King Arthur: Knight’s Tale finally left Early Access last month, and I’ve had it on my wishlist for quite some time. I’m a sucker for Tactics games, and this one has landed pretty well for me. It’s got most of what I want in a good tactics game: the puzzle of figuring out each battle in the most efficient way possible, with the least damage to my crew, a bunch of cool items and skills to really customize my playstyle, and a boatload of extra stuff in between missions that gives you options while forcing some difficult choices. I’ve been enjoying it.
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In Knight’s Tale, you play as Mordred, risen from the dead in Avalon and tasked with hunting down the corrupted and evil King Arthur after you both killed each other in battle. It’s a grimdark take on the Arthurian legend that gives the game some room to play with some of the established aspects of the round table.
In each mission map, there’s some minor ARPG exploration that lets you look for hidden treasure, buff shrines, or even hints to make other sections easier (In one mission I came across a soldier who had been left for dead by his company, the people I was tasked to kill. In his final moments, he wanted nothing more than petty revenge, so he told me his commander’s nickname, which I could holler as the battle started to throw him off his game).
Once you run into some enemies, the game shifts to the familiar XCOM-type tactics grid (and all the stuff you’d expect like attacks of opportunity, overwatch, reserving AP, etc). Your knights have a health bar that is split into two sections: HP and Vitality. HP is sort of like your squishy, padded outer layer; it’s healed with potions and campfires during a mission, or replenishes itself to full in-between missions.
Vitality, on the other hand, is your serious health bar. Once you lose your HP, you start taking damage to your vitality, and this is where things get rough. Vitality is much harder to heal, and every time you take vitality damage, you also risk a permanent injury; something debilitating like doing less damage, taking double damage from poison, etc.
Vitality and Injuries can be healed at special buildings in Camelot, but doing so takes your Knight out of play for a while. It can be rough early game when you have no alternates, but more manageable once you’ve built up a roster of heroes to swap back and forth between. Still, too many poorly fought battles can find you with a roster of “only mostly dead” Knights while your truly fucked up warriors recover.
Plus, the cost and time involved with healing injuries and vitality can rob you of resources you might want for expansion or upgrades. There are a number of buildings in Camelot you can upgrade and assign Knights to oversee, all of which use the same two basic resources as buying potions/items and healing Knights (you can pay to heal them in 1 mission, or do it for free if you’re willing to have them laid up for 2-3 missions). That means every coin you spend is a decision between multiple things you want/need.
There are a number of other layers to the game as well, a loyalty system that improves (or hampers) the strength of your Knights, some of which is tied to a morality graph that tracks your choices throughout the game. On the Y axis you can move towards being a Rightful ruler or a Tyrant. On the X axis you drift towards supporting Christianity or the Old gods. In each of the quadrants are a variety of characters and upgrades/unlocks unique to those alignments.
You cannot have all of them in one playthrough. So if you go Rightful/Old Gods, you can unlock characters like Lancelot and Morgan Le Fay, but The Red Knight will be unavailable to you down in the Tyrant path. It also means that as you drift in one direction or the other, your choices may lose you the loyalty of characters diametrically opposed.
I have heard that some of the game balance can be a little unpredictable on higher difficulties, but I’ve yet to experience any fluctuations that felt out of place. You can play a standard game on a variety of difficulty levels, but I’ve been playing the game’s Roguelite mode, which affords you one save, and overwrites it constantly. It forces me to just keep moving forward, and use a variety of Knights, as opposed to save-scumming for a perfect mission, and just using the same roster of four for the entire game.
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