King Arthur’s Gold is a 2D multiplayer real-time action strategy game. It’s apparently been kicking around for a few months but was just released on Steam this week. It combines cartoony aesthetics with physics-driven tile based building and good old fashioned medieval army combat (Terraria mixed with Worms and King Arthur’s World).
This game features three character classes; knights, archers, and builders. They all offer unique play styles and are important to winning a match. Knights are the tough work horse of an army; they have the most health and the strongest attack. Their shields can be used to block, glide in the air, and skip across water. They pretty much murder the other classes in a one-on-one fight.
Archers, surprisingly shoot arrows. Charging a shot for a while allows them to shoot three arrows in quick succession. They also are equipped a grappling hook, letting them get to high up locations and from a good perch they can rain down arrows in relative safety.
The builders are what set’s King Arthur’s Gold apart from many other games. The beginning of a match gives several minutes for builders to mine wood, stone, and gold. Getting some resources they then build walls, door, and traps. They can also create workshops so knights can buy bombs and archers buy different arrows. There are other shops for siege engines, boat, and tunnels. Building and defending a good fortress, while assaulting the other guy’s is what this game is all about.
The gameplay types are pretty standard. Capture the Flag is my favorite. Each side has one to three flags and a bit of time to build up defenses. It’s a little more focused and grounded then Take the Halls. Take the Halls is about capturing different checkpoints around the map. It can be chaotic and functions a bit differently than CTF. In CTF you just need resources to build and buy items, but in Take the Halls, you unlock things through research and finding scrolls underground. It’s not well explained, but with more organized teams it would probably play better. I did enjoy my time with it though.
The other two modes are less interesting. Death match is just dudes killing each other. You can only have knights and archers and that’s about it. Challenge mode is about completing different goals like killing all the opponents on a map, or just traversing an area in a time limit. It’s a neat little aside but again misses the point of the main game. There is some solo play but that’s best for learning controls and experimenting with building stuff.
So we have all these parts, and I am pleased to report that they come together very nicely to provide a fast paced and thoughtful experience. Each team begins work on building up defenses quickly, sometimes sacrificing long term quality for a short term fix. Wood is easier to come by but is weaker then stone, and will burn to the god damned ground from flaming arrows and such. Physics also are in effect, so a wall or structure will come down if the base is blown up. The way the classes interact makes team play essential. Knights provide the most frontline action, but archers are great at providing cover. A builder is really useful for constructing ladder or digging tunnels under walls in an assault. Knights can also break through blocks but are incredibly slow compared to the builder.
The systemic play opens the door for emergent narratives and situations. My personal favorite moment was seeing two builders digging a tunnel across the entire map (with no lanterns it was pitch dark below me, but I saw sparks when they hit unbreakable rock). I then dug straight down behind them and just started placing doors, cutting them off. They didn’t have the foresight to build any defenses in the tunnel, so some knights and I had a clear shot at their castle. We opened a front from underneath while the constant assault on their walls brought them down and we got their flag. It was pretty great.
For all the brilliant things this game does, it is not perfect. The battlefield can get chaotic as hell. A little too much so, where you lose track of exactly what is happening. It can also get to be a stalemate, with one team clearly having the edge, but the other just barely keeping their last flag. It will drag out with one team just spawning and throwing up defenses and having them destroyed over and over. The siege engines are also unwieldy due to the physics of the game.
Another thing to note is that this is a multiplayer only game. Also, the game that just came out will not be the same one a year from now. Besides updates the player base itself will change. King Arthur’s Gold has a bit of a learning curve and with the Steam release there are currently far more people learning then there probably will be again. On one hand this means that you may get on a team with people who don’t quite know what they’re doing, but on the other it can be a far more forgiving environment for people who don’t quite know what they’re doing. Jumping into a game like Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a lot harder these days, what with all the dudes who know how to murder you horribly.
King Arthur’s Gold (I really don’t like that name; King Arthur’s World would have been far better) is a really fantastic game. It has great systems that all interact really well. The different classes are all fun to play, and the support class structure of the builder is a refreshing take on multiplayer combat. When on the field they focus on helping the other players and locking down the momentum of the army. Back in the fort it’s about figuring how everything works and creating something that will withstand an army.
King Arthur’s Gold is from Transhuman Design and is available on their website and Steam. It is currently on sale for $8.99 until November 12th. A four pack is also available for the price of three copies.