In a distant age of knights and dragons, the holy empire of Britannia has found peace. The elusive Holy Grail has finally been recovered, and prosperity blooms across the land. However, a dark cloud looms on the horizon. A new threat is scheming in the darkness and plans to descend upon the good King Arthur and his knights. In this sequel to 2009's real-time strategy/role-playing hybrid you will take command of the king himself to combat this new threat. We sat down with Viktor Juhasz, content designer and writer at Neocore Games, to get the lowdown on this sequel slated for 2011.
GameSpot: Give us an overview of King Arthur II. We recall the original game being an intriguing combination of role-playing and strategy--how will the sequel build on the first game?
Viktor Juhasz: King Arthur II is a role-playing wargame, and similarly to the first game it will mix the elements of RPGs and strategy games. But now we'll be emphasizing more on those RPG elements, particularly on the campaign map, and to some extent in the battles as well, where players will be able to fight more tactical battles. It all boils down to the changes we've made while balancing the RPG and the strategy in the game. We fixed everything that was generally considered a weakness in the first game, while we kept the most praised features--like the quests and the morality chart--and added plenty of new material.
GS: We understand that the sequel will take place after the events of the first game, with King Arthur dethroned. Tell us about the story in King Arthur II. What is your quest in the new game?
VJ: King Arthur II begins where most stories end: Britannia is united, the high king rules by the power of the Holy Grail, and everything looks just fine. But something--or rather, someone--ancient and powerful is awakening beyond Britannia, reaching for the Holy Grail, and with her strange magic she destroys this mighty artifact.
This particular "she" is called Queen Morgawse, and she is the mysterious Witch Queen from the Orkney Islands in the north. She sent a champion to kill Arthur, who, while trying to protect the heart of his kingdom, suffered a wound that would never heal. The Once and Future King has a mystic connection with his realm, so his illness is slowly destroying the entire land. Forests have turned into barren fields, and gray clouds cover the sky. Camelot is in ruins, and the Knights of the Round Table have disappeared or turned against each other, each fighting alone in the darkness for survival. Monsters roam the land, and kings battle again for chunks of the former realm.
Britannia--where the first game was set--was once the place of peace and prosperity, but now it's called the Waste Land, where the terrifying Fomorians are destroying all that is left behind. These creatures are demonlike beings from the dawn of creation, creatures that preceded the gods themselves, that were banished a long time ago. But the gates were always there, waiting for someone who knew the ways to unlock the portals. And this is exactly what happened, when Queen Morgawse decided to conquer Britannia and let loose the Fomorian tribes from the void. They are now busy destroying the land, but this is nothing compared to what might happen if their king, the one-eyed and terrible Balor, gets out from the darkness.
As King Arthur, the Once and Future King of the mighty Britannia, you are the only one who can help now in these terrible times to bring back the peace for the people in your realm. Will you succeed this time? It's all up to you.
GS: The original game drew inspiration from classic Arthurian mythology (including references to Merlin the wizard and the Lady of the Lake) and contemporary history (such as the tension between pagan religions and proponents of Christianity). Will the sequel continue to draw on these sources? Will the history or mythology of other peoples or eras be referenced? Will there be lore that the writers at Neocore have simply invented and written from scratch?
VJ: The core idea of King Arthur II is as Arthurian as it gets. According to legends, if the high king of the land is in pain, the land suffers with him, and in Arthurian mythology we have the tale of the legendary guardian of the Grail, the Fisher King, who lies wounded in his castle, and his kingdom has turned into a barren wasteland. In this case, Arthur himself is the Wounded King. In addition to that, the Arthurian mythology has some really bleak stories after Arthur builds Camelot and rules the land. The familiar characters from the first game and the myths will also return, but some of them have changed a lot. And we have turned towards Celtic mythology again, but there is a lot based on our own imagination.
GS: We recall the huge field battles of the original game. How will these real-time skirmishes be improved?
VJ: There are numerous improvements to the system of battles. We've added a lot of new things and also changed many elements to make the battles more fun. First of all, King Arthur II - The Role-Playing Wargame uses a brand-new engine developed in-house by our studio. It's called Coretech 2, and beside the fact that the game will have even more detailed and amazing graphics, it also makes it possible to fight really grand-scale battles with 3,000 to 4,000 men at the same time on the battlefield. The unit movement, the pathfinding, and the animation system have also been thoroughly upgraded.
