Tuesday, February 08, 2011

King Arthur the Role Playing Wargame: Its not like Total War at all

Steams Sale last weekend got me "King Arthur the Role Playing Wargame" for a pittance. A quick google at the reviews led me to expect something like a Total war game but with added fantasy. Some reviewers also mentioned balance problems.

I am still only in the tutorial stages of the campaign but I can give a very early first impression. First off the game is beautiful. The music and the graphics are very evocative of a mythical Arthurian period when magic and Christianity vied for the hearts of the people. Second off - while it does look a bit like a total war game I am not sure the comparison is valid. Yes it has a campaign game played on a map and it has a battle game played out in real time 3D but the rules of both the campaign game and the battle game are totally different giving the whole thing a very different flavour.

The campaign game seems to be very storyline driven with "morality choices" hard coded in. Sometimes this is done through dialogue tree choices and sometimes it is a matter of choosing who to attack: "Do you side with Christian King Willy and attack Pagan Warlord Harry or vice versa?".

The battle game is quite different than Total War and uses a victory point system. Each battle map has a number of victory points. Holding more victory points than your opponent causes their morale bar to start ticking down and when one side's morale bar reaches zero the battle is lost.  Killing opponents will also eventually reduce the morale bar but in my experience holding victory points is an easier way to win. The victory point system means that set piece battles which are so much a feature of Total War games are not as big a feature of this game. It is far more important to send fleet footed units scurrying around the map to hold as many victory points as possible. Perhaps as a consequence of this the classic Total War tactics of holding a line and flanking don't seem to work as well in this game, although this could be down to my unfamiliarity with the game controls. Another big difference is that you have hero units: the knights of the round table. Apart from having massive hit points knights come with magical powers that can greatly influence a battle.

The biggest surprise for me so far is the difficulty of resource management in the game. Armies cost a lot of gold and food to recruit and maintain and the resources trickle in very slowly at the start of the game when you have very few provinces. You get some resources for winning battles but to date my loses are much higher than my earnings.

I have just completed the "Lady in the Lake" quest which puts you into battle against a mysterious "Northern Army". I expected Vikings but it turned out to a fantasy mix of giants, wargs and tough tough soldiers.  The first couple of times I was soundly trounced but the third time I rounded up the biggest army I could muster (bankrupting myself in the process) and eventually managed to win at the cost of most of my army. That victory opens up the next phase of the game and now I have multiple quests demanding attention but I have no troops left and no resources to recruit more. Resources only seem to come in once per year (every four turns) so  I am just going to have to wait multiple turns until I can afford to recruit again. I can only hope that no-one decides to attack me in the mean time.

Given that I am still effectively in the tutorial and I am playing on normal difficulty I didn't expect to get into this much trouble early on.

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