his passing and as a result, he plunges the entire empire into chaos.
The Lady of the Lake, an almost divine entity in these mythos, decides she can’t let this run its course. But even with all her gifts, she is unable to stop the fallen Once and Future King. In her desperation, she therefore focuses on the only warrior who could ever endanger Arthur’s life: Sir Mordred. Our hero of questionable morals in this story.
The table without corners
Even with the Lady’s wisdom at his side, the resurrected Mordred is not a one-man army that can effortlessly defy Arthur’s dark forces. Your goal in this easy seventy-hour adventure is therefore to become stronger, form your own round table, rebuild Camelot and gain territory. To achieve this, you’ll need to pass laws, gather resources and intervene in conflict to make the kingdom flourish, as well as appoint confidants, restore wounded knights and more. But baby step by baby step.
This may sound like criticism, but it is certainly not intended that way. The idea that building your army for a change is more than collecting personnel and grinding levels is one that really appeals to me. War is, in most cases, a long drawn-out battle in which ground is lost or gained only sparsely. Translating this to a video game therefore sounded like music to my ears. In the translation, however, something has been lost somewhere.
In the opening of King Arthur we see a great battle. Two armies clash, led by some prominent knights and wizards. That’s not what the game offers after that. Instead, you set out with four knights to battle entire armies of zombies, bandits and monsters on your sword like true tanks. Forget great battles; in most cases, the new king of Camelot has to set out to liberate a village or explore forests.
Had this been put in a fascinating jacket and talked to each other with a common thread, this would have been absolutely no problem. But that’s where the shoe pinches. Everything in King Arthur: Knight’s Tale is delivered with big words and melodrama, but the scale of events doesn’t reflect this. Plus, in some cases, the voice acting is so dramatic that Monty Python and the Holy Grail kept coming to mind. Mordred himself is very well voiced, but the same cannot be said of the entire cast.
Immersion in scale
Of course, it’s not fair to force my own expectations on the game. Just because I feel this battlefield should be bigger doesn’t automatically mean developer NeoCore did something wrong by going a different path. However, there’s a reason that many TRPGs let you control many more units or shape those units into mini-armies. A larger scale gives you more strategic options and a more interesting battlefield to execute them on. A playing field that four knights can defy on foot is immediately extremely limited by its nature. And that breaks Knight’s Tale in my opinion after about ten hours.
Battles then degenerate into skirmishes that you complete in minutes, with ten plus enemies that usually consist of mostly weak units like standard zombies or scoundrels. There are interesting conflicts with unique and compelling enemies, but they are like needles in a haystack made up mostly of monotonous collisions on repetitive maps. Maps that you can explore in between, but that would have been better removed in its entirety to just go from big showdown to big showdown.
On paper, King Arthur could have turned out to be something really interesting. A different take on the familiar mythos and a slow, realistic approach make for a dark story that takes time to build. Unfortunately, the filling partially undermines that setup, thanks to collisions that do not do justice to the setup in terms of size and intensity.