A combination of three things made me super excited about the prospect of King Arthur II: The Role-Playing Wargame. Firstly, the screenshots I browsed through when it was announced looked absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful lighting and deliciously detailed textures being the order of the day.
Secondly, I rather liked the first game, and felt that with a little more development time to refine the core gameplay, it could have rivalled something from the Total War series. Which brings me to the third reason that I was excited: I’m a massive Total War fanboy, and King Arthur II more than just a little bit resembles a fantasy infused Total War release, at least superficially.
Sadly, King Arthur II disappointed me in pretty much every possible way.
While the first King Arthur was considered a “diamond in the rough,” the second simply fails to shine. The gameplay feels uninspired and bland, and players are desperately limited in terms of what they can do, and when they can do it. The AI is decidedly pedestrian, and rarely challenges you with anything remotely exciting. I have yet to lose a battle, and not once have any of my lands been invaded by a significantly threatening enemy army.
One of the best things about the Total War series, particularly Shogun 2, is the battles. Where The Creative Assembly’s battles are refined, controlled and satisfying, Neocore’s are messy, chaotic and unfulfilling. They usually start well, but after a few minutes things begin to resemble a recently shaken snow globe; with limited actual control, you simply have to wait for everything to settle and hope that your team came out on top.
The campaign map is a little bit less annoying, although this portion of the game also feels decidedly pedestrian and bland. You are guided down a narrow story arch, and it soon becomes clear that any illusion of freedom you have is purely aesthetic. You embark on quests, which are played out in a sort of choose-your-own adventure book format, where you are guided through static screens offering up various choices, and at the end presented with some sort of outcome, whether it be a new enemy, ally or perhaps new territory. Apart from being simply boring, it’s during these portions of the game that the dodgy voice acting is most noticeable, with mismatched accents and cheesy dialogue being standard fair.
The worst thing about King Arthur II is not the lacklustre gameplay, although this is a major problem. No, the real deal breaker is the fact that the game is broken. Load times are exceptionally long, bugs all too frequent, and crashes a common occurrence. Random actions will cause the game to crash to desktop, such as casting a spell or moving an army, and often the prospect of launching the game again feels like a chore, making for a game that is literally quite difficult to continue playing.
The only thing King Arthur II has going for it, is the fact that it presents a beautifully realized world. From the lighting and textures right through to the general art direction, it cannot be faulted on its looks. Battles are brilliantly detailed, and the campaign map has been crafted with love and care.
Of course, looks are not enough to keep players entertained, and the game simply is not much fun to play. On top of that, its regular bugs and crashes can make for a highly frustrating experience.
I actually did not manage to finish King Arthur II due to a bug which prevents me from progressing past a certain point. The fact that I consider this bug a small mercy tells you everything you need to know about the game.