I've seen King Arthur 2 improve over just a few days, I imagine that more patches will be released - and perhaps Merlin's magic will address more of the game's flaws, pad out its linear and plodding narrative and finally turn Morgana Le Fay into a woman. In the meantime, however, it remains glossy rather than glorious, decidedly wobbly and very limited.
It pains me to say this, but I simply cannot recommend King Arthur II as a full price purchase. If you like Total War-style battles and fantasy literature and stories you can find some fun here, but you will eventually get bored like myself. The only people I can recommend this game to are the fans of the original game and to hardcore fans of the genre, which, considering its niche appeal, aren’t going to be many. If, however, you take the time and give the game a chance, you will be able to appreciate the good writing and clever ideas that King Arthur II has to offer.
Ultimately King Arthur II's biggest issue is trying to bring together the two genres of war game and RPG. In some places this is done brilliantly, as units level up you're afforded great control of dictating what kind of fighting forces you can become by buffing specific stats and selecting certain skills. This also brings a serious sense of weight to your decisions as losing a veteran unit becomes a serious investment to replace. Other features suffer though, like you'll only unlock additional armies at specific story portions of the game. So much of the early game is spent deciding to complete those quests to the South while armies sack your lands in the North, you may even have reserve troops garrisoning the castles up there, but you can only ever fight with your designated armies. The crafted RPG narrative is very much getting in the way of its other wargame tenets.
Even though King Arthur II has some interesting ideas and tries to do something unique by blending Role Playing elements with the Total War approach to strategy, in its current state the game is wildly inconsistent and very imbalanced. Battles generally provide no challenge and play out as chaotic melees, but are punctuated with a few brutally hard battles where the enemy army is composed of difficult to counter flying beasts. The role playing elements are interesting and add depth to the severely lacking strategically component, but overall King Arthur II feels like it could have been so much more with a bit more time and care put into optimization and balancing. Paradox has already released several patches, and with more this game could improve considerably, but in its current state, it is difficult to recommend.
Unfortunately, it’s somewhat wasted inside a strategy game that really isn’t a strategy game, and a PC game that needs heavy optimization to get it to perform at an acceptable rate. All I wanted from King Arthur II was more of the great lore mixed with a degree of difficulty that was challenging but not sadistic and better tactical battles. I got the great lore.
Looking at the game as a whole the overriding feeling is that Neocore Games have stretched themselves in this follow-up to King Arthur and in so doing gone a little too far and opened up some cracks in the foundations. The story whilst good in and of itself starts from a negative position and will never be as good as that of King Arthur, holy grails and Merlin based magic. There are so many aspects to the game and of such variation that unless you are the very small percentage of gamers this was written directly for, a lot of it is going to pass you by. What’s left is then done perhaps not so well as it could have been had things been streamlined. If you want real-time battles there are superior titles. If you want turn based empire building there are better games. If you want to choose your own adventure this is the best you’ll get but were someone to do that with Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones then again it would better it, although they haven’t - yet - so it’s a somewhat redundant criticism. Unfortunately King Arthur II - The Role-Playing Wargame is a jack of all trades. If this were the aim it’s succeeded. The suspicion though is that it wanted to be a master of something and in this it just doesn’t quite manage it.