Rise from the dead as Sir Mordred so that you may restore order to the land by slaying King Arthur a second time in this dark fantasy tactical RPG.
Genre: RPG, Strategy
Release date: 26 Jan, 2021
I’m in love with King Arthur and I don’t care who knows it. Arthurian tales have always been my favorite of all and I’ve kept up with as many releases as I’ve been able to since my earliest days of watching the movie Excalibur even though it was released years before I was brought into this world, playing through early games on the Sega Genesis like Knights of the Round (which can be found in the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle on Steam), and on the Super Nintendo like the loosely-linked King Arthur & the Knights of Justice.
As the years went on, I came across plenty of releases that didn’t live up to the expectations set upon them by their source material and each one was a disappointment for me even if it wasn’t a surprise. That’s not to say that there weren’t several that ate up a serious chunk of my time though. I can’t even begin to guess how many hours I dumped into Dark Age of Camelot back when it still had deep and rewarding PvE content, the hangouts that I spent passing the controller back and forth with a friend wishing that Legion: The Legend of Excalibur was a multiplayer game, and in somewhat more recent years, my love of King Arthur – The Role-Playing Wargame and its sequel.
So yes, after raving about a portion of the history of Arthurian Legends in gaming, we finally come around to King Arthur: Knight’s Tale. Although its currently Early Access state makes it little more than a demo, it’s already looking solid and I’m highly optimistic.
The World Is Bleak but at Least We Have Camelot
Though King Arthur: Knight’s Tale currently only has a handful of quests available, it does succeed in giving you a sizable enough taste of the foundational elements of the experience. You’re Sir Mordred, the most legendary of noble King Arthur’s foes and the one who caused his death. Unfortunately, he just so happened to cause yours as well. As fate would have it, King Arthur has risen as a corrupted fiend and the Lady of the Lake herself has used her powers to return you to the world of the living as well. You’ll gather many allies in your grand quest, plenty of them having one had seats at the Round Table itself and carrying a healthy disdain for you. Arthurian fans will immediately find themselves immersed in the world thanks to its strong and familiar ties to the beloved legends.
Choices matter and many of them will impact your alignment. This morality chart is particularly familiar if you’ve played King Arthur: The Role-Playing Wargame, with you moving up or down, left or right on the axes which include the Old Faith versus Christianity and Righteous versus Tyrannical. I spent my time devoted to the Old Faith and Tyrant paths; I may be saving the world from an evil Arthur, but I’m still Mordred, damn it! That said, I have full confidence that this system will assist in replay value thanks to very different rewards being granted at certain points along the way. You won’t be able to recruit both Sir Galahad and Morgan le Fay in the same run as they’re from opposite ends of the faith axis.
Death around Every Decaying Tree
The non-combat aspects of King Arthur: Knight’s Tale seem to be similar to Darkest Dungeon in many ways. For one, you’ll be building a large party of characters though you’ll only be able to bring a small squad into each mission. You’ll also be building and repairing the structures of the ruined castle of Camelot and each of these provides you with benefits that will drastically alter your chances for survival. As of the writing of this review, only the hospice and the merchant are available. The former assists in your heroes’ recovery while the latter grants you the ability to trade.
If you’re looking to really kick it up to the Darkest Dungeons level of intensity, roguelike mode limits you to one save that autosaves after each choice. Throw in a splash of perma-death and you’ll be holding your allies close and keeping an eye out for them like you were kicking off your next XCOM 2 campaign.
Knight of the Realm, Raise Your Swords
Speaking of XCOM 2, Knight’s Tale’s combat is of a similar tactical RPG variety. Though the exploring portion of each mission feels more like an isometric RPG where you’re interacting with encountered characters and looting the occasional item, most of your time will be spent duking it out on an invisible grid. Each round is based around the action points of a given character and they can only perform actions that have a cumulative value less than what they have available. However, these points can be reserved and if you do so with a touch of foresight, you’ll be able to catch your foes off-guard with a brutal onslaught.
The characters that you find along the way are members of a certain class, such as marksman, champion, or defender. These classes suggest a certain archetype for the individual at hand, though one can vary quite a bit from the next. For example, Sir Kay and Sir Balan are both champions that are available to you early on. I focused on using Sir Kay to clear large groups of enemies with his cleaving strike that strikes any three consecutive squares adjacent to him, while Sir Balan had a knack for wailing on a single enemy with a high damage, armor-piercing strike.
Armor, hit points, and vitality are the barrier that separates your party members from death. Armor absorbs most of the damage thrown in your direction, though it only has a certain number of automatic uses before it’s depleted for the remainder of the mission. Hit points are where you suffer damage as it gets past your armor and work almost exactly as you’d expect them to. Vitality may seem like additional hit points at first glance, though once your hit points are depleted and it starts taking hits, you’re in trouble. Vitality damage often results in serious wounds that weaken the character for a significant amount of time and they don’t immediately regenerate after a mission like the other two. Vitality damage is what will end up introducing you to the perma-death system.
Equipment is available, though it may be one of the weaker aspects of an otherwise promising Early Access title. Runes, sigils, trinkets, and potions make an appearance here. Although runes, sigils, and trinkets offer some nice passive bonuses, they don’t have the same pull as finding new sets of armor or weaponry. While I can empathize with the idea that a lot of work went into making the character designs look great (and they do) and not wanting to have to work in aesthetic changes for them along the way, those who are looking for a loot fest will likely be underwhelmed.
King Arthur: Knight’s Tale immediately slapped me in the face with everything that I love about the Arthurian legends. The dark fantasy world with incredibly designed characters who are fighting against the overwhelming tides of evil is enough to pull anyone in who’s looking for an epic adventure. Sir Mordred being brought back as the land’s last desperate attempt to stave off crumbling into ruin is a nice bonus as it brings with it a fresh story set in a familiar and beloved setting. Exploring areas tends to be interesting enough with the little events to be found at each location and the tactical combat has plenty of options available to you as your round table continues to grow and be honed into what you want it to be.
Although it’s a demo, this title is shaping up to be something magnificent if NeocoreGames gives it the love that it deserves. It still feels rough around the edges though I’ll be keeping a close eye on it as I had a blast even playing it in this early state, though it certainly won’t impress anyone who’s opposed to early builds. The only question that you have to ask yourself here is whether or not Sir Mordred will redeem himself and lead the kingdom as a noble king to rival Arthur or if he will rescue the land from its corrupted former monarch only to establish himself as his tyrannical successor.