One of the most spectacular novelties is that we'll have flying creatures this time. This means naturally that the battles have two levels: you can fight both on the ground and in the air. The flying units are very fast, and they can fly above obstacles, rivers, or buildings without any negative terrain modifiers, which gives players new tactical possibilities. In King Arthur II we introduce more diverse fantasy creatures, as we can fight against the Fomorians or huge dragons, while you can also recruit a wide range of fantastic creatures to your side. You can lead shape-shifters, gargoyles, or dragons, just to mention a few.
The battle maps have important locations that you can occupy to gain powerful spells or various other bonuses that can be used anywhere on the battle map. Players are not bound to certain locations anymore, so they can concentrate more on the tactical warfare.
Magic still plays an important part in this fantasy game. We have improved the system of magic resistance and spellcasting, so you will be able to take some precautions and defend yourself against powerful magic. Every army starts the battle with a global magic resistance, depending on the magic resistance skills of your leading heroes. Special artifacts or unique unit skills still boost your global resistance. The most powerful spells will require some time to execute--that's the casting time. You always get proper notification when enemy heroes begin to cast a powerful spell, and it's highly advised to do something against it to avoid harsh damages. Gather your army or your fastest units and kill the hero before he finishes the spell; attack him with some spells; or increase your magical defences--you decide.
GS: We understand that in addition to fighting more epic battles as King Arthur, players will encounter new boss battles. Without spoiling anything, can you tell us about how some of these new boss battles will work?
VJ: Bosses are huge, special enemies, and defeating them requires brand-new and smart tactics every time. Let's see an example (it's not an existing boss fight, but they will be very much like this):
A huge dragon was trapped in the mountains of Wales a long time ago. However, this evil creature has awakened and now threatens Britannia. Its followers (other dragons, soldiers, heroes) gather around the dragon, defending the mystical crystals (locations) that keep the creature alive. You will have to fight with the followers all along as you try to capture the crystals from them, while the dragon blows fire and drops the chunks of ruined castle on your units. You will need smart tactics to avoid these powerful attacks and minimize your losses. Once you have captured all crystals, the dragon turns into a monumental stone statue.
And, of course, the bosses, along with the tricks to defeat them, will be different every time.
GS: One of the most enjoyable aspects of the original game was the open-ended nature of the campaign, which often let players choose from a great variety of different missions at any given time--though in some cases, some of the available missions were much too difficult for players at that level. Will the sequel's campaign have a similar structure?
VJ: In King Arthur II we have made significant changes to the campaign structure to avoid dead ends in the game. Certainly there will be some enemies that are much stronger than the player, but that will be obvious every time. If you still choose to take your chances against them, you will lose--until you're strong enough to challenge them.
In King Arthur II, the story will also be driven by quests, more focused on certain characters but still giving you the opportunity to make your own decisions that affect the gameplay, the morality of the heroes, and the bonuses they'll get access to. As we now have useful feedback from our community and the media, and we have a lot more experience in game development, this time we'll pay even more attention to create balanced quests that are exciting and appealing to our players.
GS: Another intriguing aspect of the first game was the way that players could customize their armies by gaining levels, choosing skill points, and equipping their forces with specific items and weapons, much like characters in a role-playing game. Will we see more of this type of RPG-like customization and specialization in the sequel? Are there examples of other RPG elements being added to the game?
VJ: Customizing your heroes and units is still one of the most important parts of the game, and in King Arthur II the RPG management will be even more detailed, with more skills and a really interesting advancement system. Furthermore, in this sequel you will also be able to forge new artifacts from your older, unused ones. Besides trading or selling them, you can create your own mighty artifacts to help you with your war to clear Britannia from the evil swarming on your lands, or convert these artifacts to experience points to speed up the hero advancement.
You play the role of King Arthur, the wounded high king of the land, and you will have some mighty heroes to aid your cause. These heroes are much stronger and more powerful than your regular heroes. They are closely tied to the main story of the game, representing the main storylines, and they will all work together under your command to free Britannia again. These mighty heroes will have to go on special quests that can only succeed with their powerful abilities.
Another really important RPG element that we introduced in King Arthur II is the boss fights--but we already talked about this earlier.
GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the game?
VJ: Free Britannia from the Fomorian invasion, go on quests as the story evolves, and establish diplomatic ties with other kings or special powers. Bring back peace to your former kingdom and travel around on the extended campaign map, where you also have the opportunity to conquer the northern and middle regions of Britain. Fight or recruit fantastic monsters and flying creatures; use your tactical abilities in the epic battles. In this game you can shape the story with your decisions and customize both your regular and mighty heroes to become unique and powerful characters.
We believe that it is the freedom of being the Once and Future King of the mythical Britannia. To be a good king or the worst evil sitting on the throne. Deal with immortal creatures or blessed saints. We really want you to rule your destiny.
GS: Thanks, Viktor.