When King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame launched in 2009, it readily divided opinions among fans of strategy gaming. Narratively interesting, cleverly designed, but with several niggling flaws the — unbalanced archery not least among them. With a sequel in the works that promises to address the problems with the original game, and introduce the fantasy battler to many more fans, developer NeoCore is bringing out a shorter-form downloadable instalment, Fallen Champions, to bridge the gap. We spoke to Orsolya Tóth, Neocore Games PR Manager, about how the downloadable title fits into the hardcore fantasy universe.
CG: Can you explain a bit of the backstory to the King Arthur games, and where Fallen Champions fits in?
OT: King Arthur I and King Arthur II are both role-playing wargames based on the Arthurian mythology, combining the mythical elements with historical details, Celtic legends, dark fantasy, adding our own twists and turns to the mix. The first game focused on the rise of the Once and Future King, allowing the players to follow young Arthur on his path to glory from the moment he pulled the enchanted sword out of the stone, a simple act that changed Britannia, awakened the dormant magic and started a new war for the throne.
In King Arthur you battle the warring rulers of Britannia, build Camelot, recruit the Knights of the Round Table and go on adventures to find the Holy Grail. You also have to find a way to deal with the Lords and Ladies of the Sidhe, this strange and terrifying race that the common people call the faerie folk. King Arthur has several endings, depending on the choices you’ve made during the game, but some way or another, Britannia is always united at the end and the otherworldly threat is gone.
King Arthur II picks up a bit later, when the prosperous realm falls apart after a mysterious force has made an attempt on the life of the Once and Future King. And as a result, the ancient race of the monstrous Fomorians breaks loose from the otherworld where they were imprisoned by the Sidhe ages ago. The story of King Arthur II focuses on war and adventure, on healing the land and defeating strange and powerful adversaries. It’s the retelling of another Arthurian legend, this time the myth of the Maimed King, the Guardian of the Grail who suffers from an incurable wound.
King Arthur: Fallen Champions is a standalone expansion set between the two King Arthur games, both in chronology and regarding the overall plot. It is set in the times of peace and prosperity and it’s about three unlikely champions who venture beyond the borders of Britannia, only to find ancient danger lurking there. In short, Fallen Champions is a foreshadowing to the catastrophe that will strike in King Arthur II.
What has changed for players since the original King Arthur?
There is no management in King Arthur: Fallen Champions. You won’t conquer territories on the Campaign Map and you won’t make strategic and economical management decisions this time. You’ll follow the storylines instead, choosing your next missions and upgrading your heroes, spending the hard-earned experience points just like in King Arthur I.
The plot-based mission-to-mission gameplay has a very strong focus on storytelling. This campaign features 10 battles, each preceded by an individual adventure. You’ll gather your units during these quests and march into tactical and situation battles with your new forces.
Do the three new characters bring a different playing experience or perspective to the game?
Since King Arthur: Fallen Champions is a story-based game, even more than King Arthur was, all three characters have their own personalities, goals, wishes and flaws. You follow them on their own quests instead of some generic adventures, and sometimes you have to make hard decisions that affect their lives. Getting this close to characters gives a new perspective to the game, therefore it offers a somewhat different playing experience.
King Arthur was often criticised for being very difficult, is that something you’ve tinkered with for Fallen Champions, or are you happy with making difficult games?
It will be different now for King Arthur: Fallen Champions, we have changed the difficulty modifiers, except for the Very Hard level – that remained unchanged. And for King Arthur II, we’re testing a completely different difficulty level system. This time we want to make the easiest level very easy indeed and the hardest level hard enough to challenge the most experienced players.
For those who didn’t play the original game, will Fallen Champions make it easy for them to pick up the series?
Absolutely. Fallen Champions is like a light version of King Arthur I, where the focus is on the plot and the real-time battles. It is a lot easier to get into this expansion than the original game that had quite a steep learning curve.
How does Fallen Champions prepare players for the forthcoming release of King Arthur II?
The significantly story-based campaign and the improved role of the main characters is something that will return in King Arthur II, where your main heroes have their own stories and participate in quests especially tailored for them. Fallen Champions shows how the role-playing element can be stronger without giving up the tactical elements of the wargame.
It was interesting to see you introduce new gameplay elements in the DLC for the original, such as the diplomacy in Saxons. Do you intend to continue updating your games with post-release content in this way?
Probably, yes. We are always full of ideas and enjoy working on our games even after the release.
Will the game go on sale in retail stores, or purely through digital downloads?
Only through digital download.
Fantasy strategy is making a bit of a comeback lately, with the Might and Magic reboot and King’s Bounty. Do you see King Arthur as part of that new movement, or something that’s mainly for hardcore fans?
Well, King Arthur is complicated enough to lure the hardcore gamers, but we always wanted to make King Arthur enjoyable for everyone who likes strategy games and RPGs, which is something that we want to put more emphasis on in King Arthur II.
King Arthur: Fallen Champions will be available from the 16th of October, stay tuned for our thoughts.