|In November 2000 the German version of the
first part of King Arthur's-Saga was released under the name "King Arthur's Knights -
The Origins of Excalibur". A review from Adventure-Archiv for this game con be found here. Instead of releasing the already announced 2nd part of
the game, "Merlin's Secret", as single game, the deserving decision was made, to
publish both games at once here in Germany in a double pack box version at the price of
one game. A single release of the 2nd part: "Merlin's Secret", as in other
countries, is not available here.
games around one hero in 2 characteristics
Exactly taken this are not only 2 games, but 4
independently playable adventures with our hero Bradwen, the illegitimate son of the
Atrebate's king. In each of the two parts you can select whether you want to play with
Bradwen as Christian-Roman hero or as Celtic-Druid warrior. One has the possibility at any
time during the game of loading the savegames of the other character, to change between
Bradwen the Celt or Bradwen the Christian. One can follow up his fate synchronously or
successively, depending upon taste and concentration ability.
In indeed epic breadth we are told not only Bradwen's story
and of his people, the Celtic Atrebates. His story is closely interwoven with the events
in Britain in the 6th century, are they actually truth or legend. The rule of the already
Christian Romans was terminated by a renewed invasion, namely the invasion of the Saxons.
They plundered and devastated the country which was split into many small and mutually
war-leading kingdoms. While many people maintained the Roman-Christian religion, beside it
there was a renaissance of the old Celtic customs and the faith in fairies, nature
goddesses, ogres and dragons.
This is Bradwen's starting point in the first volume. He is
banished from the Atrebate's kingdom by his intriguing half brother and heir to the
throne, Morganor. Depending on which story plot one selects, Merlin and the fairies or
Bradwen's uncle Novelius, the bishop of Magovenium, monks and saints help to expose
Bradwen's brother, find his wife and son and support king Arthur in the fight for unity
and against the Saxons. Bradwen will become knight at Arthur's Round Table and can at last
intersperse his claim on the throne of the Atrebates after many heavy blows and difficult
This is the beginning of the second volume. Bradwen is only
recognized as the true king if he could find the crown and wear it without injuries. But a
powerful curse shows up in this moment, which afflicts Bradwen's whole family. In the
Celtic part it is the curse of the mother goddess Morgan, in the Christian of the holy
Epona. Bradwen's whole efforts are now focused on the abolition of the curse and
re-establishment of the family honour. By magic Bradwen is shifted 20 years forward in
time and finds many of his friends dead, the throne occupied by an usurper and also king
Arthur's star goes down. How does Bradwen handle this situation?
Installation/starting the game
In the euro box package we find 3 CDs and a multilingual,
illustrated manual for each game part. The installation under Windows ME for both parts
runs automatically and smoothly and you arrive in the "character selction" menu.
This is to that extent confusing, as one could think here, it would be already here
possible to select the Celtic or the Christian way. But this menu only provides the
possibility to choose from separate savegames for each player. After that the main menu
appears. Here you can adjust various screen and sound options clicking on the
Afterwards one can start a new game and reach the framing
story: In the 14th century we see the young French page Nai on his way to
storyteller and writer Master Foulque. Master Foulque has just finished the first part of
Bradwen's story and asks the young boy to choose, which of the two stories he would like
to hear first - the Christian or the Celtic. This framing story already shows up in 3D and
3rd-person-perspective, whereby we take over the role of the young page.
Already here we must advance in the discussion with master
Foulque by mouse-click and have to control the the boy's movements with the arrow keys.
Nai represents here the critical player, who asks the master questions about the sense and
purpose of the story. After each completed chapter the two emerge again and talk about
what they've seen and experienced.
Nai can select now between the red book - "Celt"
- or the white book - "Christian" -. Master Foulque then begins to tell the
appropriate story... We can now watch the starting sequence which is the same in all 4
games, telling the story of Britain from the pact between humans and fairies up to the
invasion of the Saxons. Afterwards we get a short introduction by text and speech about
the current starting situation and may then finally intervene into the happenings.
We see our hero in 3rd-person-perspective and control him
with the 4 arrow keys of our keyboard to let him run or ride his horse. If we press the
shift-key at the same time, then he rides or runs faster. If we want to take or manipulate
an object or speak to a person, we have to press spacebar. This are all keys, which we
must note, everything else is controlled with the two mouse buttons.
