Wednesday, February 3, 2010

King's Bounty

A long time ago I did play the original King's Bounty from 1990. The game then evolved into the Heroes of Might & Magic series, but with some noteable changes: In King's Bounty you just had one hero with his army, while most of the time in the HOMM series you had several heroes with armies. When King's Bounty: The Legend came out in 2008, I bought it, but the game shared the fate of so many other games I bought, being left unplayed on a shelf. MMORPGs take too much of my time.

But recently I finally got around to install and play the new King's Bounty, and I must say I like it a lot. It's back to a single hero with his army, and that makes it possible for the overland movement to be in real time (like in some console version of the original game). That makes the game a lot more dynamic, without losing the tactical interest of the turn-based battles.

In King's Bounty: The Legend you can choose between one of three classes, warrior, paladin, or mage, with the warrior having the best combat stats, the mage the best magic, and the paladin being in between. In an interesting twist the three characters share the same three talent trees, but depending on your class you gain the three different types of runes used to buy those talents at different speeds. Thus the warrior can have some magig talents, but will always have more of the warrior talents.

There is only one, but big, overland map for King's Bounty: The Legend. Monster placement and some treasures are randomly distributed, but the quests are the same in each game, which limits replayability. But if you play the through the complete main quest and all side-quests you will be busy for many hours, so the game is still good value for money. And if you want more, there is the Armored Princess sequel. Steam was offering the two together for 75% off last month, and I stupidly missed that. :(

What I like most about the new King's Bounty is how well it combines the role-playing game with the turn-based strategy game. The quests are very well written, humorous, and with interesting characters, keeping you engaged in the world and the story. But at the same time the game keeps all the advantages of the interesting turn-based battles whenever you encounter a group of monsters. There are many different troop types you can buy in various places all over the map. At first that means a lot of running around to replenish your troops whenever you lost some of them or gained in leadership to be able to control more of them. But if you are doing well you'll have enough money to buy troops in advance, and garrison them in some central location to fill up faster. And you can always change troops around, although sometime your favorite troop might run out and not be available.

King's Bounty: The Legend also has some new interesting features, like the rage box full of angry demons you gain during the main quest. This basically gives you second magic system to use in combat, working with the "rage" you build up by your armies exchanging blows with the enemy. Another cute feature is the option to mary one the several women you meet in the game, with some unusual brides like a frog maiden or a zombie bride available.

I found King's Bounty well balanced on normal settings, and if you don't like that one, you can switch to a different difficulty setting. The only reservation I have is that the leadership stat is maybe too powerful in comparison to the other stats your hero can gain, making all items and talents that improve that stat "must-have". I do like the open world, but I must admit that finding out where to go next isn't always obvious. There is a risk of going too far in one direction too early, fighting too hard monsters and suffering too big losses to your army, when somewhere else you could have fought easier opponents and gained some more experience and power first. Spoiler hint: Try to follow the main quest and get the rage box as early as possible.

Overall I can only recommend King's Bounty: The Legend. And I'll probably buy the expansion once I'm through with it. But I've learned my lesson: The times where you had to buy freshly released games "right now", or risk them disappearing from store shelves is over. Nowadays you can always get older games from various download services like Steam, and often much cheaper if you waited.

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