Games of the Year

Pendragon

Pendragon Screenshot 1
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Pendragon is a turn-based strategy game, where every move you make drives the narrative, and every story twist opens new gameplay opportunities. Will you advance and show your mettle, or cautiously retreat? Will you slip round enemies, or encounter them head-on? And when sacrifices are required, who will you put in harm's way? From the creators of the multi-award-winning 80 DAYS and Heaven’s Vault. Rally the Knights of the Round Table. Some will make it to Camlann and King Arthur. Others will fall. But every turn will change history. Will Sir Lancelot be reunited with Queen Guinevere? Will she spurn him, or embrace him? Will Sir Kay ever forgive Sir Gawaine for siding with Sir Mordred? Can Morgana le Fay be trusted? Where is Merlyn? Who lies buried in Mordred’s graveyard? Who is the archer in the woods? What has become of Excalibur? Secrets will be uncovered. Hearts will be broken. People will die. But maybe, just maybe, King Arthur can be saved...
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

An absolutely brutal chess-like rogue-lite game. Extremely punishing, but also very satisfying - felt like all of my victories in this game had to be thought out in advance and well-earned. A refreshingly realistic take on the Arthurian genre - neither fantastical nor idealistic, but set in a muddy and brutish England where any sort of goodness is a very precious thing indeed.
If the idea of Morgana and Mordred having it out in a knife-fight to the death sounds fun to you, you'll probably like this game a lot.

Review from Steam

Very mixed. The other reviews here do a great job highlighting the game's strengths, here are some less-well-represented complaints:
The stories are superficially varied, but 5 hours in every game I've played is basically: 'character XYZ fights a bunch of animals, teams up with a handful of named characters with the same sprites as the random villagers, then briefly meets King Arthur and duels Mordred.'
If Mordred kills you, the game ends with a few lines of Dreary Outro Text. If you kill him? Dreary Outro Text. King Arthur survives? Dreary Outro Text. He heroically sacrifices himself? Dreary Outro Text. I found Excalibur in one run, but it didn't seem to matter much.
On higher difficulties, the AI plays extreme defense. If you wait too long for an opening, your morale runs out and your characters flee. In theory, you're supposed to break the stalemate with your special abilities, but some of those are very situational, like charging through bushes -- if there are no bushes around and you don't have any chump companions to sacrifice then gg.
The UI is kind of a slog, even after turning text and animation speeds up as high as they can go. This is especially grating if you're restarting as Lady Rhiannon after running into /another/ early-game battle with insufficient bushes and now you have to slowly click through the same introductory dialogue you've already read three times in the last hour.
Check out Pendragon because there's nothing else like it, but I wouldn't blame you for refunding it you feel yourself losing interest after the second or third run.

Review from Steam

I went into the game hoping for a story as interesting and branching as what we've seen in previous Inkle games. I... didn't get that. Ultimately, it feels like each playthrough has the exact same plot, just with different characters and a few different locations, which are essentially the same each time, since so much of the scenery is just copy and pasted over and over again. The characters also seem to mostly be saying the same dialogue in each play-through regardless of who is doing the talking, which is disappointing, since more varied dialogue would have really numbed the repetition. I love Arthurian lore, but I just don't think this game managed to do anything interesting with it, it's the same story about the fall of Camelot I've seen done time and time again, with nothing all that meaningful added like I was hoping.
On the other hand, the game-play turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought it would be, once I got the hang of it. I've rarely played a game that made me think so strategically during combat, just as I've rarely played a game where every move felt like it mattered, and every win felt truly earned. There were many times where I came close to shrieking at defeats and cheering at victories, I was so invested. I would completely recommend the game based on the combat alone if it's your sort of thing.
All in all, I came for the story, stayed for the gameplay. I still feel like so much more could've been done with the King Arthur Legend in the hands of such a creative company, but I was still satisfied with my purchase in the end.