At the screen we receive nearly no hints, if there is any
hotspot around to interact with. One must try a lot and actually must position Bradwen's
front correctly to the object, if possible, and then press spacebar. If he cannot use
anything there, he just shrugs. If we succeeded in taking up an object in this
manner, this action is also indicated at the upper left of the screen showing the
corresponding icon. Particularly at the beginning its very probable that you ignore
objects or don't open doors, because you simply did not stand correctly in front of them.
In conversations one must also position Bradwen correctly,
but here you get some help, because as soon as our hero arrives near an individual, with
which he can talk, at the bottom left corner the picture of this person is faded in. If
you click on it, the conversation can begin - if you are standing correctly and close
enough! By the way, one cannot act or talk during running or riding.
Dialogues are continued, by clicking again on the icon of
the interlocutor, until you get repeated answers. But in many cases that is not the end of
the conversation. Often we get new references, which are put down in the clue inventory
during a dialogue. We must now open the clue inventory - represented by a mouth -, and can
click on a new topic there. If everything is said, the topic icon is darkened.
We can scroll through the clue inventory, the object
inventory and the travel inventory to the left and right. One should miss that in no case,
since only 5 icons are shown in each case at one time and you'll often forget something.
The 3 inventories are integrated into a control bar at the bottom of the screen, which can
be opened by right click with the mouse. One opens the object inventory with a click on
the hand icon, the destination inventory with click on the horse head.
The destination inventory takes up new, far distant
locations, usually during conversations. By a click on such an icon you are directly
transported there. I must admit that I erred around Uffington at the beginning of
my first Arthur-game for a while and did not get ahead, without knowing that already a new
destination was in my inventory, where the game could continue. However destinations can
be only used, when Bradwen is on horse back. This is described in the manual - thus one
should read it before!!
In the control bar are still two more important icons on
the right side. A diary, in which all important stations and tasks are noted down
automatically. This is really helpful if one has lost orientation. The book shows also, at
which point of the story you are at the moment. It's divided into tasks (5 in part 1and 4
for in part 2), this tasks are again devided into chapters. The manual says that one can
repeat scenes from the diary by clicking the appropriate hand icons! This doesn't work! I
did not succeed in this anyhow!
The last icon, a green glass ball, leads back to the main
menu. We can save or load one of the maximal 10 stored savegames. Beside a small scene
icon, date and time and chapter numbers are stored here.
There is only one but very important difference in the
handling between part 1 and 2: In the second part of the saga one can click on the
location picture on the left of the control bar, and so in each case get a map of the
area. In the first volume this great feature hasn't been integrated. Here one often errs
around through the forest of Arden and has to draw a map. In the second part not only the
map but also Bradwen's own location are indicated in each case! A substantial improvement!
With "Arthur's Knights" Cryo for the first time
uses the 3rd-person-perspective in an adventure. ("Odyssey" and "Time
Machine" were developed by In Utero and published by Cryo). We move 3D-characters
(occasionally we also control Corwyn, Bradwen's squire) in a 3D-environment, which is
populated by many other 3D-creatures. I did not play "Odyssey", but had to fight
with the extraordinary annoying controls of the main character in "Time
Machine". Constant changes of perspective and running into objects and finally even
complete disappearing from the scope were clear weak points here. Not so with
We also find changes of view here - however they are
appropriate and confuse under no circumstances. I would call the changes of view in
"Arthur's Knights" already rather movie like, they are interesting and make the
game more genuine. Our hero does not run in walls or tables and he's not
running out of view. No miracle - if you read the credits there are 29 !!! people, who
worked particularly on the 3D-graphics.
Nevertheless there are still better graphics around. The
characters and animals are angular and roughsharp-edged, there is no mimic and only
little gesturing adapting to the situation. (my favourite for 3D-characters is still
Dragon Riders, with mimic and gesturing synchrone to the speech.) As it's the case for
many other 3D-games the characters seem cold and have little charisma. If the
company praises the graphics in this game, they should at least equip the main characters
with moving lips when talking.
