Total Arthur: A First Look At King Arthur II

Was King Arthur actually a tyranid?
The Holy Grail has been shattered into pieces. King Arthur lies deathly wounded, struck down by Morgause, the Witch Queen of the Orkney Islands and suffers from a magical wound that will never heal. The Holy Roman Empire has absconded from Britannia leaving a fractured land full of squabbling nobles. The armies of the Picts are breaking through Hadrian’s Wall to the north, Vikings are mooring off the coast to the east, and Wales has fallen to an invasion of Dragons, replacing the Welsh druid masters. It’s a bad day in Albion.

Sitting down with Orsolya Tóth and Linda Bozorádi of Neocore Games, I was privy to an hour long demonstration of King Arthur 2, the forthcoming sequel to Neocore’s previous strange hybrid of RPG and RTS. It was an interesting game strengthened by its emphasis on plot, but it suffered from a few broken mechanics that impeded progress. From what I saw in the demo, Neocore have been hard at work rectifying those problems.

Fortunately, much of what made the game interesting remains. Your attention is still divided between the high-strategy of overseeing the map of mainland UK, which is now twice the scale of the previous game, and the real-time battlefield skirmishes of your armies.

Much of the UI and the mechanics of the map screen remain the same: turn based movement split between four seasons, with Winter being the time for levelling up, recruiting and researching and building upgrades. It’s these upgrades that will help reduce the old problem of running out of crucial units: Castles and guild halls in owned provinces can produce new troops, and mercenaries can be easily hired, including all sorts of fantasy creatures such as the mighty Welsh Dragons – although expect to pay a lot of gold for one of those to join your ranks.

The Morality wheel is still in effect, with your decisions in the regular quests effecting how tyrannical your reign is and where your religious devotions lie. I was shown an early quest from the prologue campaign, which tells the sad story of Septimus Sulla, one of the Roman nobles left behind. A victim of political wrangling from the other houses, he stands in front of the assembly to protest at his unfair treatment.

Quests have been described as simple text adventures, though they’re more like a choose-your-own-adventure. This one was long and involved, twisting and turning between decisions, a pleasing increase in complication from the first game. Your resources can also affect certain outcomes: Tóth mentioned the chance to assassinate political opponents by use of Assassin Guild Halls during these quests. She also boasted a game length of around 50 hours if you pursue all the optional quests and 20 if you just burn through the main story.

After the assembly meeting was over, Sulla returns to deal with a Pict incursion to the north at Hadrian’s Wall. Moving to the real-time portion, a sweet depiction of green fields surrounding a sleepy hamlet, the battle between the groups of little men played out much the same as battles did in the first game, with a couple of notable exceptions.

The biggest change to real-time combat is the removal of Victory Locations from the battlefields. These control points could easily frustrate battles in the first game due to exploitation of unfair game rules. In their place are the aptly-named Capture Points. These are still important control points, and you still need to send the fast Calvary to capture them, but they no longer determine outright victory and are in fact entirely optional to progress. They instead provide unique bonuses and spells that can be deployed as the battle continues. In the demonstration, Sulla’s horsemen captured a tower that granted the powerful Lightning Bolt spell, which blasted holes in the opposition’s ranks.

Magic effects are now governed by an army’s magical resistance, displayed as a health bar for each army on the UI. The bigger the bar, the better able that army is equipped to shrug off any magical attacks against it. This is influenced by your chosen hero’s equipped inventory of magical quest loot and the capture of the aforementioned Capture Points. The attacks themselves are ranked in order of power, so cheap spells will have little effect against an army suitably protected.

The really powerful spells now come with a warm-up as well as a lengthy cool down. Casting a properly big one can take ten seconds of preparation after you’ve marked the target zone before it strikes, which brings a pleasing strategy of leading the target when you’re casting, and a frenzied panic of preparation when the enemy is targeting you. An outright attempt to interrupt the enemy spell caster before he cracks off a particularly nasty eldritch chant of doom is also possible.

Coming out of the battle back to the map screen, Winter set in. The time for thinking, Tóth spent all her hard earned XP on a variety of upgrades. The army ranked up to Tier 2 Veteran status, Sulla enjoyed a few unlocks on his unique hero skill tree and the local towns began work on building a Granary and Barracks. The kingdom a hive of activity, there wasn’t enough time at the end for Tóth and Bozorádi to explain the dozens of involved menu screens, though they clearly enjoyed deciding where to put the points in all the same.

