Wot I Think: King Arthur’s Gold

By Brendan Caldwell on November 18th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

When two tribes go to war, a point is all that you can… scoorrrrrre! (First to three)

King Arthur’s Gold has been knocking about for years, quietly existing in the shadow of similar games like Terraria, Minecraft and Ace of Spades. In that time the creators (those who brought you Soldat) have been chipping away and sculpting an unassuming yet heroic little game of insane siege warfare. Now that it has taken its complete form and has been deemed beautiful enough for Steam, it is finally time to give this medieval muckabout some of the attention it deserves. Here’s Wot I Think.

To start, I think it is just super. The premise is simple – two teams of up to 16 players build fortifications around their home base, while simultaneously assaulting the other with catapults, ballistae, bombs, arrows, war boats and good old-fashioned swings of the sword. You can play as three types of war-hungry gallant – a knight (stabby stabby), an archer (swoosh!) or a builder (er… dink dink?) I spent most of my time as the latter, constructing towering outposts or horrible pits filled with spikes and covered with a trapdoor. I enjoy any game which allows me to reproduce the dark scribblings of primary school art class (“Look miss, I’ve drawn a crusher!”). Later, when I had learned the finer points of castle architecture from my team mates, I would deploy these same spike traps on the walls of my towers, making them essentially unassailable except by catapult or explosive.

I never liked that vital part of the castle anyway.

It’s the kind of game that starts off making sense and becomes wackier as you go along. Sometimes things get so silly that you cannot help but stop building, zoom out for a wider view, and watch the carnage unfold at the foot of your impregnable tower. I’m happy to report that the chaos depicted in the release trailer is not the exception. Rather, it’s the normal way of things in the no man’s land that grows between two bases during better matches. These are long stand-offs in which both teams have made such excellent citadels that they are forced into a kind of crazed arms race and start employing madder and more desperate strategies until eventually one team starts using kamikaze tactics to blow a hole in the walls.

We’re gonna need a bigger moat.

A typical game of King Arthur’s Gold for you may go like this: Wake up. Chop down a tree. Mine some rocks. Build a tower. Swap class to archer. Fire some arrows. Launch a fire arrow. Burn down a parapet. Smile. Jump off the tower. Grappling hook! Fire a volley of three arrows in quick Legolas-like succession, while still hanging from the walls. Swap class to knight. Get into catapult. Launch yourself from catapult. Weeeee! Hover to the map’s central lake using your shield as a glider. Meet a shark. Ride the shark across the lake. The enemy lines! Slice up an archer. Slice up a knight. Plant a mine outside the enemy’s front door. Escape! Don’t escape. You have been killed by a falling longboat.

Longboat is loooooong.

The joy comes not only from conceiving your own deadly fort, or altering the countryside so that it is filled with deathtraps and outposts, but also from inspecting your foes’ efforts and standing back to consider how best to go about collapsing their turrets or disarming their terrifying minefield. You might work together to create a bridge over the mines, or you might hand a drill to an enterprising and brave builder so he can tunnel underneath. Inevitably, there are those who believe the answer to all minefields is to throw themselves at it until there are no more mines. But if the enemy is smart, they will have secured an endless supply of explosives. And this is where King Arthur’s Gold gets clever, the little rascal.

And you’re just standing there.

In the Take the Halls game mode – where I spent most of my time – you get the opportunity to research new technologies. For example, you can vote to research lanterns, drills, war boats, or maybe just some arrows with bombs strapped to them. Those are always useful. To produce these things, however, the team’s builders will have to erect workshops for each branch of technology. More than that you will need to hire a worker to man the shop. This costs money, making the gold of the title a lot more important than it first seems. In Capture the Flag mode you can scrape by without really worrying too much about the gold reserve. In Take the Halls, however, the team who does not focus on the precious shiny stuff will eventually lose out to a better equipped adversary. So when you look out across the land and see two builders squabbling over a dirt mound, or a knight chopping down a tree because there’s an archer hiding at the top, take heart that there is some method in this madness. The strategy and HQ management underpins the arcade brawls happening on the other side of the castle wall.

If you look closely you can see a flying shark. Sadly, this was a bug.

I have to admit, my first impressions were not so hot. At the time of its Steaming, King Arthur’s Gold had a bug that meant the tutorial text wasn’t showing. This meant if I wanted to know how to do simple things, like swap class, I had to find out the hard way. That it took me over an hour to understand even the basics (and much longer still to comprehend the resource management side of things) suggests a lack of intuitive design. But once I got my head around the builder class, the game opened up and I forgot all about my initial struggles. In fact, I had no time to reflect. I was being catapulted halfway across the map and into a pit, where I secretly tunnelled toward our rival’s subterranean spike traps and quietly disassembled them. Incidentally, that tutorial bug has since been fixed, but even if it hadn’t, I would still consider KAG’s obfuscations entirely forgivable.

Unfortunately the map does not include Google Streetview.