The number of locations is large and varied. No doubt that
you can visit approx. 80% of the locations in the second volume again, but here the winter
landscape is replaced by spring meadows and trees covered with leaves. It is interesting
to watch, how the forest roads or the area of Tintagel changes in spring. While e.g.
Camelot is no more visited in the second part, there are new scenes and also some new
faces to see, we don't know yet from part one. Also Bradwen and the other main characters
change their appearance and age. We see Bradwen in different shapes, as Celtic warrior he
has body paintings and tattoos. Completely in contrast Bradwen, the Christian, with short
hair and the clothes of a Roman warrior. Also his horse is saddled in a different way.
Those background graphics are very detailed - despite some
rough textures - contrary to many pure 3D-adventures and are homeland for a multiplicity
of animals and indifferent persons, which move independently in their own rhythm. There
are butterflies, sheep, bears, wolves, fish, deer, pigs and much more to animate the
scenes. Beside those, the movements of our main characters are also near to life. Both
humans and animals are genuine in their proportions. Bradwen's horse is trotting and
galloping and changes the direction like a genuine horse (case someone searches a horse
with wrong proportions: in "Wild Wild West" you can find one). If we let Bradwen
run faster and then stop him, he must regain his balance, but not as clumsy, as our young
page Nai. You can watch Bradwen breathing and if he bends down or opens a door it all
The few film sequences are nevertheless quite faded and
indistinct - so the starting sequence or for example the dragon scene in the 2nd part of
"Arthur's Knights". On the other hand there are some beautiful 2D-pictures. In
each case with the change to another main location, clear and detailed 2D-landscapes
are faded in during the transition.
The speakers are throughout professional. They return at
least partially the expression and character to our actors, that they are missing through
the sharp-edged and expressionless 3D-presentation. Except few medieval music themes
(during visiting the menus) the game remains music-free. The atmosphere of the individual
scenes is shaped however by a large number of most diverse noises. There are mostly animal
sounds, like those of cats lolling everywhere or the bleating of lambs. However I found it
somewhat exxagerated to hear bleating sheep, where far and broad no sheep could be seen,
or the gurgling drinking sound of the alcoholic monk can be heard in the whole monastery.
But usually the noises are also at the correct places - on the right or on the left,
depending on how our hero moves. However in both games the noise, which horses cause was
missing to me, if they gallop over grass or a road. If Bradwen was horse riding, it was
more a silent movie and not only in the winter landscapes of the first part. But there is
spooky resounding child laughter in the forest of Arden - or was it the laughter of
In nearly all cases the spoken text is also shown at the
screen. Also documents are usually read out. In both volumes Bradwen is accompanied most
of the time by his faithful squire, who even becomes the main character sometimes. Usually
one sees him only, when he helps Bradwen on the horse, but one often hears his anxious,
surprised or referring shouts from the off, when our hero enters a new area.
Once there was an involuntary amusing spoken text, when
Bradwen calls for the fairy Fiachra: "Fiachra - I call for your powers!" sounded
exactly the same as "Viagra - I call for your powers!"
The puzzles are throughout of the easy to middle kind.
Usually you must get objects, clues or new destinations during the really many
conversations to solve the lot of tasks. Many puzzles are nested. Places and persons
must be visited again and again, because there is always something new to experience and
find. Often there are homogeneous puzzles one after the other, e.g. giving a fairy the
correct answers from a selection several times or searching objects of the same kind.
Partly that can become quite boring. But especially boring became the distances between
the individual locations for me, when I knew exactly, what has to be done, but had to ride
several times to and fro. At the beginning riding is in the snow-covered forest/or in the
spring forest still fun, but when you have to do it repeatedly and also must note down the
right ways on your own drawn map (at least in the 1st volume of "Arthur's
Knights") and can't shorten the distance it gets annoying. Even with the shift-key it
lasted a very long time, until one could do something productive again.
There are some puzzles where you must find a correct
sequence. There are always hints to the solutions. If forgotten or not noticed, we can
always get ahead however by trying.
Objects cannot be combined by the gamer. If one has got
e.g. three fitting parts, they are built together automatically. The game is linear and
there are, except for a very tiny exception, no dead ends. You can die however rather
often, usually if you begin a fight too hasty.
