Excalibur: Knights of the King by R2 Games is one of those games that push the envelope of what can be termed an MMO. That said let’s see what the game is about. Loosely set in the time after King Arthur in Roman Britain, you become the chosen one and you draw the sword out of the stone. The story is peppered with NPCs from the Arthurian legends including Merlin and Morgana who are quest givers, among others. It is a side scrolling online RPG played on the browser as well as Android and iOS. This review was done on the iOS version, on an iPad 2.
The game has a lobby (also side scrolling) and taps are the preferred method to move, to interact with NPCs and to access the various UIs. Auto-pathing takes you to quest destinations and once you are in the combat screen, it becomes a two handed deal – your left thumb to maneuver a virtual joy-stick to direct your character and your right to tap your various skills.
Aesthetics - 6
Aesthetics are old school. 2-D paper dolls with minimum animation on a painted background. The UI is sparse as it should be for a mobile game on limited screen real estate. That said, the joystick could stand to be farther up from the bottom of the screen and transparent. Where it is, is not conducive to holding the tablet and I mostly played with the iPad on a stand. The music is repetitive and is the combat environments. You see one, you’ve probably seen them all. The enemies are either human, goblins, warthogs or beholders – sometimes all of them as you side-scroll along. There isn’t any customization. You are limited to the class, and several sets of gear as you level up, and they change color at most as you enhance them.
Gameplay - 7
Gameplay is simplistic. Although there are side quests and daily quests to be had, the story is linear and there’s no deviating from it. Prefer not to play PvP? Too bad you will just have to do the quest and die in the duel – which I did anyway, to a player 17 levels higher who one-shotted me. Movement and combat is reminiscent of old-school arcade street-fighter style games. The NPCs move left and right in lanes, and sometimes change lanes. So do you, with plenty of wasted movement as you chase after that last one, trying to get a shot in at the right time. You find health potions in barrels by breaking them, and use them by rolling over. The same goes for gold drops, but you receive most of your gold through rewards rather than in-game drops.
There are currently three playable characters: Knight, Assassin and Wizard – and all of them play well, and stay true to their typical arch types. Wizards being a distance damage dealer for example. There are also three slots so you can try every class.
That said, however, the game has many complex systems and players who try the game and decide they like it, should read it up on the game’s website. There’s the Fae system – you rescue one of them in a quest and it becomes like a guardian pet. You equip it and level it up so it’s attributes stacks on yours – like a passive skill system. There’s the gem system where you socket your equipment, the skill system which reads like an Acronym creator’s wet dream. Not just your usual STA & STR, you have SDEF, MATK, PATK, etc. etc. There’s a Zodiac system, Angel’s Blessing, Runes, Demon Souls – all open up at different levels as you complete quests and an accompanying gift box provides the items and currency to try it out.
There are two PvP modes. Single and group. In the single combat mode, you enter a lobby are presented with a few opponents of your level (har-har), you challenge one, they accept and bingo! You are in an arena, one on each end of the screen and you duke it out in a comedy of up and down, left and right movements as you chase each other around. The funniest duel I had was Assassin against Assassin as we’d hit our Blitz skill and dash past each other, only to turn around and do it again.
Multiplayer modes are four against four in PvP or in Events. In Events, players get rewards of honor (needed to improve skills), gold and a chance to receive plans for epic equipment and the events are level based. It isn’t hard as a newb to get players 30 levels higher to join in the game you create as that is the only way they can farm the events. It has to be hosted by a level appropriate player and then the event becomes a cakewalk.
Innovation - 5
The game is a mobile port of Excalibur Online, the browser based MMO. There really isn’t any innovation to speak of here. Gifts and rewards, combos in combat, offline XP – it’s all been done, and they are also present here. The enhancement system is different but complexity is not the same as innovation. Let’s give this a pass with a 5.
Polish - 8
Ahh… the little things. How well does the game play? Are there bugs? Excalibur is nicely bug free. I did not experience any bugs or crashes and it is a port of a browser game, and had its bugs worked out in the Android version. It is a functional game, but nothing really shines or makes it stand out.
Social - 4
For an MMO, this is singularly lacking. Guilds only open up for players when they hit level 25. Granted, this really doesn’t take very long as I reached level 10 in about an hour and if I weren’t also playing other characters, would have reach level 25 sooner rather than later. The guild system has some nice perks, but the chat system is poor. A new window opens up and obscures the entire screen. No multi-tasking for you! You can either chat or play the game. None of this checking your quests while chatting with your friends on a side or bottom bar. There are official forums, but there is little social chat on them.
Longevity - 7.5
The different features of the game open up as you level and there are plenty of levels. Just when you may be bored, there’s another feature to explore and currency to obtain. You go through the exact same quests and story line when playing another character, so replay ability is available although it may be boring. You can’t skip the tutorial for example. 7.5/10
Value - 8
The game is free to download and play, and resources are plentiful in the game so enhancing equipment and skills is not difficult. Is it worth the bandwidth? Only if you look at it as an RPG, not an MMO.
My nephew enjoys running around like crazy with his knight and spamming his skill buttons for combos and as a melee character, connects by running into enemies. I am a more deliberate player and frankly, hate the joystick which I find imprecise. Despite my first impressions, the more I played the game, the more I realized that while Excalibur: Knights of the King is poor as an MMO, it actually is a decent enough of an RPG with online group play elements and duels. I would not out and out trash this game but say give it a try. You may actually like it, and it’s free.