King Arthur: Knight’s Tale review

King Arthur is dead and you, Mordred, died killing him. Now Arthur has cursed the afterlife. To bring peace to the Isle of Avalon, you must do what you do best: kill Arthur – or rather, the multitude of vile villains his soul has become entangled in. For those who were fans of King Arthur: A Role-Playing Wargame, Neocore Games’ earlier turn-based dark fantasy game, the idea behind King Arthur: Knight’s Tale is indeed very welcome. Don’t expect a retelling of classic romances like Malory or cinematic portrayals, but do expect your favorite Arthurian characters to appear in a twisted afterlife form and engage in battles between a handful of powerful knights and hordes of enemies in a rich combat system. It’s a hell of a game for what it is – a sprawling adventure that might be too repetitive on its own.

There’s about 120GB installed – a huge, unoptimized game that’s charming despite, or because of, its rough edges. It packs everything I’ve come to expect from the setting: rescuing beautiful damsels, slaying dragons, fighting giants – it’s all here, all with a dark twist, spread across a strategy RPG that easily scores 70-100 You join the forces that exist in Avalon: The Old Gods, Christianity, Justice and Tyranny. Favorites like Tristan and Isolde show up, but Tristan is now a decaying zombie; Parcival is here, but the quest for the Holy Grail can never be fulfilled now; and Gawain attempts to commit genocide against fairies.

What Knight’s Tale gets right, absolutely right, is the fantasy of being an armored knight. Your characters are tanks for the most part, and when used properly, they’re like plows, carving furrows in masses of enemies every turn. It’s extremely satisfying, and the rules of Knight’s Tale are based on that experience. The basic mechanics of battles make for a great strategy RPG as they force you to pay attention to factors such as alignment, distance, unit type and more.

Characters have three bars of health: armor reduces incoming damage directly, but can be reduced by armor-reducing attacks; Hitpoints are exactly what you think they are – and they refill to the max from mission to mission; Vitality is more long-term, a health reserve to secure life points that can only be restored by rest in Camelot’s Hospice. Also, the loss of vitality brings with it the possibility of permanent injuries such as broken bones and disease. But fear not: as long as you watch out for enemies who can break them, armor will protect all but the most ruthless knights from permanent damage.

To compensate for their ability to absorb penalties, your knights are almost always outnumbered.

To compensate for their ability to absorb all of these penalties, your knights are almost always outnumbered. While early-game fights are often evenly staked, mid-game it’s rare that an encounter doesn’t set up 12 or more enemies against your four knights. Hell, some will throw several dozen enemies at you… some of which can call even more baddies onto the field. Your knights can only do so much in one turn, being limited by a fairly restrictive action point system, so racking up more action points through advanced gear, abilities, and special weapons becomes clutch play.

Being outnumbered also means that the direction your characters face is an important part of combat in Knight’s Tale. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at first glance, having your character’s front bow to the enemy is important, since shield users can block attacks and everyone avoids brutal backstabs. Considering how important it is, it’s surprising that there’s no visual indicator when you’re flanked. So you must always check the faces of all your characters before ending your turn, or risk the consequences.

Check the faces of all your characters before ending your turn or risk the consequences.

Unfortunately, combat encounters don’t always live up to their interesting rules, because while there are many highlights, there are just too many of them that bring the average down. The terrain is often boring, not very varied or simply not available. They often face off against the same four unit types, maybe with a boss thrown in, in different mixes, for seven or eight fights in the same mission. Some fights are just frustrating wasters of time: twelve of the same enemies at once, or worse, brief interludes of two or three easily defeated enemies that take longer to start and end than the actual fight.

Between these lengthy quests, you’ll return to Camelot, where you’ll construct building upgrades, make lordly decisions, such as resolving disputes between lords, and purchasing new equipment. Nothing too deep, no big tech tree or whatever, but it’s a nice little meta-game between adventures.

King Arthur: Knight’s Tale official screenshots

And make no mistake: adventure is at the heart of Knight’s Tale. You have a round table of 12 knights, with some proxies in the wings, but there are about 30 characters to collect, so kick the ones you don’t like to the curb all the time. To keep your party members up to par on the bench, you can train them off-screen, but there are also enough missions that require you to manage two or three separate teams of knights at once – especially on the harder difficulties. I spent 65 hours completing King Arthur: Knight’s Tale, although after a while I started dropping side quests and rushing into the endgame because I was fed up with these repetitive battles.

I spent 65 hours completing King Arthur: Knight’s Tale.

That experience of sending teams on epic quests is essential to the Arthurian feel, and I like that part of it, but individual quests in Knight’s Tale are just… way too long. They roam the map, constantly being ambushed and surprised by enemies, picking up small chests filled with trinkets, and generally doing what I would call the very unchivalrous equivalent of diligent work for little reward. There’s a reason that you don’t have to run around looting after the mission in XCOM or Fire Emblem: It’s not much fun.

Perhaps I would take the quests more gently if the stories were excellent, but they don’t deserve that indulgence. Some of them are fun, interesting twists on your Arthurian all-stars’ stories, but most are tired fantasy tropes or obvious journeys from start to finish. The one-note Dark Fantasy font is usable at its best; more often it is both boring and full of grammatical errors.

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But the overall story is cool. It’s fun to fight in this strange afterlife where nobody’s quite sure what the new rules are. The story goes deeper than you might expect, involving not only Arthurian legend and Christian myth, but also delving into pre-Christian British practices, including the gods and spirits of Wales and Ireland. It also transitions well into the optional post-campaign game where, after defeating the evil Arthur, you fight an invasion of giants and other mythical beasts. But this story was already too long for her own good. King Arthur: Knight’s Tale review

Fry Electronics Team

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