Too Long; Didn't Play: The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur

Sponsored By: HH-Games (review code)

Time Arthuring 100 minutes

Calibur Review

At the time of this writing, I have 897 games in my Steam library, with more than that scattered across various PC game stores, and I’m not even touching on the games in my console libraries. The volume of my leisure choices is by turns breathtaking and nauseating.

So why can’t I stop playing this little match three game?

Retired Calibur Review

I like match three games. I’ve liked match three games ever since I first played Bejeweled on a Sony Clié, which is what smartphones were before Apple pocket-sized their strategy of making shiny things that try to do all your thinking for you. Strictly speaking, the Clié didn’t have a phone in it, but if we’re being honest the phone part is the least important part of Apple’s ubiquitous line of Twitter conduits. Basically, I liked match three games before Apple made it cool to whip out a match three game in the grocery checkout line.

So when HH Games asked me to review The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur, I said “sure.”

Modern match three games tend to be infected with free-to-play-itis; the most prominent symptom of which is the tendency for a game to become impossible to play without buying consumable win-buttons. I’m all for evolving a genre, but the depth I’m looking for isn’t at the bottom of my wallet. The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur is a standalone match three game that has a single price you only pay once, and you get the whole game. These days that amounts to a radical departure for the genre, but the developers have a history of such radicalism. Good for them, says I.

While it does eschew the pay-to-win sensibility of its competitors, The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur does have a few nods to modernity. Every level has certain win conditions, which may include matching a certain number of a given tile or moving one unmatchable tile from the top row to the bottom row. So far I haven’t run across the dreaded “complete these objectives in a paltry number of turns” condition, but that’s probably because the levels are all timed. Power-ups are available to do things like clear an entire row, or collect all of a particular tile, but they’re gated by your score in a level rather than your credit rating. The more tiles you match, the more you build your power bar, which you use to trigger the special abilities that other match three games make you pay for.

I’m of two minds about timed match-three levels. On the one hand, it lends some urgency and excitement to the game. On the other, who is going to remember to pause a match three game when they need to pee? Fortunately when you start a new game, you can opt out of the timer and play at a more leisurely pace. It’s possible that the levels are harder without the clock, but if they are I haven’t noticed.

All the match three action is in the service of the story, which tracks the rise of King Arthur. As you play, you’re treated to surprisingly well-voiced, static-image cutscenes. There’s also a light base-building mechanic in which you spend points earned in “combat” to expand your army. Before you get excited, it’s not anything deep or strategic. Mechanically, it amounts to waiting until you’ve played enough levels in order to have the necessary materials, and then clicking on the next item in a list. It’s basically just a visual way of tracking the story, and I would have liked to see more done with it. Perhaps in Episode 2.

The match three gameplay itself, though, is rock solid. Most of the matchable tiles are distinct objects with different shapes, making the game almost accessible for folks with colorblindness. I say “almost” because there are two tiles that are color-swaps of the same gem: one is pink, the other is purple. That is a differentiation I’ve always had a great deal of difficulty with, so I can only imagine how hard it would be for a person with dichromatism or anomalous trichromatism.

Other than that, which is only occasionally an issue considering how many different tiles there are to match, the gameplay is about as addictive as match three can be. The power ups add a welcome layer of strategy, and the timer makes the power-ups feel more useful. It’s an impressively well fleshed-our experience.

You may not be able to play it in a grocery store, unless you carry your laptop around in your back pocket (and if you do, do you mind if I ask where you buy your trousers? Asking for a friend.), but I’d recommend The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur to any fan of the genre.

Will I match on?

The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur is likely to remain my go-to choice for when I’m procrastinating and don’t feel like opening a web browser. It’s fun, mildly addictive in that “one more level” way, and the utterly superfluous story mode is at least competently executed and well voice acted. Honestly, in 2019 I don’t know if you could ask more from a match three game.

Is it the Dark Souls of Match Three Games? And have I said Match Three enough in this review?

I think it’s a categorical impossibility for The Chronicles of King Arthur - Episode 1: Excalibur to be the Dark Souls of its genre, because games like Toy Blast exist, which are virtually impossible unless you spend money on them. On the other hand, the game is a superbly executed version and the levels, while not overly difficult, feel scrupulously fair.

I’ll rate it one sword out of stone on the Dark Souls scale.

Comments

So it’s becoming clear to me that my choice of games to review has been less than exciting of late. Either that or everyone is sick of me, which is understandable: I’ve been doing this for five years now, so I’ve officially bested James K Polk in longevity.

Either way, I’d love to hear from you, the community, about what games you’d like to read my patented non-take on. I’ve got a queue I’m planning to review, mostly gifts from everyone here, but I’d be interested to know what you all would like to see make the front page.

Or if you would like to see a format change, I’m game to give it a try, though I tried to shake things up last year by writing serialized fiction based on my in-game adventures and it went... poorly (that’s an understated way of saying t probably cost me whatever readers I had left)

So hit me, Gamers with jobs! What would you like to see?

