If the blaring music is any indication, E3 2011 is still going strong, and one of the many exciting new games on display is King Arthur II - The Role-Playing Wargame. Like its title suggests, this is both a sequel to the first King Arthur and a hybrid game that incorporates elements of both traditional turn-based wargames and story-driven role-playing games. The story in this sequel picks up after the events of the first game, and things are decidedly darker in the court of Camelot. The holy grail has been destroyed, and Arthur, King of the Britons, has been mortally wounded. And because of the magical connection between the monarch and his lands, the anguish of the dying ruler has corrupted the land beyond recognition; thus, dark things have emerged to plague the countryside. In the game, you play as a new hero who fights to restore order to the beleaguered realm of Brittonia by doing battle against its enemies.
For our E3 demonstration, we jumped right into the game's campaign map. It was a fully realized 3D map of Brittonia, which was a lush, green realm full of rolling hills, divvied up into individual provinces by easily visible glowing yellow lines. Like in the original King Arthur, provinces in the sequel will be home not only to the kingdom's subjects, but also to special event locations, which can be captured. In some cases, they can also be upgraded to provide persistent bonuses throughout the campaign. And like in the original game, you'll frequently happen upon quests of three types: adventure, diplomacy, and battle.
Adventure quests play out--just like they did in the first game--as a series of choices that lead to more choices that lead to consequences (not unlike the structure of the popular Choose Your Own Adventure novels from the 1980s). Diplomacy quests often take the form of pleas for help from the populace, and you can either respond to them by sending your own armies, hiring mercenaries for gold, or contracting the services of the shadowy Guild of Outlaws if you happen to have the right connections. Or, you can simply ignore these pleas. Battle quests are what they sound like: quests that challenge you to take on a foe in the game's 3D real-time battles.
In all cases, your choices may affect your ruler's alignment between benevolent and tyrant. (You can also choose to have your ruler subscribe to Christianity or follow the "Old Ways," the land's pagan religion.) Religion and alignment have no direct bearing on each other but will affect the types of skills and magic spells your ruler will learn. Quests may cause you to earn or to lose gold, but they will also get you access to powerful artifacts, let you rescue ladies-in-waiting who may join your court as eligible brides for your vassals, and affect which types of troops and heroes you eventually end up enlisting. Like in the original game, your forces will gain experience over time, and heroes will still belong to one of three classes: warlord, knight, or sage. But in the sequel, your hero units will all have full-on skill trees you can use to customize their abilities over time.
After running through the new features in the game's strategic layer, we jumped into a tactical battle to see some of the game's other new features, including an entirely new graphics engine that renders King Arthur II's battlefields in much more detail and lets you zoom in close to inspect any individual unit. What's more, King Arthur II will introduce flying units to battles. While flying units can be countered in a variety of different ways, including enemy flying units, archers, and various magic spells, they will be advantageous to have on your side. This is because they can navigate almost any terrain quickly without any kind of penalty (while your grounded troops will, of course, suffer movement and combat penalties when traversing rough terrain). In addition, terrain will continue to play an important role in King Arthur II's tactical combat. The open field will be most favorable for certain types of infantry, while the high ground will be advantageous for archers.
The original King Arthur offered an intriguing combination of strategy and role-playing elements, and fans of that game will have a lot to look forward to in the sequel. The game is scheduled for release later this year.