From the British studio, Inkle Ltd, creator of 80 Days, Sorcery or Heaven’s Vault, come Pendragon, a turn-based rogue-like tactical game and a curious interpretation of King Arthur’s legend.
I am a fan of the Arthurian lore, and since I was younger, I watched some films and played some games about this legend, and after some years without new material, comes Pendragon, an original telling of the last days of King Arthur, when he fights his son, Sir Mordred. The main target of this game is to go to Camlann to rendezvous with King Arthur to avoid the Camelot fall on the hands of Sir Mordred.
For this purpose, you will have available Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere, and you will unlock other characters, like Morgan or Lady Rhiannon, among others, if you encounter them in your runs. Every run is different, so everything is possible when you play this game. Also, if you feel a little lost at the start, don’t worry, the game has a very useful hint system for combat, except for the last battle.
<<King Arthur, just resist until our arrival>> The rogue-like component
When you start your run you will be in a handwritten 2D map with your selected character, in 2D too, this combination reminds me of a book with folding figures, and you will have different places to choose. In these places, you can find allies, enemies, NPCs, and rations. In the first places, you will usually obtain an ally, but after this one, you can choose other locations, with unknown content until you enter them. The character usually gives you a hint about the selected place, like, <<I have a bad feeling about this place>> or <<Here nobody is going to follow us>>, but the decision is yours. Days pass when you move from one location to another, and after a day of walking, your characters will lose part of their health and morale unless you give them rations, obtainable in several places. Also, you can heal them without cost if you camp in the places (this action is not available in all the scenarios). On harder difficulties’ health is an important problem.
The tactical combat: An Arthurian Chess
In every scenario you will choose which character deploys first, you will usually only need one, but sometimes to summon a partner is recommendable. You move every turn, just 1 character, and every turn something happens in the scenario too, an enemy appears, an enemy killing another enemy, a potential ally…and normally your character will say something related to your current situation (if you hear something he/she will ask for who is there for example), then the enemy uses its turn. The scenario will change of color when you advance, the red squares are yours and the blue ones corresponds to the enemies, this will be important for the use of some skills.
You have two stances to choose when you move, and changing stances will consume your turn: there is a diagonal one, which you can’t attack but you will change the surrounding squares to your color, or the linear stance, just change the territory if you walk on it but you can attack the enemies. The enemies will have these stances too. Also, there are some squares called High Ground, where the stances are no required, and you can move to the other squares without doing anything. To be honest, the combat system reminds me of chess but with its own rules.
Usually, the scenario has an exit and your target will be to go to it, but you can solve them in other ways, like killing the enemies (with 1 attack per enemy is enough). In some scenarios, you will have conversations with the enemies/NPCs, and the situation can derive from killing extra enemies, forcing enemies to flee, or even obtain new allies. In these cases, the key is patience, you could see some interesting changes in the run if you complete the stage without the need for violence.
Each character will have different skills, and you will obtain more after some important decisions. There is an important variety, from Merlin teleport to Branwen ranged attacks or Arthur attacking in the diagonal stance (when you only can attack the other stance), for example. These skills are useful, but you need resolution tokens, they are obtainable in the combat scenarios, passing by the squares marked with a triskelion, or generated by your morale. Also, the morale bar is important because it generates resolution tokens at the combat start, and, If it reaches 0 you will be forced to flee from the current stage.
And beware, your characters can die if they are attacked…and except in one case, where the main character gave me the option to save them, in a limited number of turns, they will die and will disappear from your team during the remaining journey. For example, on my last run with Sir Lancelot, I lost him, and Merlin, but I found Morgan in the way, and I arrived with her to help King Arthur.
Saving Camelot: Confronting Sir Mordred
On your way to join King Arthur, you will confront different enemies, each one with their characteristics. Also, the development of the battles will depend on your actions/dialogue options. There is the villages’ population, where depending on of your choice, you will finish with a new ally, with a fight, with some rations or nothing will happen. There are Mordred knights, they can only be enemies, and some wandering knights, not related to Sir Mordred forces, but they do not join you in the first turn, you have to convince them. Again, they can be valuable allies or enemies. Also, You can find other main characters, which you will unlock for future runs when they join you or savage beasts, which have different attack patterns than humans. For example, spiders can attack in all directions (except in the lower difficulties)…
When you arrive at Camlann, if you achieve it, you will fight with Mordred. And after a battle with Mordred soldiers, you can choose to use Arthur or use your main character, the one that you choose at the start if he/she survived the journey, and fight him. His battle it’s complicated, and you get a different ending if you die or you kill him.
Graphics, Soundtrack & Other stuff
The game graphics are 2D, the map, and the characters are 2D figures. In the combat scenarios, you will have some 3D details but with the same essence of the other parts. The soundtrack is great, the music accompanies you during your journey, and it’s different in the map than in the stages but good in both cases. The game is only available in English for the moment, and it has achievements but it hasn’t cards (steam version). Every run is very different, and you will unlock new characters to start, so it has a big replayability value.