If there is one thing that annoys me, it’s that matches are prone to ending at a moment’s notice. Usually this happens when someone’s last fortress is speedily overwhelmed. This means that you might find your engineering masterworks go completely untested, as happened to me when I constructed a beautiful castle filled with workshops. I’d made it as siege-proof as possible, carefully reinforcing the walls with extra layers of stone. I’d also economically placed many a wooden strut as internal support, as unlike Minecraft, an unsupported building will fall to pieces rather than float spookily in the air. This leads to some wonderfully loud rumbles as your tower comes crashing down on top of you.

I was itching for our opponent to get close and have a go at us, but by the time I was placing the final touches on the Wall of Impalement, the rest of my team mates had defeated the last guerrilla fighters on the eastern front. I did not get as much as a single arrow levelled at me.

Come at me, foe!

Still, moments like this were not the norm. And, honestly, if your biggest complaint with a game is “booo, nobody came to kill me” then you can safely conclude the game itself is not the problem. Not that there aren’t problems. It doesn’t go too far out of its way to explain the finer points of the game modes to you and you may have to watch others and experiment to discover the more fantastic elements, like shark riding, but these complaints could just as easily be applied to Terraria and Minecraft – games that basically require a YouTubian education and a diploma from their respective Wikis. Do not be fooled, however. Though it is a jolly lunatic of a game, King Arthur’s Gold doesn’t have anything close to the depth of these two counterparts. It does, however, scratch the exact same itch as a third – Ace of Spades.

’12 Great Mines You Did Not Know About’

In the original version of that game (before it was soundly Jagexed), I tunnelled from one end of the map to the other, clinking away as gingerly as the pickaxe’s sound effect would allow. It reminded me of a part of a book called Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, where soldiers of the trenches dig tunnels towards enemy lines during WWI, all the while worriedly listening for the scratching sounds of the Germans, who were doing the exact same in the other direction. It might sound stupid that daft, brightly-coloured videogames can provoke a memory associated with such grumpy, serious-faced literature but KAG, in its finer moments, did precisely that. And it was funny about it too. For $10 (about seven quid for UK folk) it’s impossible not to recommend.

Hundreds of men have died.

, , , , .

34 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. McDLT says:

    Does this game have any connection to the obscure SNES game called King Arthur’s World? That was one of my favorite sleepers back in the day but I seem to never run into anyone that’s heard of it before.

    • Aldehyde says:

      Loved that game and I have a similar problem as you in that I have never found anyone else who has played it.
      When I first saw this I thought it’d be a remake of some kind based on the name and graphics.

    • kaiki says:

      King Arthur’s World was amazing. Lemmings with classes, lol! Yeah, I thought the same thing. That this was a squeal/spin-off.

    • vecordae says:

      Same again! I honestly thought it was an homage to the excellent destructo-puzzler as well.

      • Reapy says:

        That was one of my favorite games on the SNES, although I played the first world over and over again and didn’t go too far into world 2 and beyond. This game is an intentional homage to it as well.

    • realmenhuntinpacks says:

      Aye, completely. Still looks good though!

    • Wonkyth says:

      King Arthur’s World was a direct inspiration to KAG’s developers, so the name’s similarity is not a coincidence. :D

    • MM_rps says:

      KAW was my direct inspiration I just decided to make it realtime player versus player instead of RTS.
      It was an experiment – can I use RTS mechanics and make people have to work together to use them instead of just pointing your mouse at A.I.? The result is KAG and it works :). Awesome review btw.

  2. Saarlaender39 says:

    Ah,…Frankie goes to Hollywood…good taste, Mr. Caldwell!

  3. Anvilfolk says:

    I don’t really play this as often as I’d like, but whenever I do, I end up laughing heartily all the while at the absurd shenanigans. This is something that doesn’t happen with any other game :)

  4. lautalocos says:

    i think im getting this game. it sounds a lot like cortex command, but with online multiplayer and more fun.

    • Armitage says:

      I really wanted to love cortex command, but I felt it was basically broken and unfinished. So much potential though. KAG and CC do share some DNA, but they are also quite different. Fortunately KAG does scratch the same itch that CC tried to scratch. It’s very satisfying and, as Brendan said, “impossible not to recommend”.

  5. Zankmam says:

    Wow, for a moment I thought that King Arthur’s Gold was also owned by Jagex…

    Glad I was wrong.

    • Asdfreak says:

      Jagex totally ruined Ace of Spades. I don’t want to sound hipster oder snoby, but the classic version was just the best. Had they released no update till today and let the old servers running, I would still be playing it. It was glorious. But NO, first they destroyed the balance and did away with those simple but awesome geometry maps, and then they added that weird leaderboard kind of weird thingy instead of a serverselection and flushed the whole thing down the toilet. When I couldn’t play the game anymore because of that weird thing, especially not toghether with my stepbrother, I quit for some time. When I came back and they reverted to the old server selection, I overjoyed, just to find out that snipers where so easily findable because of those rays and you couldn’t guess the enemys location through the mist anymore, I quit and didn’t touch it a single time since then.
      That aside, this game looks EXACTLY like the game I want to play. I used to play worms with my stepbrother on the NDS when we were younger, giving us a few rounds to build up a fortress and then sieging each other. This sounds like the perfect extension of that, so I wil probably get that one.

      • Premium User Badge

        Bugamn says:

        If I may suggest, you might also try Open Liero X, which is like Worms but in real time. It is not easy to create fortress, but maybe there is a mod for that.

      • Zankmam says:

        You know that old-school Ace of Spades still exists, right?

        It’s called BuildAndShoot, Google it.

        • Pengwertle says:

          Yes, but that is a version from after Jagex sneakily bought the game. It’s full of crappy custom maps and already ruined the combat by adding an SMG and a shotgun.

  6. pierrot says:

    Well I’m sold. Hoping it’s accessible enough that I won’t have to spend hours not knowing what I’m doing

    • Asdfreak says:

      I wouldn’t mind, for me it is part of the fun. I learned all paradox strategy games the hard way, messing around, learning it the hard way(cheating untill I was good enaugh, cheating is like a drug in those games). Figuring it out allways seems more fun to me than just reading some wiki strategy, because you might miss out on the connections and on the “why” part of using that strategy that way.

  7. crinkles esq. says:

    So this has no AI opponents, it is multiplayer-only? I don’t have any desire to play against Anonymous People on the Internet, not with this type of game.

    • Gnoupi says:

      There are some single-player mods (save the princess, zombie fortress (also co-op)), and you can add bots to servers in general. Of course, they won’t be building or digging, so they are mostly just here to fight you.

      Anonymous People of the internet and their random behaviour, their silly ideas and their mistakes are what make the game really fun, in my opinion. Building fortresses, having other people add weird extensions to your plan, etc. See enemies try anything to destroy them, this kind of stuff.

    • Mctittles says:

      If anything it’s good to have around for LAN parties. In fact it might turn out to be the funnest LAN party game you’ve ever played.

      Also putting together an RPS group for this game seems like a good fit.

  8. iisjreg says:

    I was sold at “makers of Soldat”…

  9. Premium User Badge

    slerbal says:

    What a lovely review! I’m going to have to check the game out now as I didn’t think it was my cup of tea but this review made me think I had perhaps err’ed.

    • Themadcow says:

      Yeah, lovely review until I reached “In the Take the Halls game mode – where I spent most of my time” and then despite only a passing resemblance to the 2nd verse of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air lyrics I couldn’t get any further without Will Smith doing a voiceover in my head.

  10. Penicillin says:

    How long does a typical match take to play? I’d love to play one of these games that doesn’t require hours and hours for something interesting to happen. Will this fit the bill?

    • FuzzyBlueBaron says:

      It all depends on what you define as “interesting”. Speaking as a KAG veteran, however, pretty much 30s after build-time ends (length of which varies, but generally a few min) glorious pixel carnage begins and can, potentially, go on for hours and hours– or at least until one team gets their act together and makes a concerted push for victory. ;)

    • Wonkyth says:

      Matches can take as long as 3 hours, or (if the enemy team completely fails to make use of the pre-match build-time) 40 seconds. However, at any point of time, a match is as interesting as you choose it to be. Obviously there are times when working with incompetent team-mates can frustrate your efforts, but a noble defeat is just as good as a noble victory. :P
      So to answer your question, you can jump in and out of games as you please, and it will be just as fun whenever you join, so the length of a match has little connection to how interesting it is. Thus, it will not take hours and hours for something interesting to happen. :)

  11. Mctittles says:

    Who is this Brendan Caldwell and why do I not instantly recognize the name? This is the best article I’ve read on RPS in a long time. Lately I’ve been getting bored halfway through when I realize the game write up is just an excuse to talk about their childhood, but I enjoyed this one from beginning to end. Kept focus on the game while keeping it interesting to read.

    More like this please! Of course keeping an eye on the number of comments my spidey sense tells me it won’t fair as well as the articles that give people something more meaty to discuss :).

  12. FFabian says:

    What about the toxic community …
    I’m more of a single player guy and when I have to play with smelly internet strangers I don’t appreciate it when my mother gets insulted in random intervals (=my experience with DOTA 2).

    • Pengwertle says:

      That last phrase is where the problem comes from, I assure you. Pretty much just MOBAs in general.

  13. zachforrest says:

    ‘A book called Birdsong’

    Is like saying

    ‘A film called Home Alone’

  14. nicolejscott says:

    ▂ ▄ ▅ ▇ Good News My Buddies ▇ ▅ ▄ ▂
    …”Can you have some spare time to sit back in your chair having your laptop with you and making some money online for some interesting online work “said Jenny Francis in the party last night ….see more what is for you there to increase your pocket money============ W­­W­­W­.J­o­b­s­5­3.­ℂ­­ℴ­­m