Following their escapades in Warhammer 40,000 universe, NeocoreGames invested in a dark spin on the Arthurian legend that left me quite impressed but also slightly disappointed towards the end.
What you need to know
- What is it? A turn-based RPG set in the Arthurian legend's afterlife
- Reviewed on: PC - Ryzen 5 3600, Radeon RX 5700 XT, 16 GB RAM
- Developer: NeocoreGames
- Publisher: Wired Productions
- Release date: April 21, 2022
- Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
NeocoreGames came up with a fantastic take on the Arthurian legend in King Athur: Knight's Tale . When you hear about anything connected to King Arthur, you immediately get the picture of noble knights fighting for good and searching for the Holy Grail. All of this would theoretically be done while you possibly assume the role of the king himself.
KA:KT took the formula and turned it upside down, leading to a game where the unexpected is lurking around every corner, even though the entire adventure is quite linear.
The narrative in this game is quite a doozy. It starts with a cinematic on a massive battlefield where King Arthur and his nemesis kill one another, which results in a knight waking up in Avalon, the afterlife.
Remember the Arthurian formula I mentioned above? Turning it upside down started with the cinematic itself but continues as soon as you get control of your first knight.
The game then lets you form a Round Table with knights who often have less than noble intentions, fighting for the survival of the afterlife and searching for the pieces of the Grail to destroy them. All of this is done while you assume the role of Sir Mordred, Arthur's nemesis.
It is right in this dark beginning that KA:KT gripped me and didn't let go until I finished the campaign, which was quite lengthy. Over the course of the storyline, we get to meet some of the most significant characters from the legend and recruit, abandon or outright destroy them.
Neocore really went all out when creating the characters since each and every one of them is memorable and only one glance is enough to imprint the unique designs in your memory.
Furthermore, these potential knights of the Round Table are unique in their personality, with each of them featuring certain perks and quirks but also morality and faith. Such a cocktail of features results in clearly defined personalities you get to discover even though the knights themselves don't have many voice lines, aside from their personal quests.
This cast of characters is complemented by the likely and unlikely allies you get to meet over the course of four Acts of the campaign and they are, for the most part, what carries the narrative. Naturally, there is the overarching story of trying to solve the mess caused by Lady of the Lake's misfire but these smaller ones fill the gaps in the meantime, giving you more purpose beyond just levelling and farming gear.
One major gripe I have with the exposition is the voice acting. While most characters' voices are done well, the minor ones have voices that are borderline amateur tier. This problem is further compounded by multiple minor characters being voiced by the same people in different vocalisations that sounded equally bad, without even attempting to use some sort of filter to obfuscate the process.
There are also situations where you will be reminded of comedic gold from almost 50 years ago, which is always good to see.
Just like the rich trove of characters makes storytelling better, it makes the gameplay awesome. The vast amount of knights you get to recruit will offer you multiple team builds to discover and eventually dominate the battlefield with.
Despite a large number of potential recruits, almost all of them are unique even if they share a class. For example, Sir Balan and Sir Lancelot are both of the Champion class but the former eventually builds into a juggernaut with the sole focus on dealing damage, which ramps up the more he kills. Lancelot, on the other hand, deals a lower but still significant amount of damage, while also providing utility like blinding the enemies or reducing their Action Point pools.
The differences are even more apparent among the Arcanists, who basically serve the role of a mage but the overall build variety ends up stifled because some classes are underpowered, compared to the more popular ones.
Still, this system is impressive as is but it would be even better had it not been for the clunky handling of the roster. You can recruit up to 12 knights for the active duty and up to four in reserves. When you recruit a new one, you can't choose whether to put them in the reserves or active roster - if you have a spot on the latter, they immediately become active members.
Even this wouldn't be bad if you could swap between reserves and actives but that is not the case. If you don't have a free active slot, the only way to get someone off the bench is to fire an active knight and never see them again. This eliminates the possibility of trying out different knights when you fill up the active roster because if you don't like the new one, there is no way of going back.
A cover system exists in this game but isn't utilised all that much while the terrain only dictates the strategy once in a blue moon. It feels like Neocore missed out on creating more diverse encounters because of this but the actual fights kept me interested all the way through.
One of the reasons is the highly creative loot we get to pick up, no doubt a result of years working on W40K: Inquisitor - Martyr. A single item can amplify your knight's build or get you to change it entirely in order to create the perfect killing machine, controller or support.
When looting containers in KA: KT, I found the dopamine hits to be more potent than in actual looter shooters of the modern-day - you know, the games that hinge on that loot keeping you interested, which says a lot about the game's offerings.
Graphics and performance
This section is easily the weakest part of King Arthur: Knight's Tale. Graphics are not bad per se but there are numerous occasions when textures will just glitch out, creating some sort of monstrosity or weird environment in the process.
It's as if they just disappear into the void, but the pixels are still showing the image behind them, leaving you with a weird feeling of controlling defective holograms.
The actual environments are looking fairly good, with the darker atmosphere emphasising the poor state the world is in while finding time to show glimpses of beauty, through the architecture and nature.
On the flip side, it doesn't look good enough to give GTA Online loading times a run for their money, which this game does. It will feel like forever when you are trying to enter the game, load a save or even load into a new mission.
There just isn't enough to justify the long loading times and the heavy CPU load I kept experiencing all the time. I didn't pinpoint the problem but the community appears to believe it's connected with 4K textures that are for some reason enforced and are also the culprit behind the absolutely massive 121GB disk space requirement.
Overall, the optimisation is not on par and is dragging the rest of the game down. It remains to be seen whether the issue will get resolved eventually but the whole thing is reminiscent of Inquisitor-Martyr, which was released years ago and the problems were only partially fixed.
King Arthur: Knight's Tale offers a ton of fun in spite of the flaws that may be trying to drag it down. Knowing NeocoreGames' work from the past, these devs were capable of turning a mediocre release of a Warhammer 40,000 game into one of the best action RPGs available on the market.
Conversely, KA:KT was released in a much better shape and it's a fantastic game as is, with the future getting only brighter if the devs keep up the same habits of listening to and implementing fan feedback.
Should you decide to purchase it in these early days after release, chances are you will also notice the flaws I pointed out but they will in no way prevent you from having a good time. In a nutshell, King Arthur: Knight's Tale will let you enjoy one of the best takes on an existing legend and reward you with showers of awesome loot for it.
With that said, I would highly recommend it.