One of the most famous English legends has become an action role-playing game with rogue-light elements. The story of King Arthur has been recreated in a fantastically faithful rendition. It starts like all good tales with the magical island of Avalon sinking into a death darkness of skeletons, zombies, fires, violence against humans and chaos of bandits. Just before that, King Arthur’s ship had exploded in a gigantic magical disaster. In pure distress, the beautiful lady in the lake tries to resurrect him, which results in a demonic manifestation that is somewhat closer to Voldemort with his horror crux than the noble king. A wandering undead who destroys everything in its path. You take on the role of the now dead but soon resurrected arch-enemy and tyrant Sir Mordred. His purpose will be to destroy this new Arthur, a rival who is now a non-living demonic creature.
The tyrant once a knight and later a bitter rival has been tasked with killing something worse than himself. Your first task is to try to find out why you are alive again and then recreate your variant on the knights of the round table. You may think you’ve forgotten a couple of chapters about Arthur, but that’s not the case. This, just like previous titles in the universe, is a freer interpretation of the legends and a newly created story around the characters. The game is in the same universe as both King Arthur: The Role Playing Wargame 1 and 2. They borrowed elements from Total War and Heroes of Might and Magic with a bit of text adventure. Both were developed by the same developer Neocore Games.
I had zero expectations and got a real surprise of my time with this title. It drips of darkness, evil and character. The design is very suitable for the universe and the entire user interface brings to mind titles like Diablo 2. I think a lot about the redesigned user interfaces from the 90s and 2000s. It is fine details and frames in the user interface that give empathy and show passion from the developers. The music is a darker folk music that draws inspiration from older Celtic folk music with a lot of bass at the bottom. It is an exciting but atmospheric music, which together with the design shapes the experience’s own identity.
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King Arthur Knight’s Tale is very addictive in terms of gameplay. You quickly gain control of the Camelot fortress which is in ruins. The disaster is noticeable and previously noble characters have been both screwed and out to solve the problems in their own way. It is from this fortress that you send your knights and yourself on missions (you can send a maximum of four at a time). The missions are like little isolated fairy tales often with a famous or lesser known knight you can recruit. A mission asks you to try to rescue Sir Ector who raised Arthur from a young age and he was also the father of Sir Kay another knight you meet. Both have a little amusing dialogue with each other during the adventure. They really play with the characters’ personalities a bit. How these are affected by from their perspective the doom of the earth. Although not all adventures give you a knight to recruit to another pile of experience namely the battles, these missions are important. They reward you with resources and reward points for increasing levels and choosing new skills. The battles work like XCOM in many ways. You move your characters across squares, use special abilities, position and knock out enemies.
The battles, including the choices you make in dialogues, determine how much health your knights bring back. If they are injured, they may have to wait several rounds in the hospital or remove injuries in the cathedral. You have boxes in the missions, ointments or fires to rest on that can give you back some health. Each round is represented by a mission and you have limited places for the number of knights you can have. You must place all equipment in this phase because you can not equip the knights during the missions. This means that you sometimes have to take injured knights on missions. If your warriors die during a mission, they are dead for good. Whether they are famous people or not. Then it is placed under the fortress in chests. There are only a few characters who are not allowed to die. Should this happen, you may upload a savings file, an example being the protagonist. Nevertheless, you must complete missions. Through the missions, you continue the story, get resources to build the city’s buildings and upgrade them.
Without going into too much on these assignments, I think that most assignments have a value. Not just for the story but for a better grasp of this universe and its characters. Another important aspect is of course the two resources gold and building materials. However, the upgrades are a bit expensive, I think. The idea is that you should not be able to afford everything at once or even towards the end. Accelerating medical processes or making certain decisions in the actual assignments costs, which creates difficult decisions and priorities. Even events where you make decisions can cost resources or loyalty. The latter is important for your choices to play a role. Just like in the strategy games that preceded this, you have a four-piece moral system that helps determine which knights follow you or not. They also have an individual loyalty you can change which can lead to them leaving or betraying you. The system of who you are determines how Sir Mordred is shaped as a character. Is he the tyrant he has always been, or maybe you want him to be good and Christian versus that he affirms paganism or the older faith. Depending on where you end up in this spectrum, it opens up characters for recruitment, unique bonuses and how your knights treat you in dialogue. You can be neutral but then you miss the bonuses and characters like Sir Lancelot.
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This is a dark story about a rather unpleasant villain who, against his will, becomes the protagonist of the saga and is to destroy an even worse evil. During the journey, you decide who you are or can be. You have the opportunity to shape your character in the good direction but the world remains very gloomy and gray. Not all good results are kind in that sense. The stories during the journey include main missions and side tracks which do not always have happy endings. This is exactly what I like about the game. It is a blissful mix of folk beliefs, myths, legends, genres and more in a mixer that entertains royally. It is fairly complex with many layers of gaming systems. A little more straightforward than, for example, the recently released Warhammer 40,000: Chaosgate-Daemonhunters. The irony is that the Knights in this game can withstand more beatings than Gray Knight’s in that game.
The difficulty level is also well balanced around challenging without punishing too hard. You can of course choose according to your own ability and I think they are distinct in terms of level. However, do not underestimate the vulnerability over time of your knights. Although they can withstand beatings and deal massive damage, they are not unbeatable. It is most noticeable during the middle part of the game. If you like a challenging dark adventure with role-playing elements and an exciting premise around the legend of King Arthur, this may be for you. It has some flaws like occasional bugs and some simple level trees for the knights even though they all have some unique abilities regardless of class. The level of difficulty can from time to time be a bit like in Japanese role-playing games that you face a super difficult mission from nowhere. Even though you prepare with the information about the enemies before the mission and choose the right knight for the mission.
Although Knight’s Tale is not their first interpretation of the legend, this is their most polished. I really liked the visual design from its predecessor and it’s back. The only thing I really miss is the narrator who read all the textual adventures in the predecessors. This time it is Alex Warner who is the voice behind Sir Mordred who tells and reads almost all the text. The voice is perfect for the character but I can still miss that raspy voice from the predecessors. Another small mistake is the lack of music. Several of the pieces are fantastic but I would have liked a little more variety. More overall, the computer is fun to fight against, the choices are many and amusing. I also like that almost all great characters are involved and have their own biographies you can read. Their stories, personalities and changes are all well written as a result of how the world has become.
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There is very little to criticize and I think the studio has finally found the right one with a suitable recipe. The duality between Christianity and paganism is also well handled. I can miss large armies of dragons, monsters and knights but at the same time this is at least as amusing. A word of warning. There is not a good enough training mode for beginners. This creates a slightly steep learning curve if you are completely new to this form of gaming. There are, of course, shortcomings in the narrative and that the environments are a bit gray-brown initially. There are few and the whole is so good that I did not care about these. The previous games could not compete with their competitors it can however. I think whether you like XCOM, Darkest Dungeon and role-playing games, there’s something to appreciate here. You readers have probably not even heard of this developer or their game but this was something very special that impressed and amused me. It still has some jagged edges but if you can see past these and are interested in their interpretation of the legends about Arthur, you can not go wrong. Of course you have to put up with the fact that they interpret these very freely in parts, but that’s a bit of the charm.