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

So it’s becoming clear to me that my choice of games to review has been less than exciting of late. Either that or everyone is sick of me, which is understandable: I’ve been doing this for five years now, so I’ve officially bested James K Polk in longevity.

Either way, I’d love to hear from you, the community, about what games you’d like to read my patented non-take on. I’ve got a queue I’m planning to review, mostly gifts from everyone here, but I’d be interested to know what you all would like to see make the front page.

Or if you would like to see a format change, I’m game to give it a try, though I tried to shake things up last year by writing serialized fiction based on my in-game adventures and it went... poorly (that’s an understated way of saying t probably cost me whatever readers I had left)

So hit me, Gamers with jobs! What would you like to see?

I'd be cool making this question into its own Front Page post, honestly.

Ummmmmm, dunno. I want to say the choices lately haven't much interested me, but part of that is because boardgames do nothing for me since I don't really have time to play them. But if I look back

The front page is generally barren anymore. Lack of content. Lack of engagement. Combo of both/chicken-egg. Whatever it is. It's been years since we regularly saw more than a handful of comments on a front page article. Heck, the Conference Call barely gets comments anymore, in part because I don't think a lot of us forum goers listen to it anymore. (Or the fact that the people on the CC aren't really active in the community anymore, but that's a whoooooole other topic.) Or the conversation is taking place elsewhere.

I agree, but that also sort of gives us options for what we might want to make the Front Page into going forward. Not quite "green field development," but pretty close.

garion333 wrote:

Ummmmmm, dunno. I want to say the choices lately haven't much interested me, but part of that is because boardgames do nothing for me since I don't really have time to play them. But if I look back

The front page is generally barren anymore. Lack of content. Lack of engagement. Combo of both/chicken-egg. Whatever it is. It's been years since we regularly saw more than a handful of comments on a front page article. Heck, the Conference Call barely gets comments anymore, in part because I don't think a lot of us forum goers listen to it anymore. (Or the fact that the people on the CC aren't really active in the community anymore, but that's a whoooooole other topic.) Or the conversation is taking place elsewhere.

That is good feedback.

The board game thing was only intended as a special event for this past December, when I do an alliterative theme. I thought mixing things up might get people interested again, but no dice (see what I did there?)

I do still want to engage the community/the audience for TLDP, but I’m not sure how to do it. I know I haven’t been as active in the forums as I once was, for a variety of reasons that are outside of my ability to change.

Which is why I asked the question. I want to write things that people want to read. That was the beauty of the original “you buy me games and I play them” format: it had community engagement built right in. I still have a handful of those left that I haven’t reviewed yet from a few years ago, but i don’t think people are as interested anymore.

I could start taking requests, which I’d be happy to do but would have to be filtered through my budget (I can’t review a AAA title every week, for example).but would that be appreciably different?

I’d be willing to consider other column topics besides game impressions, though I do quite like the current format.

I’d propose changing the “Dark Souls” joke but that feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

Maybe a wholesale format change is in order? I don’t know if I could manage to crank out a video per week with my current life, though.

So many things to try, but what to do?

Is this based on fewer comments? Or do you guys have some deep Googleytics or something that measures views or whatever? I read (mostly) every week but I don't leave comments because I don't really have anything to say. I guess I should say "thank you" sometimes.

Thank you.

If you want to change formats, go for it. Do whatever you want, see what sticks. If you are tired of doing this, that's fine too. It happens.

I think there is a bad disconnect between the CC/front page folks and the rest of the community and that kind of makes me sad, but things and people change and everyone has to keep on going with their lives. I am very grateful for the community and will be here spending time and reading Dark Souls jokes until they turn out the lights.

This kind of went in a weird direction but oh well.

TL;DR I like your work and will read whatever you toss out.

garion333 wrote:

Ummmmmm, dunno. I want to say the choices lately haven't much interested me, but part of that is because boardgames do nothing for me since I don't really have time to play them. But if I look back

To finish that sentence:

But if I look back there's actually plenty of games I'm interested in regarding the column and I'm not sure I read and/or commented on. I'm not exactly sure why.

Part of it (for me) is absolutely because the lack of posts it doesn't show up frequently in the Recent Posts area. I have the Recent Posts set as a shortcut (not the version of only threads I've posted in but the general one) so stuff that gets bumped frequently is something I'm more likely to see and read.

That was a roundabout way of saying I basically never visit the front page proper. Like, ever.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:
garion333 wrote:

Ummmmmm, dunno. I want to say the choices lately haven't much interested me, but part of that is because boardgames do nothing for me since I don't really have time to play them. But if I look back

The front page is generally barren anymore. Lack of content. Lack of engagement. Combo of both/chicken-egg. Whatever it is. It's been years since we regularly saw more than a handful of comments on a front page article. Heck, the Conference Call barely gets comments anymore, in part because I don't think a lot of us forum goers listen to it anymore. (Or the fact that the people on the CC aren't really active in the community anymore, but that's a whoooooole other topic.) Or the conversation is taking place elsewhere.