That was what I took away most from the demo. All too often, the representatives on hand during game previews stick to a rote script, and you can see the boredom in their eyes as they do it all over again for yet another journalist. Tóth and Bozorádi, however, regularly seemed to forget I was there, turning to each other to discuss the game they were supposed to be previewing, content to just play about with the demonstration and agonise over upgrades, XP and loot equips. They were having fun playing their game, and come 2012, I hope to do the same.


  1. Anthile says:

    What are those things in the first screenshot? Tyranids, surely?

    • Drake Sigar says:

      They’re the artillery bugs from Starship Troopers.

    • Network Crayon says:

      I immediately thought Warrior Kings.

      Looks pretty cool though!

    • Defiant Badger says:

      Ah, Warrior kings. That’s a game I want to see on Gog. Especially the sequel.

    • MiniMatt says:

      Struck me as the walker things from one of the Morrowind type series? But oddly cool nonetheless, distended insectoid things must trigger some monkey brain thing in my head.

    • theleif says:

      @Defiant Badger
      You can buy them both on Gamersgate if you like.

    • Commisar says:

      yep, those ‘Nids must have fallen into a freak Warp storm…. Anyway, this game is looking great, I really liked the first one

    • Westcreek says:

      They are clearly those Ohm things from Nausicaa

    • Gothnak says:

      Yay, Warrior Kings, i was Lead Combat Designer on that, some of you guys still remember it!

      /wipes a tear from his eye…

    • thezirk says:

      Silt striders

  2. Subject 706 says:

    Whoa, first look at that screenshot, and I thought we had a WH40K – Total War game coming. I’m only slightly disappointed though, since I look forward to this game too. But if only Relic would realize the glory of making DOW3 more like Epic40K…

  3. Ravenholme says:

    Now, call me crazy, but wouldn’t these guys have been the naturals to make something like A Game of Thrones: Genesis? Game might actually have been good/interesting if they had.

    On that note: Colour me intrigued (And yay for Pictish invasions! Makes a change from the realities of their history)

    • Fearzone says:

      Yes, their engine would go great with a Game of Thrones license, and back in the day I lamented they had to do King Arthur rather than Middle Earth. But for either one, they would probably have to be bigger, pay a lot of money, and make a better game. I had a lot of fun with it, but the learning curve was a bit steep, the graphics lovely but rough and stuttery, and balance terrible between Old Faith and Christians. One you got teleport or Sidhe lines or whatever, combat was a breeze with Old Faith, and I don’t know that the Cristians ever had a way to effectively deal with archers. I had a a lot of fun with it and liked the novelty of choose-your-own-adventure quests, which were enjoyable. This would be an easy buy if they can deliver more and better of the same.

  4. Vexing Vision says:

    What’s with the Tyranids today? I’m confused.

    This does look rather interesting. I skipped the first game due to bad reports, but I don’t think I can pass this one up.

    • riadsala says:

      The first game is def worth a play around with, espcially if you pick it up cheaply (which surely won’t be that hard around Christmas time). Camera controls in the RTS battles aren’t great, but I found that, overall, the game was pretty interesting.

    • Maldomel says:

      The only thing keeping from continuing and ending the first game is the combat, so dull and uninteresting thanks to those control points and the IA, it always finishes in a bloody melee while a single unit captures all points to win quickly.

      But, the rest of the game is amazingly good and deep and well thought and amazing.

    • Harkkum says:

      As with Maldomei I found the combat the be an exercise in dullness. Otherwise the game is atmospheric but I just couldn’t hold the interest till the end due to those silly fights. Make them work and the second game will be grand as bigbigthing.

    • Casimir Effect says:

      Curse this confounded comment system!

  5. misterT0AST says:

    Those things in the first picture look like silt striders to me.
    If it’s “Total-Warish” enough I think it’s going to be an insta-buy for me, I love the Total War games, they’re like an “open world strategy game”. Although I’m afraid it might be too story driven for me.
    Can anyone who played the first King Arthur tell me if it’s comparable to the Total War games, and what the differences are?

    • Archonsod says:

      Not really. It’s far more like Knights of Honour than the TW games.

    • Casimir Effect says:

      I often find it a bad comparison because of the existance of RPG elements and magic in KA but here goes:
      Total War (Rome and Medieval 2 at least) has better combat than KA1. In KA1 units never flee, the melee often ends up bunching together meaning all you can do is whack the speed up and see who wins (although this is mitigated to an extent by the spells your heroes have), archers were overpowered to the point of there being a “Weaker Archers” option, there aren’t many battle-maps and they have those Victory Points which can be a pain.

      That’s basically the biggest complaint, and I would still argue that the battles in KA are fun (especially later on when magic plays a bigger role). And on the positive side:
      You get a proper story with a roster of heroes you can pick from and develop in RPG-ways – you Knights of the Round Table. There are also plenty of quests – text adventures that sometimes involve choosing wisely from some options, solving a puzzle/riddle, or fighting a battle – and a morality cross (Tyrannical or Righteous, Old Faith or Christian) which gives bonuses and new units/spells as you move further along the axes.
      Some nice in-depth research trees and also a clever take on faction management are also prevalent.

      I’d recommend it, but if you’re unsure then wait until a Steam sle. It, along with all its DLC, has been on offer for £5 before which is insanely good value.

    • Torgan says:

      It’s quite similar to the Total War games but there’s a lot more emphasis on your heroes/Knights of the Round Table. They level up over the game and you choose their abilities as well as equip them with a few items you gain by quests, battles or purchase. Then the warrior ones can cleave, the mages can lightning bolt and the buffy ones can buff your army for a short time etc, they are more or less the dominant force towards the end of campaigns more so than troops. And there’s quests! Usually text ones where you choose options and stuff happens. Oh and the morality of your nation that changes four ways towards Old Faith/Christianity and Tyrant/Rightful, this affects units and abilities that are available to you. There was never really diplomacy as such, you can be at peace with someone but that was about it, there was some attempt at the expansions but another nation could just declare war on you out of the blue.

      The first one is £15 on steam at the moment but was down to only a couple of quid the last sale so it’s probably worth waiting for that if you’re interested, I definitely got my money’s worth. Can’t wait for the second game!

    • Juan Carlo says:

      KA is fun overall. It does have some balance issues, though. I played on very hard, for example, and at certain points in the campaign the enemy stops attacking. Which wouldn’t be a problem but there are also experience farming locations on the map–so once you realize this you can just wait out one of these lull periods by grinding your forces up to uberstrength and wipe the map for the rest of the game.

    • misterT0AST says:

      Thanks everyone, I think I will get this one!
      Now I think this is to Medieval Total War what Warcraft III was to Starcraft.
      Which is cool.

    • Casimir Effect says:

      @ Juan Carlo
      The balance issues prevalent if you look at the difficulty level changes. From the KA forum:

      “The ENEMY heroes and units receive multipliers according to the difficulty levels:

      BEGINNER 0.4
      EASY 0.5
      NORMAL 0.75
      HARD 1
      VERYHARD 1.25

      BEGINNER 0.4
      EASY 0.5
      NORMAL 0.7
      HARD 1
      VERYHARD 1.2

      BEGINNER 0.4
      EASY 0.5
      NORMAL 0.7
      HARD 1
      VERYHARD 1.2”.

      So only on HARD are your units equal to the enemies. But when the enemy gets given full stack armies of high-experience, high-level and no-upkeep troops, the disparity makes sense.

  6. Casimir Effect says:

    Excellent news. Loved the first game – there was just something about the setting and atmosphere that worked for me – and thoroughly looking forward to this.

  7. moarage says:

    I just hope it’s gonna run better than the first game

  8. robotsneedlove says:

    >The Holy Roman Empire has absconded from Britannia

    At first I wanted to rant about how nobody cares about history any more, but then decided not to.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Maybe he meant the Holy Roaming Empire?

      Frankly, I am still sad for the Kingdom of Soissons.

    • The V Man says:

      Yeah, there was a lot of screaming in my head reading the opening paragraph. It’s almost like a dyslexic got a hold of a history text, got drunk, switched the keys around on his keyboard and rewrote a ‘historically inspired’ short story.

      And that fact will keep me from playing what might be an enjoyable game otherwise.

    • Subject 706 says:

      I don’t think they actually mean ‘Holy Roman Empire’ as in the german-centered one. Especially not when the hero from there mentioned in the text has a Latin name. Calm down historically knowledgeable people!

    • Doesn'tmeananything says:

      @Subject 706 I don’t think they actually mean ‘Holy Roman Empire’ as in the german-centered one.

      That’s the point.

    • FalseMyrmidon says:

      Even if they meant the actual Roman Empire then I don’t think they were around at the same time as King Arthur either (the Romans might have taken issue with having a King in territory they ruled).

  9. buzzmong says:

    That sounds rather brilliant. I’ll keep an eye on this one.

    Also, Welsh Dragons you say? Oh yeeeaaah.

  10. Sinnorfin says:

    Silt Striders ! if they didnt fly..

  11. Juan Carlo says:

    wronf apot

  12. Herbert_West says:

    Damn, I never realized the folks behind this game series were Hungarian.

    Ah, my patriot heart warms. Szép munka, lányok:)

  13. Navagon says:

    I loved the first one, but I hope this one’s better balanced.