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King Arthur is an real-time strategy and role-playing video game developed and published by Neocore Games. It seeks to blend elements of the real-time strategy, role-playing, and grand strategy genres into one.
Game play in King Arthur is an eclectic mix of real-time strategy, role-playing, and grand strategy elements. Much like the Total War series by SEGA, the grand strategy portion of the game is played on a large campaign map of Britannia. When a battle is fought, the action changes to a real-time strategy mode. However, differences have been noted between King Arthur and Total War, such as the position of the battle on the large-scale map having minimal impact on the environment of the battlefield, and the prominent role of fantasy in King Arthur.
During the real-time battles, the rpg-style abilities of the heroes really come to the fore. Heroes wield magical and non-magical abilities, such as the power to call down lightning, or the ability to change the conditions of the battlefield. Heroes are also devastating in melee combat, able to take on dozens of troops. Heroes also inspire nearby troops and keep up the morale of the army as a whole. If the leader of the army is captured, however, the blow to army morale can be devastating.
The battlefield itself also has an impact on game play and the outcome of the battle. Most battles begin in sunlight. However, as noted before, some heroes can unleash a torrential downpour, countering archers and reducing movement speeds. All units have access to various formations, which increase or decrease their effectiveness against certain types of enemies. The terrain, as well, improves the effectiveness of certain units; woodland, for example, hampers cavalry while open fields helps their momentum.
Morale plays a large role in the real-time mode, with a morale bar at the top of the screen measuring both side's total morale during the tide of the battle. Victory locations, similar to "control points" in many First-Person Shooters, increase your own army's morale and decrease that of your opponent's army. In addition, these victory locations also confer an immediate magical power to the owner, like calling down lightning. Victory locations also tend to be strategically located, on hills or nearby buildings (which provide cover). Thus, capturing and retaining these points is crucial to victory (the complete loss of your army's morale results in defeat). Units gain experience during combat, and can be leveled up the following winter season. The AI has been noted to be effective and aggressive in capturing these victory locations, and in using hero abilities to maximum effect.
When units level up, you can boost several attributes, for example, attack, defense, or decreasing upkeep costs. When heroes level up, they may gain access to new spells and effects, as well as an increase in their martial skills. Heroes, called Knights of the Round-table, have 20 levels maximum. Both active and passive abilities can be acquired. For example, many passive abilities increase crop and taxes production in the province that the hero is currently in. An active ability is one triggered during combat, such as lightning.
The campaign map is similar to the Total War series, but has a more fantasy-oriented style of Britannia. Laws, research, and production all play a role in building your empire. Economy is streamlined and fairly automatic; there are only two resources: food and gold, both collected from your provinces. Certain hero abilities can increase the output of a province. This large-scale strategy mode also integrates the four seasons into the campaign. Each turn represents a season, namely spring, summer, fall, or winter. During winter, all army movement ceases and taxes roll in to the coffers. Units also level up during the winter months. Quests or events, such as rebellions or volunteers for the player's armies, appear on the map. Similar to the campaign map layout in Empire: Total War, each province has several towns, castles, or other places of conquest. To control the province completely, the player must conquer every one of these. Every one of the player's major actions has an effect upon the morality of the player's faction, measured in two ways: by religion and type of ruler. There are only two forms of religion in King Arthur, Christianity, or the Old Faith. There are several advantages and disadvantages to both, and both unlock advanced and powerful units. The player can also either be a Tyrant, or Rightful king, which in concert with the player's choice of religion allows the player to unlock specific units.
The game is driven forward largely through quests that appear on the campaign map. Only knights can undertake quests. Once a knight has chosen to undertake a quest, a game resembling text adventure begins. The player has a series of options and, depending on the attributes of his knight, can intimidate or talk his way through.
The plot in King Arthur draws mainly on Arthurian legend, adding and intermixing foreign elements into it. The player takes the role of King Arthur himself, and commands his knights and armies to expand his empire. It is explained that Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, failed to draw the sword Excalibur from the stone. Arthur, years later, pulls the sword from the stone, unleashing ancient forces upon Britannia.
The game has garnered fairly positive reviews, earning a 7.0 on GameSpot. The review praised the game's captivating environment and style, innovations like the victory locations, and detailed graphics. However, criticism was leveled mainly at the difficulty of the real-time battles, the unbalanced campaign, and some instances of overpowered units. According to many users on the Steam forums, archers of all forms are far overpowered. A recent patch sought to address this issue with a new option to weaken archers considerably on the battlefield.