Neocore Games first showed-off a look at their early access strategy-RPG King Arthur: Knight's Tale a few months ago, and let's just say it caught our eye. It's dark, foreboding style set in the rather unexplored world of Arthurian legend looked to deliver something very few other games had delved into. Jump to today, the title is soon to enter early access, and to mark the occasion we've spent the weekend playing through a small portion of what will be offered at launch, and without being too foreshadowing, we'll just say there's good and bad to watch out for.
The storyline for this Arthurian RPG puts you in the shoes of Sir Mordred, the very Knight of the Round Table who opposed and killed King Arthur, ultimately dying in the same encounter. This action however, was not without consequences, as Arthur's death unleashed a curse upon the realm, a curse that saw chaos and countless evil creatures ravage the lush lands of Britannia. To make matters worse, King Arthur managed to evade death, returning as a more evil cursed version of himself, one that lacked the righteous knightly honour he was defined for. To free the lands from Arthur's torment, the Lady of the Lake has resurrected you (Mordred) to find and finish the quest you started originally - killing King Arthur.
The manner in which you accomplish this is up to you. You can be a knight of honour, looking to finish your quest in the best possible manner for the kingdom of Camelot. Alternatively, you can be the opposite, a black knight who uses fear and power as a way to bring the realm back into order. The moral options to forge an identity will be offered to you at several instances throughout the storyline, which features a branching narrative system to ensure morality is a crucial key to this game through its Morality Chart.
As for how the gameplay itself works, King Arthur: Knight's Tale plays like an isometric RPG in its exploration, which sees you uncover a unique map within each level to find loot hidden on corpses and in chests. The movement is simple and features an isometric camera angle, however, when you enter combat this changes drastically, shifting instead to a turn-based strategy system. This means there are abilities to cast, limited movement per turn, and all of this is tied to an Ability Point system that only allows for a certain number of actions per turn.
From our experience with the combat, the game starts off very easily with practically no challenge, lulling you into a false sense of security that makes you think you can take anyone on with a little bit of brute force, however, before you know it, it thrusts you into very overwhelming engagements. If you don't already have a strong knowledge of strategy games, this early access version will be tough to adapt to, as the game wastes no time in pitting you against very unfavourable odds and increasingly tough opponents. A new patch has been introduced since writing this that promises "nerfed encounters," so this difficulty may have been toned down since.
The enemies themselves are also very broad in design. One minute you'll be facing a human with a sword and a shield, then next minute it'll be a horde of zombie looking fellows, who will waste no time in getting close to your characters to pummel them into dust. There are also bosses to keep an eye out for, but they generally only have unique designs, large health pools, and heavy hitting attacks.
To make the combat feel less overwhelming, you will build out a roster of characters, or Knights of your Round Table. This means you don't have to solo each level, you can take a group of warriors into battle, each of whom have their own defined class type, ability sets and playstyles. For example, Mordred is a Defender who has large amounts of armour and health, but isn't the most effective at dishing out damage. Lady Dindraine on the other hand, is a Marksman who excels with ranged bow attacks, and she can deal massive damage but will fall quickly should enemies start hitting her with attacks.
To bolster out the RPG mechanics of King Arthur: Knight's Tale, each character can be levelled up to earn new abilities and to increase their base stats (i.e. Vitality or Strength etc.). For the purpose of early access, each character can reach level five, but the full game will increase that to 30, to really give each character some depth. To build on this a little further, you can customise the gear each character wears / holds with the loot you pick up exploring each level. This will once again make your characters a little more capable with each upgrade, so it is vital should you want to stand a chance in combat. Camelot can also be upgraded with gold and building materials earned from completing levels, but we really didn't get a chance to delve into this all that much in the early access version.
Considering this is an early access edition of this game, there are a fair amount of areas that left us wanting more. From the tutorials that basically throw you in the deep end, to the quite limited exploration, or the bugs we encountered, King Arthur: Knight's Tale is a game with a lot of potential that doesn't quite show itself off in the most appealing way right now. Granted, there is a lot more content coming whenever launch day arrives, including 18 more story missions, over 25 more recruitable characters, more terrains to explore, a fleshed out Morality Chart, and even a challenging endgame. All of this should fill in a lot of the areas that currently feel lacking, but we have to see these implemented before we can take anything from it.
Right now, King Arthur: Knight's Tale is a game that is built upon a very exciting premise, but it just doesn't quite hit the mark as it stands. There is a lot to come and we will watch this title with a great deal of care, as it does have the potential to be a fantastic strategy-RPG. Until that day comes, you might find the early access version of the game a little flawed, even if it does start with a truly epic cinematic that will make you hunger for more tales from Arthurian legend.
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