King Arthur: Knight's Tale (Early Access Hands On)
King Arthur: Knight's Tale is a Turn-Based RPG being developed by Neocore Games which is currently sitting in Early Access on Steam. I backed the Kickstarter for this game, so I have access to the ongoing releases of the Early Access. I normally don't touch the games in Early Access, seeing as there can be a distinct possibility of disappointment or the reveal of story that you might want to experience when you play the game properly. However, I am incredibly curious about this particular one, as Neocore had done pretty interesting work with their previous King Arthur games that were made in the Total War style.
King Arthur: Knight's Tale sets you up after the cataclysmic battle between the Round Table and what appears to be demonic forces in Brittania. You are playing as Sir Mordred, the nemesis of King Arthur. Somehow, when you both killed each other at the climax of the battle, something went terribly wrong. Now King Arthur is undead (and you are brought back to life), and it appears that you are the reluctant hero that needs to restore normalcy back to the world in whatever way you deem fit... first things first, reclaiming Camelot and restoring the Round Table!
What you might first notice with the game in it's current state is the somewhat drab colour palette. There is a lot of grey and dull colour choices in the loading screens and all through out the game. I'm not entirely sure if it is a conscious choice or not... perhaps reflecting the state that Britannia finds itself in with an undead King Arthur and the unliving coming back to life?
So, turn-based on a grid... this sort of mechanic is pretty well worn. What does make it a little bit more interesting is the addition of armour, and the two pools of Hit Points. These Hit Points are reduced first followed by Vitality. Vitality loss results in injuries or permadeath. Armour reduces the damage from attacks, but is steadily reduced as you get hit.
Loss of Armour, HP or Vitality is carried throughout a mission... however, there are opportunities to restore some of it with potions or with interactions with campsites or other points of interest.
Each character has a pool of Action Points, with each square costing a single AP to move through. Each action has a particular AP cost associated with it and it is possible to save AP for the next round, albeit at a reduced carryover rate.
Facing is pretty important, with shields having a large defence against frontal attacks. Taking down heavily armoured enemies requires some flanking to get maximum damage potential.
There is an Overwatch mechanic, which is a bi limited in when everyone is using melee weapons. You can choose a direction to Overwatch with your melee characters, but it perhaps more important for defining a facing for your character on their defending turn.
Later in the Early Access, you gain command of an archer character. With a ranged character (I assume something similar would happen for magic users), the Overwatch is much more useful... You can form up a shield wall of armoured knights with your archer behind it. The archer hurts the incoming enemies, to be finished off by the Melee overwatch attacks of the Knights. It's cheap, but effective.... but I have no doubt that this tactic will be countered by magic users, ranged armour-piercers or something similar.
Each mission has the little set piece tactical battles, but also some story-based cutscenes. They play out very much like the text-based choices of the previous Neocore King Arthur strategy games, with bonuses and morality changes stemming from the choices that you make. It may be just me... but Sir Mordred sounds a lot like Van Helsing from the Van Helsing games... it's really hard to shake that connection. I should look it up to see if it really is the same voice actor!
If I have a gripe about these morality choices... it is that they are currently a bit black and white. Kick the kitten or Hug the Kitten sort of thing...
On each mission, you can currently take four Knights of the Round Table with you. I'm a bit up in the air about such a low team count... I wasn't fond of it in XCOM, but a higher team count means that you will need to expect less heroes and more cannon fodder and casualties. Difficult trade off... and in a permadeath game, focussing on non-randomly generated heroes... perhaps it is better to have the lower death count.
The overland map is where you will pick your story missions and side quests that you want to pursue. At the moment, it is quite limited as the demo is just showcasing mainly the tactical mechanics. You have a couple of story missions and a few side quests after the initial tutorial. I only played a single story mission as I don't want to ruin the experience for when I play the complete game. I only wanted to get a taste for the tactical combat anyway... to see how the turn-based tactics was implemented in the game.
There is the usual RPG levelling up mechanics. As you level up, there are skill points to allocate. At the moment, the skill trees are pretty limited... and there are still parts of the character development that aren't released yet. For instance, the Traits section is still unlocked and also the more advanced skill progressions.
The skills that I have seen so far haven't been that exciting... however, the tactical game hasn't been that demanding either. So, the special abilities haven't seen much use at all! Mostly moving and simple basic attacks have managed to clear levels with ease.
There is also a small inventory system at play as well. You can't seem to change the equipment that each class (there are currently 5 classes) fields, but you can change the runes with which they are equipped with. I would have preferred to be able to field different armour... but I guess armour sets were more customised to the wearer in real life. Otherwise, you have the usual ring (only one..), amulet and two quick slots to fill up. A little bit light for my tastes...
One of the key features of the game and one that the developers have talked about quite a bit is the morality system. It's actually something that has featured quite a bit in the previous King Arthur games as well, with a balance being sought between the Christian/Old World and Rightful/Tyranny Axis. Story choices in the text portions of the game will affect this balance for Sir Mordred, and where you stand on the Morality Chart will unlock different units and abilities.
Also, it appears that existing Knights of the Round Table will also react to your current morality standing depending on their own personal preference. At the moment, this part isn't well developed in the Early Access.
There is some base management in the form of rebuilding and upgrading the Castle Camelot. Again, in this limited Early Access... there isn't too much that you can do here. You can rebuild and upgrade some parts of the Castle, but the effects are rather limited as the scope of the rest of the game doesn't really allow these upgrades to have much effect.
So... I'm looking forward to this game. I've loved what they did with the previous King Arthur games... their remaking of the King Arthur legend and the twist that they have put on this particular game has me intrigued. I am curious how the game will develop, but I'm a little worried that it might end up a bit too light on the RPG/Tactics front.
However, for an initial Early Access release... it is quite polished already! It just needs to fleshed out a bit on the mechanics side... but I'm sure that it is coming! I HOPE!
Played at 1080p (144Hz) on:
XMG Fusion 15
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: SSD (SATA/Nvme)
GPU: Nvidia GTX 2070 Max-Q
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