For Britannia!

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Does anyone remember when every other game announced was a strategy game and not a shooter? The days of the strategy game’s dominance have long passed, though I have a feeling the genre may see a resurrection and King Arthur II – The Role-Playing Wargame could be one of the games helping to lead the charge.

As the name suggests, King Arthur II combines the strategy elements of wargames with the choice-based story elements typically found in a role-playing game. The game begins a few years after the first game; Arthur has been gravely injured and, since the king and his land are connected, things are not going well in Camelot. The land is corrupted and dark forces have begun to make their way into the kingdom. You play as a general charged with helping to keep the dark armies in check and, hopefully, helping to restore order to Britannia.

Gameplay takes place on a giant map of Britannia divided into several providences. Within these areas, you’ll come across three types of quests: Diplomacy, Adventure and Battle.

Diplomacy missions come from the people in that particular providence. They’ll present a problem and you can choose to ignore their pleas outright, send in a group of mercenaries to deal with the problem or send in your own army. All three are valid choices, though each comes with consequences. Choosing one route will cost gold, while another will cost you soldiers. Undertaking quests can, however, lead to the discovery of items to help you in battles.

Decisions also play into a meter determining whether you are a Benevolent or Tyrannical ruler. Some choices will also involve a spiritual side, marked by either the “Old Ways” or Christianity. Both meters are tied to the types of skills and abilities you have access to during the game. The alignment chart is constantly shifting based on how you play, so it is possible to start out on one side, but move to the other. If the meter shifts too much towards one side, you’ll lose access to abilities from that side. Any troops who have the ability already won’t lose it; you simply won’t be able to teach it to other troops.

The alignment chart is also tied to Adventure scenarios, which play out like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. You read through a section of the story and choose the best way to proceed based on a selection of choices. Your decisions affect the alignment chart, but also carry a few other consequences.

All of your decisions affect your troops, and the weight of those decisions come into fruition during battle segments. Battles take place on a beautifully zoomed in section of the providences. You can pull all of the way out, offering a majestic view of the area, along with allowing you to keep tabs on both armies. Combat is purely tactical and based on finding the right type of troops for the job. As in the previous game, units gain experience by participating in battles, unlocking new skills.

New to King Arthur II are flying units. During my demo, we took an unprepared army into a battle with huge winged beasts. Although ground troops have a variety of ways to deal with flying enemies – including magic and archers – you’ll want to invest in these units as soon as you can. They can go anywhere and are unaffected by terrain, which is important since ground troops are subject to terrain penalties (and bonuses) to both movement and combat.

King Arthur II is scheduled for release later this year on PC. If you want to follow the game’s progress, be sure to check out the Official Developer Blog.