King Arthur: Knight’s Tale Preview: Tactically Trash, Smash, Crash, and Slash

A team of raging armored knights slams into their enemies, slamming them with blows left and right. They are much stronger than those they fight, but much inferior, and in Tactical Combat of King Arthur: A Knight’s Tale, you are in charge of making sure these knights are victorious. I sat down with a chapter 2 preview of the story-based strategy RPG, and found myself fascinated by its blend of combat, knightly tales, and casual castle management.

I’ll be honest with you here: This mix of Arthurian legend plays fast and loose with legend, and I’m here for it. Arthurian legends are medieval comic book stories, all about larger-than-life heroes and wildly inconsistent in how they are portrayed. What I mean is I don’t think you’ll need Jack to know about Arthur to enjoy this, but here’s the details anyway: King Arthur: Knight’s Tale is set in a kind of dreary Arthurian purgatory. Avalon, which should be a shining mystical paradise for knights, really erred and Arthur went not only natural evil, but also super-villain.

Screens – The Tale of King Arthur Knight

Oh, and you play the bad guy. You are Mordred, and you killed Arthur the very moment he killed you. Now you are both in Avalon, but Arthur has gone all kinds of bad, so now you have to kill Arthur…again. To do this, you need to recruit his former knights, enemies and allies to your side. Basically none of them like you or want to work with you, and depending on your actions, some of them will happily abandon you to get back to Arthur’s side. Complicated objects are the lady of the lake, ancient gods, elves, and all sorts of other supernatural things taken from Celtic, Irish, and wild mythology both before and after Christianity.

It’s not perfect. Some of the characters are flat, and the dialogue is rough here and there, but the whole thing is so exaggerated that I think it might work anyway. Take the character Jennifer, who has appeared to herald the events of the second act that I have previewed. She hates you! I killed her in the first place. She must also forgive you, because you are the one who was chosen by the authorities who will set the Avalon Islands right.

She’s just one of 30 to recruit, a character from Arthur’s Knights from the legendary Lancelot all the way to Sir Evan, who is generally famous for being crazy and for living in the woods. Each of the six classes, and you can take on only four of them on any given adventure. They have their own personalities as well, which roughly corresponds to the two axes Mordred has to choose from: Righteous vs. Tyrant and Old Faith vs Christian.

Quests consist of conversations and choices between outcomes that affect your moral compass, but are really about combat. Compared to fast-paced, turn-based combat for games like Fire Emblem or XCOM, Knight’s Tale smashes armored soldiers against each other in melee combos. Soldiers have the shield first, then the vital points, then the vitals.

Armor reduces damage, and hit points are a thing that comes back from mission to mission, but vitality gives you permanent injuries that can prevent fighters from future missions while they recover. The trick to success is to use positioning to make sure you’re backstabbing and taking out opponents faster than they can corner and confuse you – you’ll always win in normal fights, but you also want to do the least damage possible.

This does not mean that the only way to win is to be an armored commander. Mage, Sage, and Marksman characters have less armor and more powerful attacks. Guinevere is wise, for example, who is mobile with powerful combat attacks and has a variety of powerful spells for allies. Mrs. Dindraine is a pious archer who can poison and incinerate enemies from the back line. However, the core of any fight always seems to be the armored knights because you’ve always outnumbered two or three to one at best.

I liked combat a lot, and it was a good balance between combat in a more tactical war game with lower numbers and tight margins for a modern tactics title like XCOM. Melee felt the impact, but getting into close combat didn’t feel like a rag as in modern titles based on Dungeons & Dragons. No matter the bosses, a good knight can always hack his way out or take a few free hits from an enemy on his shield.

From what I’ve played so far, King Arthur: Knight’s Tale will be the kind of game you’d expect from NeocoreGames, an ambitious game with a solid core design that can sometimes go too far in story and scope. However, from the core gameplay alone, expect it to be one of the best strategic and tactical RPGs to release in 2022.

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