That is good feedback.

The board game thing was only intended as a special event for this past December, when I do an alliterative theme. I thought mixing things up might get people interested again, but no dice (see what I did there?)

I do still want to engage the community/the audience for TLDP, but I’m not sure how to do it. I know I haven’t been as active in the forums as I once was, for a variety of reasons that are outside of my ability to change.

Which is why I asked the question. I want to write things that people want to read. That was the beauty of the original “you buy me games and I play them” format: it had community engagement built right in. I still have a handful of those left that I haven’t reviewed yet from a few years ago, but i don’t think people are as interested anymore.

I could start taking requests, which I’d be happy to do but would have to be filtered through my budget (I can’t review a AAA title every week, for example).but would that be appreciably different?

I’d be willing to consider other column topics besides game impressions, though I do quite like the current format.

I’d propose changing the “Dark Souls” joke but that feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

Maybe a wholesale format change is in order? I don’t know if I could manage to crank out a video per week with my current life, though.

So many things to try, but what to do?

I pine for gifs in your posts when you're talking about some whacky thing. You play a lot of random sh*t for the column and I'd love to see a taste of what you're talking about without having to buy and play the game myself. Sometimes I def want that and do that, but being as my game time is extremely limited I can't do that all the time (plus budget, natch).

I just don't think a couple static images cuts it for such a visual medium, even if your descriptions are likely better than what may actually happen in-game.

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

So hit me, Gamers with jobs! What would you like to see?

Here's my ramblings...

Spoiler:

I'd love to be helpful here, but I'm not sure how much I can add to Garion's points. Speaking for myself, I recently started using a podcast app as opposed to downloading from the front page. Using that app has reduced my need to spend time on the front page of the site, so I guess I'm less inclined to check out the column.

Looking at bigger picture stuff, if you take away things that are available through podcast apps, or announced during the podcast, that leaves very little that's available exclusively on the front page. That puts a lot of pressure of these articles, in that a piece which should act like "Doubtingthomas396's Corner", is effectively the entire room.

Another observation I have, as someone who's relatively new to the forums, is that there's a big disconnect between the CC and the forums. I joined the forums after listening to the CC for quite a while, and I was surprised to see that the podcast and website are generally two separate things. Bringing it back to your column, the front page kinda feels like it's lost between these two separate entities.

I would like to say that I really enjoy reading about games, so I don't personally see the written format as being an issue. And I don't even have a problem if I'm reading about games I've never heard of and/or will probably never play, but I guess I'm going to become less inclined to keep coming back when the only games being written about for weeks fall into that category.

I don't know how well my point's coming across here...

Tl;dr: I don't think there's anything wrong with the TLDP formula, but I don't think it can hold up the front page to the extent that it needs to. That's a very personal take though.

I'm huge into reading stuff as opposed to video or podcasts because I can do it while at work. Used to be podcasts and reading, but the type of work I do make podcasts tough now. Reading it is!

I'm old though. Almost 40! Lol

I saw this thread title, and thought it was the King Arthur Role-Playing wargame, which I always wanted to get back to.

garion333 wrote:

I'm huge into reading stuff as opposed to video or podcasts because I can do it while at work. Used to be podcasts and reading, but the type of work I do make podcasts tough now. Reading it is!

I'm old though. Almost 40! Lol

I’m with you. One of my least favorite trends is the fact that game walkthroughs are all video now. Nobody wants to take the time to write up a faq.

On the one hand, I understand. Writing is hard. In the other hand, scanning through twelve hours of video trying to find the one place where I’m stuck while avoiding spoilers into other stuff is annoying.

So written stuff it is, but I’ll try to find GIFs for future reference.

garion333 wrote:

The front page is generally barren anymore. Lack of content. Lack of engagement.

I agree with this, but I'm just realizing when this seemed to happen, for me: when the site got upgraded, so that all the most recent articles got graphic boxes instead of headlines with a lede.

I don't care about the images. The titles are boring. If I scroll down, I find 4 things I might want to click on.. but they're old and I don't always slow down.

I stopped looking at GWJ around that time.

SITE ADMINS: did your click-through traffic go up or down after that facelift?

I read TLDP every week. I very rarely comment, but you've pointed me in some directions that have resulted in game time and enjoyable play.

I'm not a big podcast listener. I tend to binge listen the CC when I've a roadtrip, working backwards from the latest.

Bottom line: I enjoy both things and they find a way into my leisure time.

Greg, I know this is a coming a couple weeks later, but I usually read, and definitely enjoy, the TL;DP reviews. I don't usually comment because the games you review often are games I'm not drawn to, myself, but I have seen a few things reviewed here that I'd definitely try (like this one, and also Bomb Chicken).

I definitely agree with Stevintendo's points, above. Maybe the front page would be a bigger draw if there were more people writing about a bigger variety of games?