King Arthur II preview: Arthurian RPG meets RTS

King Arthur II combines epic dark fantasy with Arthurian and Celtic myth and legend to create a new chapter in the role-playing /real-time strategy series from Neocore games and Paradox Interactive.

When the greatest tale of chivalry ends, the nightmare begins.

The evil Witch Queen Morgawse sends a champion to Britannia to slay King Arthur, who in the process of defending the land suffers a cursed wound that will never heal. The Holy Grail is shattered, and as Arthur suffers from his wound, the land of Britannia decays and falters.

The land becomes a wasteland ruled by squabbling barons and overrun by unholy hordes of Fomorians ancient, demonic creatures released from the prison of the Void by the Witch Queen.  And the Fomorians seek to release their king Balor from the void the final nail in Britannias coffin. (Check out some concept art and screens from the teaser trailer.)

The Knights of the Round Table have scattered. The once proud, golden age of Camelot is shattered.

This is the story you step into in King Arthur II, and though we werent shown much in the way of gameplay at Paradox Con 2011, NeoCores public relations representative Orsolya Tothand and community manager Linda Bozoradi were on hand to tell us about it.

A little history

If youre unfamiliar with the King Arthur series, it's essentially one part tactical RTS (such as Total War or Kings' Crusade), one part turn-based strategy game, and one part role-playing game set in an Arthurian-based fantasy world.

The original King Arthur was something of a sleeper hit and garnered generally good reviews (Metacritic score of 79). If youre interested, youve got plenty of time to pick it up before King Arthur II is released later this year. (Check out Gamersgate and other digital distributors.)

Managing the Kingdom

When youre not on the battlefield delivering righteous beatdowns, youre managing the troops and lands under your control. This part of the game will play more like a turn-based strategy game, and you can recruit new troops to bolster your ranks, upgrade them, and make ready for your next campaign of butt-kickin.

The world map will be two times the size of the first game, Bozoradi tells us.

In addition to troop and kingdom management elements, you can also undertake quests for artifacts, resources, or other goals that will benefit your kingdom, heroes, and armies. Quests are handled in a manner similar to choose your own adventure books (mostly text and images), though some will end with battlefield scenarios. Quests arent risk-free, of course, and failed quests may cost you resources, troops, or worse.

Lets get ready to rumble

When its time to take the battlefield, you command legions of men against hordes of unholy monsters and other creatures. The new graphics engine can support  somewhere between 3000 and 4000 men on the battlefield, Bozoradi tells us, and pathfinding and animations have been improved too.

Also new this time around are flying units that provide all new tactical options for you on the battlefield. And you arent limited to just human armiesyou can recruit fantasy monsters to your cause as well, including creatures such as shapeshifters, gargoyles, and dragons to name just a few. (More will probably be revealed as the game gets closer to launch.)

Another cool addition will be boss fightsepic battles in which you and your armies take on creatures of mythical proportions (such as dragons) in large scale tactical battles. And the boss creatures have their own minions and allies as well, so be prepared for difficult and tactically-varied battles.

Lay the magical smack down

Magic is another tool in your arsenal, and there will be powerful spells that you can cast. The more powerful and devastating the spell, however, the longer the casting time, so protect those poor Wizards. (They only D4 HP, after all.) Taking battlefield objectives will also grant access to special abilities can grant bonuses and/or access to special abilities.

Armies will have "some form of general, globalized magic resistance" to help them resist the effects of spells, although "the exact mechanics of the magic resistance system haven't been worked out yet," according to Orsolya Tothand.

Role-playing: Are you old school or new school?

Customizing your hero and making decisions is part of any role-playing game. In that vein, your character (Arthur) as well as hero characters and your armies can be customized and gain experience, levels, and the new abilities and powers that go with them. Also expect gear, armor, and weapon upgrades, in addition to artifacts and relics. (Neocore hasnt released a lot of specifics regarding this yet, but you can probably expect something similar to the original game and/or Kings Crusade.)

The morality scale from the original King Arthur game is also returning, which measures your actions in 4 areas: Old Faith, New Faith (Christianity), Tyrant or Rightful. Where you land in the morality scale will affect which abilities you gain access to and how your character progresses.

Overall

Arthurian (and Celtic) myth and legend are rife with great material perfect for an epic role-playing game built upon large-scale tactical battlefield warfare. (Unfortunately, at this time no multiplayer is planned for the game's launch, but it could potentially be added at a later date.)

Dig out that soundtrack from Excalibur (the 1981 film) and get ready, because with an entirely new graphics engine, a vastly bigger world and expanded and (hopefully) refined game play, King Arthur II should be even better than its predecessor. 

King Arthur II is scheduled for a Q3 2011 release on PC at an MSRP of $39.99.

Features (courtesy of Paradox Interactive)

- Dark fantasy setting. King Arthur is now the Maimed King, trying to mend a land torn asunder as he strives to heal himself
- Stunning plotline, heroic battles and expanded morality chart that unlocks new features
- Large scale battles, with bigger armies to defeat more powerful foes
- Intensebossfights, where the heros forces are pitted against unique and terrifying foes
- Wide range of camera control options, improved animations and an extensive tutorial creating a more accessible and visually stunning experience