The core experience to King Arthur follows the legendary king as he tries to unite, or forcibly take over, all of England. This was done with a great deal of optional quests that all contained a great deal of narrative, as well as an immersive RPG system for all of the troops that could be taken into a large scale battle. The Saxon expansion is pretty much exactly like that, but almost without any narrative, it still makes it a great game but it ends up feeling like there is just something missing in the end.
The game still mainly takes place on massive battle fields with players controlling about a dozen units, each with anywhere between 20 and 40 people in them. The battles are pretty reminiscent of any of the Total War games; basic directions can be given to each unit, or several units at a time, all while they slowly advance across the field towards the other team. Some maps have the player capturing strategic points instead of eliminating all enemy troops, all pretty standard fair for this type of game.
Although all of this can be easily skipped by simply allowing the computer to play these fights out with the “auto-battle” feature, something that comes in increasingly handy after several long hours of playing the game and simply wanting to take over a single province before ending for the night. It does seem to factor in the overall strength and levels of the army, but there are times that an army should win but gets wiped out a little too easily.
The leveling system of the game is something that is rather unique – as a unit takes part in battle it gains experience. When the unit levels up it is allotted a point to assign to a stat, and every 5 levels it gains another skill. While there isn’t really anything new about a unit leveling up it does add a feeling of attachment to even the most generic member of the army, even if there are 10 others just like them, making every unit lost a crushing blow to your army.
The only real probably with the game is the entire lack of narrative once it starts. Side missions do spring up from time to time, but most of them have some generic paragraph about what is happening and simply give the player the option to fight an additional army or negotiate with an NPC by giving them food and/or money. While it is a nice change of pace from the core game, which felt like every single story piece always dropped at the same exact moment during the course of play, it would be nice if there was something holding any of the modes together.
Although the mode select screen is rather interesting when compared to the first game, as this one gives the options of victory—from maxing a hero character’s level to taking over every territory in England. These do, at least, offer a change in the way that the game can be played. The other advantage is that some of them even offer the chance for the game to be played on a less epic scale, such as the “take over 10 provinces” option that lets the game be played over the course of a day as opposed to it taking the better part of a month to play through.
It is really hard to fault an expansion for being exactly what most expansions should be: extensions of the life of a game at a rather affordable price. This game can easily be picked up for under 20 dollars, although it does require the core King Arthur game to play. That said, it is pretty much the perfect price for someone who already has the first game.
The Saxons expansion is just what anyone who enjoys this brand of RTS games is looking for, and when combined with King Arthur it is hard to not suggest this game to anyone. It has been awhile since any game had me staring at the ceiling in bed thinking about it, keeping me awake, but somehow this one managed.
Not As Good As: The core game
Also Try: Empire: Total War
Wait For It: A real Excalibur