The gloomy haze only partially masks the shattered hull of the ship, whose task was to transport the mortally wounded King Arthur back to the mythical island of Avalon. At first glance, it seems that no one survived the unnatural storm that destroyed the ship.

But the other one shows that someone is sitting in the rubble. It is impossible to say that he would have survived with the best of intentions – only a bare skull remained from Sir Tristan’s face, white hair fluttered around his head, and poison visibly dripped from his swords. But one thing has not changed – Tristan still longs for his beloved Isolde, who has gone to help the incantators save Arthur and has not returned.

Mordred against everyone

As the freely retold part of one of the story missions shows, the authors were able to take full advantage of the game’s relatively unobtrusive setting in the world of Arthurian legends. The plot is quite simple from the beginning – you are Sir Mordred, the main enemy and nemesis of King Arthur. In a one-on-one duel, you managed to fatally injure each other.

But the catch is that neither of you has been dead long. While Mordrede was revived by the legendary Lady of the Lake, guardian of the sword of Excalibur and guardian of Avalon, during the ritual to save Arthur, something went bad and the monster was reborn instead of a benevolent ruler. The whole kingdom is thus plagued one disaster after another, the country is ruled by bandits, the undead (here called The lost) and also by the wild Picts. And the mythical Knights of the Round Table are here.

Your task as Mordreda is, of course, to find out what happened to Arthur, to cleanse Avalon of the above-mentioned bloodthirsty hordes and to stop the monster in which the ruler of the mythical Camelot has transformed.

Of course, such a difficult task as Mordred cannot handle such a difficult task on its own. Therefore, very soon you will start recruiting more knights, magicians and archers to turn with the enemies. Here, King Arthur Knight’s Tale deviates fundamentally from the aforementioned XCOM, where players sent basically anonymous soldiers into battle who do not have their own personality or worldview.

Saint or killer?

Here it is exactly the opposite. Your comrades-in-arms have fixed names and stories – some are ruthless killers who profess pagan gods, others are benevolent prayers to Jesus Christ. Likewise, side missions are not randomly generated – they also have a clear course and are spiced with unique dialogues or a short cutscene in the game engine.

However, both of these specifics (fixed characters and voluntary tasks) are a double-edged sword – they are a great advantage in the first pass of the campaigns, because they allow you to tell a much more comprehensive and engaging story. However, if you, like me, are used to playing similar turn-based strategies more than once, the absence of surprises may discourage you from playing again and again.

King Arthur Knight’s Tale

The campaign itself is divided into two separate layers: strategic and tactical. In the strategic one, you take care of the legendary seat of the Knights of the Kamelot Round Table. However, it is not a beacon of hope and security, but rather a ruin that you must rebuild and settle.

In addition to the Round Table itself, there will soon be a hospice for the treatment of battered knights, a merchant or a cathedral, where it is possible to treat more serious injuries, which are associated with permanent sanctions. And because this is a tough and uncompromising world, there is also a tomb where the heroes you can’t keep alive during missions will end up.

Of course, all buildings can be repeatedly improved, but resources are strictly limited, so you will have to carefully consider whether to unlock another place for the treatment or training of your wards, or rather the ability to issue decrees and laws.

Pocket adventure

Of course, King Arthur Knight’s Tale strategic layer also offers other pastimes than building a home base – you can look at a detailed model of the kingdom, see what missions you have unlocked or solve various events. These have a wide range – from (not) punishing a knight who made a disgrace at a banquet, through deciding what to do with a free blacksmith, to sending your charges to various personal errands or short tasks.

You can solve most of these events in several ways. The choice of procedure is not an end in itself – the game also contains a system of moral and religious beliefs. And if you’re consistent and stick to one of the paths on offer, you can gradually unlock new improvements for buildings in Camelot, new passive bonuses (such as more gold earned from missions), or even new side missions where you can have your knight’s “stable” enrich with a new addition. The moral compass has the same basis as the already described beliefs of your warriors, one axis from benefactor to tyrant and the other oscillating between Christianity and the worship of pagan gods.

King Arthur Knight’s Tale

In addition, you must make sure that the knights, archers and magicians are faithful to you. This is largely influenced by the choice of solutions to the random events described above and at fixed points in the story. The game will always clearly show you which options you will excite your ward and which you will incite. The loyalty of the comrades-in-arms is not an abstract quantity, on the contrary, it has a direct impact on how effective they are in combat. So if you’re with one of your wards, yours will be duller in battle.

You can, of course, equip your soldiers properly before the battles. They all have a weapon and armor at the base and free space for jewelry and a trophy, but you can still adjust the properties of the equipment by inserting runes with a wide range of passive bonuses. There are a huge number of them and they represent a way to adapt the individual whips relatively robustly to your ideas. And to top it off, your heroes have different character traits, modeled after The Darkest Dungeon. Fortunately, most are positive.

