We've travelled Avalon as the brutal Sir Mordred all to send the once noble king of Camelot back to the grave.
Last year, I took a look at King Arthur: Knight's Tale just as it was entering Early Access. I got to experience the opening portion of the game, and to see how its tactical RPG systems were designed and to explore this dark, macabre version of Arthurian legend. For the most part, I saw potential in the game, although at the time it was quite rough around the edges as you'd expect for an Early Access title. But, over a year has passed now, and the game, after a variety of delays, has finally left Early Access and has received its 1.0 launch update, and to this end, I've once again immersed myself in the grim world to see how the NeocoreGames-developed title stacks up.
For the most part, what the 1.0 version brings to the round table is a lump of fresh content that continues the story we only got part of during Early Access. This story takes place after the conclusion of an epic war for the very heart of the land of Avalon, a war that we don't get to actually experience in-game but are told about thanks to a lengthy and truly epic cinematic at the beginning of the story. It's during this war that the noble leader King Arthur is slain by the rival knight Sir Mordred, the very individual who led a ghastly army of savages against the Knights of the Round Table and the stronghold of Camelot. During this encounter between Mordred and Arthur, both knights are killed by one another, and this is pretty much where the story of the game continues from, as the Lady of the Lake, the ruler of Avalon, attempted to resurrect Arthur so that he could bring peace to the land, only for the resurrection to be botched and Arthur to become a ruthless entity consumed by the very evil that brought him back. In an attempt to right her wrongs, the Lady has looked to an unlikely new hero, Mordred, who after resurrection has been handed the very quest that originally claimed his life: killing King Arthur, or whatever the once-righteous knight has become, all over again.
The story pretty much follows these beats, and anyone who has an interest in mythology or Arthurian legend will instantly connect with it. It's thoroughly entertaining and presents a version of the tale with a far more grim and dark perspective, one that is greatly elevated by the fantastic cinematics that are dotted in here and there. With it being a tactical RPG, the story isn't completely linear however, as you can take it down various avenues depending on the sort of morals you want your version of Mordred to exhibit.
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You can be cruel and unforgiving - like Mordred before he originally died - and create a Camelot and Round Table that reflects this by recruiting knights known for their brutality and by governing Avalon with a fist of iron. Or rather, you can have a change of heart, and make a Mordred that exudes the same clean-cut righteousness and pure morals that King Arthur once displayed before his death. The choice really is yours, and you'll see these morals come into form, as you make decisions as you further progress the story and have more opportunities to interact with the world itself.
As for the characters, the story does mostly revolve around Sir Mordred, but the many different knights and characters that you can recruit to your Round Table are also playable in-game. You can have them as the leader of your party in a mission, while Mordred heals up in Camelot for example, or send them out on events that will be passively completed while you focus your efforts on actual missions elsewhere. You can also then level up each character on your Round Table to earn new abilities and skills, and equip them with better loot and items that are found in chests or bought, all to become a more capable combatant. And then to add to this level of interaction, you can improve Camelot itself, by constructing and upgrading buildings that will serve up effects or opportunities for your characters, i.e. either a training ground so that they can level while not out on missions, or a hospice to treat severely wounded individuals.
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All these areas make the game quite entertaining and immersive, and you'll become infatuated with the idea of making Camelot whole again, and building up a Round Table that consists of the strongest and most capable fighters and leaders from around the land. But at the end of the day, this is just a section of the gameplay, and it's the actual turn-based strategy that makes up the majority of gameplay when on missions.
The strategy aspect of the gameplay is pretty basic. The RTS design is straightforward and really doesn't involve all too much complexity, and for the most part, you'll just find yourself thinking about positioning, as the actual attacks are mostly tied to basic melee swings or ranged attacks, at least until you have a rather high-level character that has a wider array of abilities at their disposal. For anyone less versed in RTS games, this is probably quite an attractive trait, as it does make King Arthur: Knight's Tale far less complex, but those who have a history of real-time strategy will find this one as a bit of a walk in the park, as it stands.
It's the sort of game that is entertaining currently, but could really be something exceptional if it was built as an isometric RPG like Diablo or more recently WolfEye Studios' Weird West, as the lore, the narrative, and the world that Neocore is offering up is truly brilliant, and would simply benefit from more immersive and engaging gameplay.
Yet this doesn't change the fact that today, King Arthur: Knight's Tale is a compelling game, one that has impressive and brilliant areas mashed up with other gameplay designs and decisions that are a little bit exhausting after a while. While it's not at all the only reason to play, if you like Arthurian mythology, or are a fan of medieval fantasy, I would absolutely implore you to watch the cinematics nonetheless, as they are some of the more entertaining cinematics I've come across in gaming as of late.
8 / 10
Narrative is engaging. World and lore is super deep and makes you want to explore it. Cinematics are incredible. Plenty of customisation. Looks and plays well.
RTS systems are pretty basic and become tiring quite quickly.