Review from Steam

Reading the puzzling negative comments such as
“the AI never makes a mistake” It does, often.
“abilities don’t help” some are better than others, such as diagonal attacks, which are very useful.
“team members die too easily” You should accept that some may die and you can even sacrifice some to get to the end of the level. You only need one to get to the end, but it can help to have more than one.
Enemies such as wolves and rats are pretty easy to beat, as they often just move towards the nearest player, so can be beaten faster with more than one team member on the field.
Spiders are very dangerous. It helps to have a diagonal attack to counteract theirs, but expect to lose at least one person, especially on higher difficulty levels.

Review from Steam

First if all, I'm a big fan of the previous games of Inkle as well as a lover of all things Arthur legende. Seeing that this would mash into a narrative strategic game sounded really good on paper.
I've played it 8 hours in total, 2 times with Guinevere, 3 times with Lancelot, 2 times with Branwen and one time with Morgane. My playthroughs were definitely different, although there was some minor overlap of some dialogues, mostly linked to the Excalibur quest.
The first playthroughs were indeed short, but consecutive difficult level does make the game longer and the fights more challenging. I've only beaten Mordred twice.
The strength of the game truly is the building of the narrative and once all characters are unlocked and you'e at the highest difficult level, where a playthrough would be up to 1,5 hours, I can see this game truly shine. Not that it's perfect at the moment, but it does succeed in what it promises to do, providing strategic challenge with narrative replayabilty.
In my last playthrough, the beauty of this game was made even more clear, when Morgana died and I played as Lady Eilidh, a character I picked up in a village and who became the main focus of the quest all of a sudden. It truly felt like an Arthurian Legend.
I see a lot of potential as well, for new side quests attached to the Arthurian Lore, new characters (Galahad, Pellinore and his questing beast, Palamades,...) I don't know if Inkle plans on expanding, but it would definitely be great if they would deepen the world of Arthur even more.

Review from Steam

I really like this game, it is interesting and innovative. I think this game requires a different approach than most games.
Firstly, the mechanics. I played up to roughly half point of the difficulty and I didn't have much trouble winning, though I did so less consistently with higher difficulties. I (almost) never felt like it was impossible to win though, usually when I lost I felt like it was my fault. Only one time, when the final boss got a new ability and immediately used it to kill me I felt a bit shafted, but even that was a learning experience for me, I am now more careful in the final battle.
The different abilities are fun and varied, even though some are a lot mkore situational than others. A complaint in other reviews - that you HAD to switch abilities when you get a new one - has been patched, you can now choose between the old and the new one.
The battles might seem very tough, but approaching them the right way is key. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice one of your followers, if they still have hearts and you win in the end it's really no big deal. Often, it is easier to reach the end square and ignore some enemies than trying to kill them all, and as long as no one is down fleeing is an option, it's nothing that will make you lose the game, it just might send you on a different path than you intended.
Then, there is the story. This game doesn't have a singular story, it feels more like a tale being told about something that happenend a long time ago. The core structure of a run is always the same - some former companion of Arthur starts their journey, meets followers and fights enemies, to meet Arthur and face Mordred in the end. However, each run can feel a lot different - maybe tragic when you lose your loyal, but somewhat incapable follower shortly before the end, or epic when all seems lost and someone you met earlier but didn't follow you comes in to save the day. There's always a kind of melancholic feeling though -- the age of Camelot has ended, and while you can save Britain from Mordred, you can't bring Camelot back. The different tales at the campfire are all very well written and help set that atmosphere - these stories are usually a lot more fantastical than what actually happens in the game, the beasts grander. This all leads to the feeling that the age of heroes and myths is coming to an end, and soon these tales will be all that remains.
Overall, I really like the game for what it is. One run takes around an hour, and if things go bad half way through, I don't mind, not all stories have a happy ending, and it's not like invested tens of hours just to lose so close to the finish line. I can just try again, tell the tale again, this time a bit differently.

Review from Steam

A surprisingly engaging and demanding game! The idea of a turn-based tactics game doesn't naturally appeal to me, but this implementation overcame my caution very quickly. I found myself caring about the characters as I repeatedly failed to reach Arthur, and finding real tension in defending my party from snakes, rats and villainous knights of Mordred.
As ever with Inkle games, it contains an enormous amount of thoughtfulness and care worn lightly. It's a game that's rewarding and tells compelling (and different) stories within the same overarching narrative, about Arthur but also a synecdoche of England.

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