King Arthur can't catch a break. In King Arthur - The Role-playing Wargame, he bested the forces of evil and united Southern Britannia. In this real-time strategy sequel, he gets stabbed in the gut with a magic knife. OK, maybe it doesn't happen exactly like that, but he does suffer a supernatural wound at the hands of the Witch Queen. To make matters worse, she summons a horde of demons to ravage the lands and throw the realms into chaos. Just great. King Arthur II is divided between two extensive campaigns, and it's now your charge to restore order to both the northern and southern halves of the empire. Of course, your definition of "order" could be different from someone else's definition.
Our demonstration began with diplomacy--murder diplomacy. In the example we saw, our hero helped the son of a noble family murder his own father so that he could seize control. However, we also made sure that his next of kin saw the act and could blow the whistle if the son got out of line. This little episode worked to our advantage later in the game when we were trying to become governor. To do so, we needed to speak before the senate and obtain the majority vote from the noble families. The murderous son already owned us one, so we got an easy vote. But we didn't get the majority. Naturally, it was time for war.
King Arthur II is divided into two sections: the map screen and the battle screen. On the map screen, we could craft items, manage our armies, visit towns, and partake in all other manner of adventuring flair. The battle screen is where we got down and dirty. The first battle we saw was a stronghold assault that looked like a scene straight out of Total War: Shogun II. Had we actually proceeded, it would have been a very challenging fight because the defensive enemies were not only hiding behind three walls, but they were also atop high elevation, which means they received bonuses when firing or charging downhill.
We also got a peek at some of King Arthur II's flying units. These nasty, demonic critters could only be harmed with spells and arrows while in the air. Sometimes they would touch down and take a few melee swipes at our troops, which granted our men the chance to work their blades. The developers described the battle system as a rock-paper-scissors relationship among all the units. Later in the demonstration, we got our hands on the game and tested our tactical prowess against some giants. Because our strategy began and ended with "RUSH THE GIANTS," we didn't fair well initially. However, with smart positioning of our archers and liberal use of the slow spell on the giants, we managed to bring them down before they could trample all of our troops.
We also learned that the magic system from the first King Arthur has been reworked so that it is less overwhelming. Now, each side has a magical shield that is broken down into four levels. The offensive spell will need to be above the defensive shield level to have any effect. If it's not, well, poof, and it's gone. Magical shields will degenerate over time, but they can be restored though various means. One of those is to capture certain strategic points on the map. In addition to extra shielding, these points can confer new spells or other bonuses. Stronger spells also have long casting times and can be interrupted if, for instance, your caster takes an arrow to the face.
Had we kept playing, the surviving units would have likely leveled up. When a hero unit levels up, it's a big deal. Whether you're using a warlord, champion, or sage, the units will each have an upgradeable skill tree broken into two branches. The first is unique to that unit and reflects how totally awesome it is with a personalized set of spells and abilities. The second branch is specific to the unit type--as mentioned earlier--and is common to all units of that type. Non-hero units also gain levels, which lets you increase their stats.
King Arthur II is still a single-player-only adventure and will be released on PCs in January of next year. When asked, the developers also noted that they would like to have a special bonus included for players with an original King Arthur save, but nothing has been finalized.