King Arthur’s Gold: What We Think
King Arthur’s Gold, or KAG, as it has come to be known, from indie developer Transhuman Design (makers of SOLDAT) based out of Warsaw, Poland, is what you would you get if Team Fortress 2 and indie sandbox game Terraria had a violent baby. King Arthur’s Gold brings together action-packed team combat with King of the Hill and Capture the Flag game modes, among others, with base building aspects of popular sandbox games, but with a game-play functional purpose; protect thine castle.
Let’s start right off saying that KAG is a treat; no other game allows you to build a castle, actively fight off invaders, and then jump onto a catapult to be flung over the walls of your rival’s castle to claim its inner sanctum as your own. Envision that iconic scene in Lord of the Rings where the Orcish Sapper runs into a wall with a giant bomb strapped to his back. Legolas tries to shoot him down before he gets too close, but fails and the entire wall crumbles at the blast. You can pull off such tactics in this game, and yes, as the Sapper!
Archer vs Architect
The game flow allows each team ample time to build up a defense before combat begins. Depending on the server, you’re allowed roughly 2-3 minutes of building time before you’re allowed to leave your territory. Cut down trees, harvest the lumber, mine for stone, build walls, pit traps, workshops, ladders – anything you can to both defend your base and provide your team with the tools it’ll need to properly assault the other team.
After the pre-game build time has elapsed players may change their class from a builder to a Knight or Archer. Or, if building is your thing, you can remain a builder and continue to support your team with further workshop upgrades or even accompany the vanguard, building ladders for your knights or even punching though walls directly with your pick.
Burning Bridges (and other things)
The physics in the game, while not completely realistic, make a good half-way point to ensure that cheap ‘sky bridges’ don’t ruin game balance. After so many blocks placed outward in the air to form a bridge, no further may be built unless a pillar for support is constructed below it. If the ends of a bridge are chopped off and the supports below cut through, then the bridge that now floats in the air comes tumbling back to the earth in a spectacular display of falling rubble, crushing and killing any player unfortunate enough to be under it as it collapses.
Fire can be used to burn down wood structures. A common defensive tactic is to build the inner walls out of wood and the exterior out of much hardier stone, as stone is a more finite resource and wood constantly replenishes. An equally common offensive tactic is to blow a hole in the stone casing of a wall and fire a lit arrow into the soft wooden interior to set it ablaze.
If no one is ready with a bucket of water to extinguish the flames, the whole castle might become a hollow shell where the wood once was; an easy target for well-placed bombs to cause even more structural annihilation. Other incendiary options include hand-tossed bombs, catapults, ballista, fire satchels, giant barrel bombs, arrow and ballistic bolts with explosives tied to them – the opportunities for gleeful wanton destruction are seemingly endless.
A new addition to the latest build has given the Archer class a grappling hook. Now able to go anywhere with ease, the agile ranger can sneak over enemy walls and take command of unprotected objectives. If a castle is well protected, however, the best an Archer can do is to harass back-line builders and slow down reinforcements to the front line rather than make any game-ending moves.
This may, however, lead to the eventual downfall of the defenders and it might be just the play style such a player wants to employ. Also available to the Archer is the ability to fire 3 shots consecutively with no extra bow draw time. This kind of firepower and agility is offset by lack of armor and low hit points.
The swordplay for Knights is fairly solid; It can often be a game of chicken wherein one knight facing another must risk charging their big attack to get a stunning shield bash plus fatal follow-up blow, or wait it out and attack their foe with a series of quick jabs that would otherwise be reflected had they struck the other’s shield. The shield – not to be overlooked as merely a blocking tool – can also be held over one’s head like a glider to make long, less painful jumps and falls.
Knights are also able toss black ball bombs to chisel away at stone walls, or even use them to ‘Rocket Jump’ like a Soldier in TF2.
Graphically, KAG looks like it belongs on a Super Nintendo, and that’s not a bad thing. It lends itself well to the amount of player-made structures so that big monster hodge-podge castles don’t immediately look hideous…just maybe a bit unstable.
Every enemy is quickly identifiable, even with players running around with their choice of personalized head, to let them stand out from every other player. Every sprite and animation is keen. You know when the Knight is protecting you. You know when you’re being aimed at by an Archer. The splatter from players getting smashed by falling stone blocks or run-through by a berserking knight are a chuckle-worthy spectacle.
The music is nothing to write home about, but it fits with the general aesthetic. It’s a calm, 8-bit medieval jingle that gets all excited for itself when you enter combat, and then calms back down again when you leave it. It’s charming and it works, but there’s not much of it either.
King Arthur’s Bonus Bits
There are some extra little game modes that may come and go as the game continues in development. For example, there is a parkour mode wherein you must simply race to the other side of the screen against the other players. My favorite though, is the Zombie defense mode. With a Day/Night cycle you must build up a castle simply as a means to survive against an endless horde of zombies and demons that spawn from the sides of the screen and from a demonic portal below the earth.
I really hope this mode is expanded upon, made more dangerous, and maybe even included with a Days Survived high score table.
Squires for Hire
Because it’s still a work in progress, balance changes are still constantly being made to it. New players tend to get stomped by people who’ve been playing for 3+ years and there’s little n00b/pro player segregation which might help to foster a better learning environment for newer players.
King Arthur’s Gold is an absolute must-have for today’s generation of team-orientated combat fans, who desire a taste of something a little different than the usual First Person Shooter fare. All around, it deserves high marks.