King Arthur: Knight’s Tale, the deliciously grimdark continuation of Camelot’s legend, has finally arrived. Although missing the original release date by a month, Neocore Games have put the extra time to good use. With all the additional polishing, the result was worth the wait: the final game is a rock-solid tactical RPG.
Comparing it to the late-development version, which I’ve covered before on TBL, the gameplay is much tighter and more satisfying. For example, one new feature is difficulty levels. These allow some players to focus on the story, and others – to test their mettle against mighty foes.
If you’ve read my preview (link above), you may already know the hero’s name. For others, it may be surprising to learn that he is no other than Camelot’s greatest enemy: Sir Mordred. The Lady of the Lake has resurrected the warrior and the other Knights of the Round Table – for one purpose. Their task is to destroy the undead horror that once was King Arthur.
It’s striking how well the story holds together as it progresses. Nearly every character from Arthurian tales shows up at some point – the anachronisms overturned be everyone being undead. The setting never feels contrived, and its unique premise allows it to add to the existing lore, without breaking it.
Characters & Missions
Mordred himself is a sarcastic, snarling antihero of the best variety. That’s not to say the violent, backstabbing warlord is likeable. Still, his mixture of wit and simmering anger does make character interactions fun. He stands out, surrounded by intrigue and sorcery, when his usual solution to problems involves hitting them repeatedly. A perfect protagonist for the grimy, perilous place Avalon has become.
The game proceeds by a handful of story missions and numerous side quests. The latter are essential, being the only way to level up and prepare for the former. While all ultimately consist of wandering the map, fighting and looting, they do have unique narratives and rewards. This adds an episodic character to the gameplay, with each main mission feeling like a Monster of the Week.
By far, the best side quests are those where players can recruit new knights, or learn about those already recruited. They give each of the legendary heroes of the Round Table some time in the spotlight; including the lesser-known ones. Since it’s impossible to recruit everyone in a single playthrough, their many tales also add replay value.
Neocore has done an excellent job of allowing players to tailor their knights for specialized roles. The randomized loot still add some uncertainty, but it’s the skills that truly define a character. Most active abilities can be upgraded with extra perks – like making Champion’s basic attack inflict Bleed condition. This makes correctly assigning new points essential.
The way decision points affect the campaign is one of this game’s strengths. The choices might not have the far-reaching consequences of Mass Effect – but they do have immediate results; and their sum will ultimately change the Camelot and the Knights. Maintaining your chosen alignment also has implications. It unlocks powerful perks down the road, but affects economy and loyalty – not always positively. An alignment different from yours reduces a knight’s combat effectiveness, increasing their discontent.
Battles & Enemies
The battles feel much smoother than during early access – especially with new late-game abilities allowing for devastating combat tricks. I’m especially fond of the Vanguard class, leaping to and fro on the battlefield, backstabbing for great damage – then popping stealth to evade repercussions. The game still encourages a solid battle line of a few heavily-armored Defenders or Champions, but now there are many viable variations on the core strategy.
The enemies divide into a few broad categories. When you start a mission, you can see what types to expect, planning your lineup and swapping out gear. Would’ve been nice, however, to see more functional variety between those: a living and an undead crossbowmen really do the same thing. Even adding some elite enemies to each category could make battles more exciting. As it stands, I found myself saying, “ugh, another banshee?” on more than one occasion.
King Arthur: Knight’s Tale will punish mistakes. Playing on Easy and Normal, this just means a knight might sit a few missions out, recuperating in Camelot. On higher difficulties, getting caught out of position can lead to permadeath. Health potions are indispensable – you won’t find many other means of saving a warrior’s life.
The game’s at its best during tense moments: enemy ambushes, all-or-nothing charges at a boss, sudden surprises in the middle of a fight. Things just rare enough to up the stakes and inject the tale with knightly drama organically, via gameplay.
Graphics & Sound
King Arthur: Knight’s Tale looks as dark and gritty as you’d expect, considering Neocore’s previous work on Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr. If anything, it’s perhaps a little too drab. Outside of flames and some grimy heraldry, there are few eye-catching colors. In fairness, this makes rare moments of brightness feel hard-won and by that more effective. Like at the end of Act 1, where the knights must cleanse shrines and restore the surrounding lands’ greenery. Still, the environments do feel repetitive for their lack of color.
The music and sound effects are wonderfully immersive, right from the title screen’s bass strings. The characters’ voices, however, are a mixed bag, as if only half were voiced by professional actors. Thankfully, most key performances such as Mordred and the Lady Of The Lake fall into the latter category. Mordred’s voice-over artist in particular deserves commendation, able to make some painfully edgy-on-purpose lines like “Rest. Kill. Repeat” sound far less cheesy than they actually are.
As much as I might nitpick, King Arthur: Knight’s Tale is overall a fantastic game. Its issues are minor and easy to overlook, especially with such gameplay and story. As the mystery of Avalon and Arthur’s fate deepens, players will want to continue forward and see what happens next… and shed some blood in the name of Camelot.