You do not have to fight by yourself. Thus no fear - there
are no actual gamer-controlled action sequences. But Bradwen is a knight and must defeat
from time to time an opponent to get ahead. Then you can select within the dialogue
picture at the bottom left corner whether you want to fight or not. If you decide to
fight, you can back-lean and watch Bradwen and his opponents doing what they have to do.
If Bradwen loses, we are sent back automatically into the
framing story with Master Foulque, where page Nai asks, how the story can be continued
now. We have the immediate possibility, to take up the game through the menu option
"continue game", sometimes however from a prior point in the game, so that here
and there saving the game is recommendable. (By the way, I had most of the numerous game
crashes exactly at such points, when Bradwen had died and I wanted to load or take up the
The puzzles in the Celtic and Christian versions are just
as different as the stories. We often must find the same objects, but always in a
completely different way.
The puzzle degree of difficulty increases with increasing
playing time. Towards the end you'll have more objects, clues and destinations than at the
beginning. Always helpful is the diary, if you couldn't remember a task for example. A
walkthrough is not necessary, really - who wants to shorten however some boring passages
in the forest of Arden or Avalon thereby...
I registered both in the first and second volume frequent
game crashes. Particularly annoying: always CD1 of three CDs has to be inserted first to
In both parts of "Arthur's Knights" there is a
quite detailed data base about Britain, Arthur, the legends of the Celts etc.. Who wants
more background information can at least get some suggestions here.
The story of the Christian Bradwen ends in the 2nd part -
"Arthur's Knights - Merlin's Secret" - somewhat abruptly and with a contentwise
error. My impression is, that there wasn't enough time here to bring this part of the game
to a proper end, because nevertheless some questions remained open.
The sub-title "Merlin's Secret" of the second
volume is mismatching - in the Christian part Merlin does not play a large role and
in the Celtic part another secret is the main subject. The before planned sub-title
"The Hidden King" would have better met the thing.
Although the two parts are independently playable, one
should nevertheless observe the order. The 2nd part refers to many events of the 1st part,
e.g. when Corwyn refuses accompanying Bradwen to Avalon in the 2nd part you should at
least know why. In addition Bradwen, the Celt in the 2nd part, has some objects from the
1st part in his inventory when starting. Who thus does not know the 1st part, will know
little about this items. Those of you who must begin however with "Merlin's
Secret" first, can read a summary of the 1st volume in the diary.
The stories, which are told here, are unusually extensive
and detailed, have many side plots and a detailed prehistory. I was more than 5 weeks busy
with all 4 games. However the very long playing time of all games results partially from
the time-consuming riding routes. Adventure fans, who prefer however more tricky and
challenging puzzle food, will not be satisfied with the 4 King Arthur adventures.
Impressive the various ideas in graphic design and the
presentation of the scenes at different seasons. It was really interesting to be able to
experience the stories from two completely different points of view. Unfortunately there
were so much game crashes where you repeatedly had to insert CD1. That should not occur
with a modern game any longer. Nevertheless, because of the very interesting story and to
the good price/product relationship the complete edition of "Arthur's Knights"
receives a 68% rating from me.
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be
recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your
fingers on it)
The framing story in both parts: Master Foulque tells Nai the stories of
Plundered Roman settlement
Historical data base
Bradwen as Celt
Conversation are lead by mouse click
Bradwen's father is very ill
Riding in the forest of Arden - in the first part there is no
map to help you with that
Merlin supports Bradwen
In the shadow realm Bradwen must make important decisions
The Roman village Magovenium is a sanctuary
If Bradwen should fight or speak to the mighty ogre you decide with a mouse
Faithful squire Corwyn has some tasks to complete also - the fairy in the
background could perhaps help him
Bradwen as Christ at home with wife Gwen
Bradwen must go many and long ways by horse
Bradwen the Celt in part 2 - here he is talking to a wild boar - or is there
someone else hidden behind?
The swamp is a new location in part 2 - Bradwen's hair now grey through the
The small church in Tintagel from part 1 can be entered in part 2
The horned snake is a mighty enemy in the 2nd part
Bradwen with King Mark in the 2nd part
screenshots volume 1
screenshots volume 2