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Arthur's Knights: Tales of Chivalry

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive
Developer: Cryo Interactive
Media: CD/3
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Arthur's Knights makes use of a flat panoramic display with 3D characters. The effect is a little bizarre the first time you see it--it's something of a cross between static screens and the way Dracula: Resurrection did it. The camera angle changes as Bradwen walks around, but the controls are all character relative, so it ends up not mattering. The 3D graphics are nice, but nothing to write home about; they're pretty sharp for an adventure game, though. The 'panoramas' range from quite pretty--Avalon, for example--to blocky and distorted, especially when it comes to 'blockades' that keep you from progressing. Overall, though, the game looks sharp. You can turn on realistic shadows, which are chunky but better than nothing, and there's a bit of 'shearing' around various parts of screen geometry (you should be able to see more over a gate than you can, for example) but there's nothing terrible when it comes to graphics.

As for music . . . there is none. The game makes use of ambient sounds, often for a pretty solid effect, but there's no soundtrack playing in the background. At first it seemed a little bizarre--I don't remember the last time I played a game without a soundtrack--but as I got into the game, I found myself not really noticing it. Most of the time you don't really notice the music anyway, unless it's really good or really bad, so you're not missing much with Arthur's Knights. While some haunting Celtic tunes would have been nice, if they were done wrong it would only detract from the experience. The sound effects are decent, but nothing spectacular; however, the voice acting is surprisingly solid. While I thought Corwyn sounded a little too old for his own good (it sounded like an actor who was trying to sound like a young boy), the rest of the characters have voices that, while they many not have been spot-on, were orders of magnitude better than the typical claptrap we have to deal with in videogames. Good job there, folks.


It's something of a shame, then, that the engrossing story of Arthur's Knights gets bogged down with problems of the game engine. Inconsistencies with handling objects, the 'pixel-perfect' placement necessary to trigger some events, and some confusing design decisions mar what could have been an excellent game. While it's still good, only adventure game fans will probably take the time necessary to work past the game's foibles and uncover the gem underneath.

And what a gem it is. Arthur's Knights tells two tales, although both of them concern a knight named Bradwen in the times of Arthur. In one, Bradwen is a Christian knight, working for the glory of God; in the other, Bradwen is a Celtic knight, believer in the goddesses of the old faith. I, of course, started out with the Celtic tale, but both of them are quite engrossing. The 'same yet different' style of the game reminded me a lot of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, where the reader is given a number of conflicting accounts and has to decide on their own what the real truth is--undoubtedly something in-between the extremes shown. While this is probably philosophizing a little more than necessary, I have to say I really enjoyed the premise of Arthur's Knights.

During the course of the game, you will engage in a number of different quests. For example, the first thing you must do when you play as the Celtic knight is to find out what happened at the Villa, and then tell your father the king; in the Christian story, you must 'subdue' a lord of the land who is stirring rebellion. This, of course, is merely the first few events in a long series of adventures, taking you from Uffington, where you start, to Avalon, Cornwall [where Tintagel Castle lies] and eventually even Camelot itself.

As you adventure to these various locales, you will be doing typical adventure-game things. You have to talk to various people, and as you talk to them you will gain new conversation topics, which you can then use to get more information out of other folk. You'll pick up items, give them to people, and use them to solve puzzles. You will also engage in combat, which is something not usually found in adventure games.

However, combat is just like the rest of Arthur's Knights--predetermined. If you've done everything right, you will win the combat automatically; if you do not follow the proper steps (which usually entail being honourable) then you will die. It's that simple, really. So no itchy trigger finger is necessary to enjoy the game.

All of this is well and good, but the game has a number of issues that mar the experience. For example, sometimes you will click on an item in your inventory to give it to someone. Other times, you will simply talk to them once you get it and you will hand it over. Why this discrepancy? Also, doors often require near pixel-perfect 'aim' to open them; same with picking up items. And sometimes doors that were once open will not open again until you do something else; you'll sit there thinking you're missing the sweet spot when instead you need to be completing some task. Very frustrating.

The thing that frustrated me the most of all, however, was the method of transit used between areas. Once you learn of a new area you can go to, you can get on horseback by simply leaving a walk-around area and ride there. However, you can't actually ride there--you have to click an icon and pick your destination. Once you arrive there, you may or may not be able to go back, depending on if the story wants you to. This artificial shoehorning definitely got on my nerves.

As a result, both of the adventures are very linear in fashion. You simply must do what is expected of you before you move on, because the game won't progress until you do. This long series of short bottlenecks is frustrating; while I wouldn't want to have free reign over the whole world from the start, the game sometimes felt like it was dragging me along for the ride as opposed to me actually playing it.


The actual challenges in Arthur's Knights aren't too difficult. Because of the linearity of the game, you're almost assured that what you need is where you are, or a few screens away. And because of the rendering engine of the game, everything that you can pick up is immediately noticeable; it has 'jaggies' on the edges, whereas the panoramic view and the 'trimmings' never do. Indeed, most of the difficulty in Arthur's Knights comes from fighting with the interface. Getting doors to open, for example, is often an exercise in frustration, and when one won't open for plot reasons, you may not realize it. But making sure you talk to all of the major players in the game regularly about all topics will keep you in good shape.

Game Mechanics:

Most of the game is played with the keyboard. You use the arrow keys to steer Bradwen, Shift to run, and Space to talk to people or try to pick up things. When you right-click a menu appears, where you can pick items to use, conversation topics to try, and places to go to on horseback. It's simple enough to understand and use, once you've gotten the hang of it. Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, it tends to be inconsistent. Sometimes you need to click an item in your inventory to use it when talking to someone; sometimes you just need to start the conversation up again. And pixel-hunting to find the right place to activate things like doors is quite frustrating. Indeed, the game comes with a little card that explains a puzzle to you, since you can't see the description of a few items that you need to complete a puzzle. Load times are frequent but minimal, barring the very first time you start the game--prepare for a good five minutes of 'load' then, as the game finishes installing.

Marred though it is, Arthur's Knights should please any adventure game aficionado that can handle an imperfect game engine. The game could have been done a lot better, but what's here isn't too shabby. Anyone who is easily frustrated should definitely stay away from this game; fans of Arthurian legend or of adventure games may have a better time with it, but you're going to have to look past the game's many flaws to find the core of fun.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me, P2 300, 64 MB RAM, 12x CD-ROM, 8MB video card, keyboard, mouse

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura Windows Aliens vs. Predator 2

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated