King Arthur's Gold is a 2D "retro-style" multiplayer action game from "Transhuman Design" (really the old developers of Soldat) that has actually been released twice, once in 2011 as an "alpha" and then again in 2013 with a heavily redesigned "beta" that represents the current game as it is commercially available. The gameplay revolves around the combat between two different teams (red and blue) that slaughter one another to absurd ends and objectives in a heavily destructible (and constructible) environment. It is glorious, stupid fun.

The Class System

The joy in KAG comes from the perfectly balanced nature of the game. It relies on a deceptively simple three class system: knights, archers, and builders. Each class has its own unique set of abilities that affect how they move, how they engage in combat, and how they support their team mates.

Knights, the primary combat class, are tanky melee fighters, usually engaged in pitched slashing battles in the mid-map battle that dominates every game of KAG but they become a much more sophisticated class with the use of their shield and their supporting arsenal of bombs. The shield, while always useful as a defensive weapon in combat, can be used alternately to slide around the map at high speed or, when held over the head, glide gracefully through the air towards certain death on enemy battlements. It's also strong enough to absorb powerful shocks, and using it to bomb jump to impressive heights is a legitimate game mechanic.

Archers fling themselves deftly around the map with grappling hooks and can climb trees with ease, skills that make them a powerful infiltrator class for getting behind enemy lines where they can do damage with fire and explosives before beating a quick retreat.

The Builder not only creates every tower, trap, and vast underground tunnel network in the game from raw materials but also acts as an invaluable sapper against enemy fortifications when supported by his or her team mates.

Together all three classes seek to achieve mundane objectives (CTF and Take-The-Halls (aka point capture, minus tickets or a time limit) are the two primary game modes) via increasingly ridiculous methods as the game escalates. And when I say escalates, I mean really escalates.


The Build Phase and Escalation/Research

Your typical game of KAG begins with a build phase lasting a few minutes. During this most everyone plays as a builder to gather resources and build some initial fortifications, usually consisting of a simple tower or stone casing around the flag. In TTH it is considered normal to set up an enormous skyscraper of workshops encased in stone, which will churn out the staple bombs and arrows that your team will require for basic combat and in CTF shops are set up for players to purchase these same supplies with gold generated by combat. While these initial offerings are fairly simple, progression in the game will make more and more technologies available either through research or money, meaning that what begins with simple skirmishes of knights armed with meager hand grenades will inevitably end with an enormous keg of gunpowder strapped to a knight being hurled into the enemy from a catapult mounted in the back of a war boat.


Individual games of KAG are further distinguished from one another through the games somewhat unique "physics"'. While structures cannot float, they can be held up in some cases by just one or two precarious supports. This means that, in some cases, large portions of a tower may continue to stand following a siege and be rebuilt or further decimated by combat. What was initially a proud stone structure may be rebuilt with wood, burnt out, partially demolished, and rebuilt again as the bunker entrance to a system of tunnels that have long since burrowed into its base. It is not uncommon for structures in the middle of the map to change hands numerous times, usually with just the demolition and replacement of the doors installed by the opposing team. The central tenet of building in KAG is that the enemy must be kept out at all costs, lest they infiltrate and re-purpose your precious defenses against you.


Combat is likewise a chaotic affair. Massive knight melees are white-knuckle affairs, as each individual seeks land to a set of double slashes on their opponent that will breach their shield defense. One on one between knights will by contrast take on the form of a duel, with each knight charging their slashes, running forward to release them and then potentially retreating in stalemate if neither is confident in their ability to land a fatal blow before their opponent can retaliate. Archers, unable to defend themselves directly, rely entirely on mobility to survive, leaping from tree to tree and desperately scaling the stone walls until an opportune moment arrives to land a stomp or unleash a flurry of arrow fire on an exposed foe. A good builder, otherwise defenseless, may throw stone boulders into the fray from a point of vantage, although it is more typical for them to man a siege engine loaded with loose stone or explosive ordinance to rain down upon the battlefield. And all this too, escalates as the game goes on; knights gain water ammo that grants stuns and fling bombs back and forth until the no-man's land is stripped to the bedrock. Archers perforate builders with fire arrows, forcing them to run flaming into the battlefield, arms in the air. Builders gain access to saws, which they can lay down as insta-kill traps or use to quickly process trees into lumber for quick repairs or outpost setups. In all the chaos survival itself rapidly becomes a challenge and this reinforces the reliance on terrain and structures to defend and hold territory in any meaningful way.

Final Thoughts

KAG is not a modern game in many senses. It has relatively low system requirements, doesn't track statistics, and has absolutely no achievements. The aesthetic is always retro and never really attempts to be sophisticated (the most complicated sprites are probably those of trees) while the objectives are often laughably simple to the point where gameplay, to an onlooker, may seem dull or stupid. But where it shines is in design; KAG directly rewards creativity, adaptability, and skill by pitting those traits against your opponents. Every tower design, every trap, every carefully placed keg is a challenge that either you or your opponent must overcome through some innovation or tactical decision of your own and this leads to total absurdity as both teams seek to outsmart and outplay the other while under the hammer of dwindling resources and an escalating arms race. And in this aspect, it is perfect.

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