I consider myself lucky that a while back I had the opportunity to play Total War: Shogun 2 and review it for Gaming Shogun. At the time I felt lucky because I got to experience the immense depth and choice players had when playing that game and how it had great replay value due to all the choices.  You even had a choice of how deep you went, you could play it a lot like a Risk simple strategy game or you could go in and orchestrate the movements of each of your units each step through the battlefield.  I tried a bit of each and still it took days, weeks, just to get a grasp of all there was to do in that game.  There is a reason that some magazines and some websites didn’t just list it as one of the best games of the year but also listed it as one of the best games of all time.  It was a great play and a gorgeous sight loaded with amazing detail setting a new bar for strategy games like it to come.

Another reason I feel lucky to have played it is when I got the opportunity to review King Arthur 2 which lists itself as a “role-playing wargame”  I may not have realized it was another name for strategy games in the very same vein as Shogun 2.  I may also not have realized the benchmark set by Shogun 2 should be considered when reviewing this game.  Can it stand up to such competition?

At the opening screen of the game players are given the option to play the prologue if they like which instead of being a long animation is actually playtime with tips and a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the game play.  I thought it was to be just the first part of my nights play only to discover that I had played for hours and only set the stage for the actual story.  I don’t want to spoil it by giving away too much detail but I can safely say the prologue does an excellent job of leading into the game itself and sets a timeline for the rest of the game.  This part of the game would have made a decent, though somewhat short, game all on its own and uses both historical facts and mythology to weave an excellent tale.

After playing the prologue and reaching it’s pinnacle it is a bit hard to start the game with lowly means and have to work your way up to glory again. But at the same time it is like getting a chance to play the prologue over again with a better understanding of the game aspects and a different cast of characters. So in a way it is like having a short game and long game depending on your time allotment you can play one of both.

If you are familiar with Shogun 2 this will all sound a bit familiar but the game allows you to control pretty much ever aspect of your growing empire.  You have to make diplomatic relationships with the lands around you, you have to listen to and defend your people and when all else fails you have to draw your weapons and start trying to beat the snot out of your enemy.  The beating the snot out of the enemy part can often be conducted through auto battle but sometimes it requires you to get your face down with the troops and make their movements, use your heroes’ spells, take over temples for deity’s favor and watch the direct results of your moves or lack of moves cause your soldiers or your enemies to fall to the ground.

If someone comes into the game thinking of it mostly as a war game they will find themselves hemorrhaging money and burying their soldiers left and right.  Strategy is important to not just surviving the game but winning it is realizing that war is the last resort of strategy.   Then when it comes down to war it is as important to have a good strategy on the battlefield from troop placement to upgrading, from who to have attack first to the attack formation. Where are their archers? Do you really want to charge head on with your cavalry into pikesmen? Which of your heroes can best help which section of your troops and do they stand a better chance going on the offensive directly? And at the end of this battle how many of their ally territories are going to side with them over you? When those ally’s make a move will you and yours be able to stop the retaliation?

If this game had come out before Shogun 2 and been as heavily publicized as Shogun 2 had been (one of the biggest video game media blitzes of the year) there is a good chance that this game could have been the one that others were compared to. Graphically it is amazing with good voice acting and tons of action when action is called for. The immense control over your forces and the historical accuracy of the possible formations, units and general events of the time work perfectly together so that even armchair historians will recognize names and places. Every decision has to be weighed against the consequences to make sure you don’t find yourself facing down many more enemies than you can cut through. The name of the game being King Arthur may bring up images of the round table and Merlin’s mists but this game tries to be more historically accurate than many of the Arthur tales basing itself more on the historical figure the myths were supposed to be based off of though you can expect some units that are more supernatural than natural.

The drawbacks to the game are a bit minor and definitely the result of being spoiled in today’s game market.  The game is a pretty beefy download and will probably take a decent while to get you into the action.  Load screens are pretty long and could use more interesting images than the game logo.  Also there were some pretty serious crash issues which at first I thought might just be an issue with my system but then I tried the game on another of my computers and checked forums, communities and other reviewers to see if they had the same issues and it seemed universal and quite often at the same point.  I found that I had to actually change my pattern of attack in a couple spots to keep it from crashing due to too many units, spells and special abilities going on all at once.  In at least one case the results was a less substantial win than I would have liked and in another case the random prize generator gave me a rare the first time I beat a battle and gave me a common the next time I played it after a crash.  Also you can’t save during battle so if something comes up you have to accept a defeat rather than saving it and coming back when you have more time.  There have been nearly daily updates though so I think most of these issues will be gone before you know it.

Last Call:

This game is a lot of fun and has a lot of similarities to Total War: Shogun 2 so if you like that kind of game it is definitely worth playing.  If you haven’t played Shogun 2 and you like detailed strategy games then this is definitely a game worth picking up along with Shogun 2.  It will feel like the same kind of play but you will get what seems like 3 games for the price of two with the long prologue on King Arthur.  It has glitches like many new games do but it also has some fun and very well detailed game play, just remember to save often until they get the glitches and crashes cleaned up.