Force measurement

However, you will spend most of your playing time on tactical missions. You can take a maximum of four heroes, and I commend the authors for clearly revealing to you before the start of each task not only the reward you can expect, but also the type of enemies you encounter. Thanks to this, it is not a problem to exchange runes in equipment as needed, or to leave heroes on the switch who are not suitable against the type of enemies in question.

King Arthur Knight’s Tale

After the mission begins, your party moves around the map in real time. During the survey, you may come across various chests or turnover of the dead about valuables, with the exception of various “chapels” that will cure you or give the selected river a temporary bonus to attack, mobility or defense.

Running through forests or among the ruins of castles and cathedrals ends the moment you encounter enemies. At that moment, the event switches to turn-based mode. You can often choose where to place your heroes before the cut itself, but this is not the rule. Therefore, when moving in the field, it is important to think about choosing the right formation and also that your most armored knights are in front and only vulnerable magicians and archers behind them.

The authors found a very good way to portray the fact that in battles against each other, knights usually stood in armor and not a bunch of bandits in leather camisoles. Your charges have three layers of health, which are revealed one after the other during the fighting. At the very top is the armor that falls victim first. The following are hitpoints that begin to dwindle rapidly as enemy attacks deprive you of metal protection. Lastly, vitality. If they start to decline, your fighters are at risk of permanent damage, which without treatment in the cathedral between the missions will permanently negatively affect their combat capability. And if there is vitality, your hero is dead. Well, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first.

Cover your back if they put a pole in them

There are also a modest number of campgrounds on the maps, where battle-weary brawlers can rest and add hitpoints or armor. Not vitality. Not surprisingly, magicians and shooters have either no armor or minimal armor, so it’s important to think about the composition of the war party and the positioning during the skirmishes themselves.

The position of the units in relation to each other is important because the side attacks are not so easy to block, for example with a shield. And those led from behind have a big attack bonus. Of course, you will often use this when playing, but the artificial intelligence can handle insidious tactics quite well, so cover your back. Literally.

King Arthur Knight’s Tale

I will not elaborate on all the active skills and passive bonuses your charges can learn, but in this context I will probably add the main complaint I have about the game. For some reason, the authors decided to hide from players what more advanced skills a hero can learn.

After recruiting them, you only see the first set of skills in which you can invest hard-earned points of improvement. The next panels will not be unlocked until you pour a certain number of points into the previous ones. And I have a problem with that. In this type of game, which has difficulty as one of the basic pillars, it is important to think about upgrades well and it is ideal to be able to plan ahead. You’re unlucky here.

Speaking of those reservations, I will mention another. The first concerns fog. The point is that the authors very often illustrate the despair and gloom of the kingdom of Avalon by the fact that fog is everywhere. This may sound like a plus at first, but it’s a very annoying element in fights. As you move around the battlefield, the game clearly shows you not only where you can run (yellow), but also where you can run and attack (green).

However, at a time when fog is rolling on the ground, it is often very difficult to distinguish green from yellow at first glance and it is necessary to zoom in completely to be sure. Another complaint is the above praised atmosphere of the game. The characters often try to converse with each other during missions. But unsuccessfully. Let me give you an example – Lady Dindraine, for example, asks Mordred about something in his life and he does not react at all. Like a mother trying to talk to a teenager who ostentatiously ignores her. Apparently it’s a trifle, but for me personally it’s a moment that spoils my enjoyment of playing and pulls me from Avalon back to Prague.

Fifty shades of grey

Unfortunately, King Arthur Knight’s Tale is also visually inconsistent. This is probably partly due to dark fantasy stylization, where shades of gray and brown predominate in the color palette. And even to the highest detail, it often occurs to me that the models and textures are strangely blurry and out of focus. And I’m literally haunted by flying leaves in the forest levels. At least I hope it’s leaves and not swarms of locusts.

King Arthur Knight’s Tale

Let the game add to the fact that it is well optimized, runs fast and the recording times are almost imperceptible. In tens of hours of playing, the game fell for me once, paradoxically not during the mission, but during intra play. Dubbing is as successful as possible, the music is pleasantly longing and unobtrusive.

As a whole, King Arthur Knight’s Tale is definitely recommended, especially if you like dark fantasy and turn-based strategies mixed with XCOM-style RPGs. If you are not a foreman in this subgenre and you still want to try the game, I recommend playing on a lower difficulty so that you do not have to worry unnecessarily and perhaps after 20 hours you do not find that you simply do not move on and you have to start again.

The author is the editor of the ČT24 website.