A mix between RPG and RTS, this game shines with its immersive adventure quests, yet technical problems spoil the fun.
This review was written February 8, 2012. It is based on about 20+ hours in the main campaign, and 20+ hours in the prologue (dead legion DLC). I will update this review when I beat the game if it changes anything.
- Text adventures make a welcome come back; they are pretty well done and are the main element that gives KA its flavor and uniqueness.
- Voice acting has improved since KA1, at least this voice seems deeper and better at reading the text without rushing it. Sometimes however the voice acting becomes very bad, especially when the same actor tries to voice other characters (women, monsters) while telling a story.
- Big improvement on the graphics, especially on the campaign map which is a lot more detailed, believable, and immersive. (Especially in the prologue DLC.)
- New spell protection system is a welcome addition, no more having multiple stacks getting decimated in a blink because of one well-placed spell. Addition of a casting delay to spells helps by giving you a chance to react.
- New diplomacy system with other factions. It adds some welcome depth to the game.
- Pacing seems better than in the original. At least I didn't see any enemy going into an army spawning frenzy, or what the community called the "whack the mole" mechanic in the first game.
- Estimated play time seems decent. It should take you about 40-50 hours on a challenging difficulty, maybe less if you auto resolve a lot of the battles. There is some replay value since you can do the text quests again with different decisions to see what happens.
- Horrible performance even on beast machines. I was getting 9-12 FPS on high settings (on a 6 core 3.2gh), and finally managed to get 20-25 with everything on lowest possible. At lowest settings problems surface like being unable to see clearly which units are selected, winter time turns into a white light mess, and so on. This might be a deal breaker for a lot of people.
- Loss of the province management aspect. No more management of gold and food incomes. In fact there is no more food in the game, and you only gain gold from quests and battle loot. Other elements like natural disasters (floods, plagues, etc.), and all the laws and decrees are gone too. As a result the whole "kingdom management" aspect of the game is mostly gone and reduces the depth of the game.
King Arthur makes a comeback, and the result is overall "good enough" by being neither great nor bad. The text adventures are still fun as ever, adding a wild card to the gameplay which puts you in a wide variety of situations, and gives a unique flavor to the story telling in this game.
The biggest change seems to be the simplification of many aspect of the game, which results in a clear loss of depth and replayability, but at the same time makes the game more accessible to casual players. The first King Arthur was a trinity of battle, management, and text adventures. King Arthur 2 is a duality of battle and text adventure only since the management aspect is mostly gone.
Even if regrettable, this change isn't all bad. The campaign seemed to have more "flow" to it than in the previous game. You will find yourself passing the turns faster since you don't have to take as many decisions, the game is now more comparable to a relaxing read of a book than a struggle to expand your realm, fight the enemy, and deal with the random events and quest spawning frenzy. In other words, the kingdom management is gone but the game is now a more refined adventure game.
Unfortunately some of the more serious technical shortcomings present in the first King Arthur are still present. The random crashes seem to be mostly gone; thankfully I only crashed a couple of times so far. But the extremely low performance and framerate problem is still here. I also found quite a few bugs, like having the narrator reading the wrong text for a quest, campaign map objects flickering, reserve units disappearing, and archer upgrades from buildings affecting their melee damage instead of ranged damage, etc. Also I encountered 2 game stopping bugs myself, and other players reported half a dozen game breaking bugs just days after release.
Your experience with the game will vary wildly depending on the performance you get. If the game runs well, you will probably enjoy it as it is a very charming game, and even if it has lost some of its depth I feel the game gives enough entertainment value for its pricetag.
On the other hand, if you are getting bad to horrible performance, the game will be near unplayable and it might be a deal breaker for you. I highly recommend you try the demo to see how the game runs on your machine. The first KA still gets 12 FPS on my machines after 7 patches, so if history repeats itself as usual a quick fix to the performance problem is not going to happen. However it is worth mentioning that the Neocore team is active on the forums and seems to be working actively on fixing bugs.
Of course if you consider yourself a fan of the series, you will probably want to buy the game and play it even with the bad performance and the buggy release. I know a number of people will do this, as I did myself since the game is somewhat playable for me (25fps) on minimal settings.
So the bottom line is:
1) If you are a fan of the series you will want to buy it and be patient while bugs get fixed.
2) If this is your first King Arthur game you might want to wait for a couple of patches or a sale.
3) In all cases trying the demo first is highly recommended since the performance issue is probably a big, if not the biggest factor in your purchase decision.