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King Arthur: Legion IX

King Arthur: Legion IX

Neocore has returned to Avalon for a standalone expansion of the Knight's Tale format that revolves around an undying Roman legionnaire unit.

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Very few games have managed to completely sell me on them with a cinematic video. More often than not, the glitzy non-gameplay presentation doesn't do much for me to develop excitement for a game, but that wasn't the case with King Arthur: Knight's Tale. The dark and gritty clip of England's most famous fictional monarch drew me in, and ever since I've been a big fan of NeocoreGames' strategy title. For all of its challenges and vices, King Arthur: Knight's Tale entertained me more than enough when I properly reviewed it two years ago, and now the time has come to effectively return to that game.

Granted this isn't Knight's Tale any more, for a couple of reasons. Primarily, despite all its similarities, King Arthur: Legion IX is actually a standalone experience that doesn't require an understanding of the original game. Secondly, we're no longer playing as knights, as Legion IX is all about an undying Roman legionnaire unit led by the vicious tribune Gaius Julius Mento. Yes, the setting is still the harsh fantasy land of Avalon, and you do meet many of Arthur's roundtable, but the story here is mainly about leading your undying troops out of Tartarus and to establish an Eternal Rome in Avalon before returning to the realm of the living.

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Let me mention here again that for anyone who has played Knight's Tale, you will be very familiar with how Legion IX works too. This was set to be an expansion originally, before arriving as a standalone experience, and with that in mind, there's not a lot of deviation in regard to gameplay, presentation, narrative elements, UI, all of it. Sure, there's a different story at the heart here, with new characters that each approach combat differently, but the core systems that Knight's Tale laid out, including the morality chart and progression, it's all here and effectively preserved.

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Now that's one of those situations that's a bit for better or worse. The exploration and level design has never been a strong suit of Knight's Tale, even if the environment design and general aesthetic was always great. The characters and combat suite are very refined, but there are kinks in this armour too, including missions that throw countless enemies at you while providing very few opportunities to heal and prepare for another battle encounter. There are a plentiful collection of progression systems that give you lots of buildcrafting options, but the game is pretty awful at explaining most of them, leaving you to infer how to use them by reading brief text. Then there's the morality chart. It's a great idea, but it isn't particularly well managed in practice, as you have to want to be good or evil, not forced down a path due to hard and unavoidable choices. The narrative itself faces the same issues with a great overall concept that lacks a bit of refinement and elegance, with dialogue that often misses the mark.

The point is that Knight's Tale, as good as it could be, had its issues but they could be forgiven or at least accepted. Since Legion IX is debuting two years later, it isn't unreasonable to assume that a few of these problems would be ironed out or at least show an attempt to overcome them. But that doesn't often seem to be the case, which puts a huge amount of focus and expectation on the better elements of the game to offset where it lacks.

King Arthur: Legion IX
King Arthur: Legion IXKing Arthur: Legion IXKing Arthur: Legion IX
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Don't get me wrong, Legion IX offers a great combat experience, with loads of depth and plenty of great team tactical elements to explore. You can build these characters out into a unit that suits your playstyle, equipping them with better items and gear, and spending upgrade points in a manner that unlocks the ability and perks that you most desire. Match this up with a deep branching dialogue system, a tighter focus that reduces some of the complications found in Knight's Tale, and a whole slew of unique and challenging enemy types including supernatural entities, humans, and even rival and defecting members of the Legion IX, and you get a game that offers a lot to appreciate.

But the one part of Legion IX that I just cannot make any excuses for is the performance. Aside from characters getting stuck on invisible objects in the levels and UI bugging and refusing to let me click certain buttons in battles, I also faced the most fearsome of crashes that have caused not just the game to close, but my entire PC to shut down (twice!). Frankly, this is unacceptable and really does detract from the overall Legion IX experience.

King Arthur: Legion IXKing Arthur: Legion IX

The best way to describe King Arthur: Legion IX is that it's just more Knight's Tale, because there's not enough truly unique and fresh elements to make this game stand out above or beyond its predecessor. That's not exactly a bad thing, because Knight's Tale is a pretty competent strategy game, but you can't help but wonder is Neocore could have taken a few extra risks in a gameplay or design sense with this follow-up to make it stand out and thrive instead of feeling like an extra appendage attached to the original game.

06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
+
Great and deep combat system. Brilliant character design. Tons of buildcrafting.
-
Very questionable performance. Feels a bit too safe and familiar at times.
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King Arthur: Legion IX

REVIEW. Written by Ben Lyons

Neocore has returned to Avalon for a standalone expansion of the Knight's Tale format that revolves around an undying Roman legionnaire unit.



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