Growing up, we all had our favourite games, and your love for them would never waver, no matter what people say. For me, I fell for many wonderful franchises, but I became addicted to King’s Bounty! I was fascinated with the fantasy world, the freedom to build an army, and the exploration mechanics. So, unsurprisingly, I was super excited when the sequel, King’s Bounty II, was announced.
Developed by 1C Publishing EU and published by Koch Media, this is a fantasy turn-based strategy title. Combining open-world elements and plenty of tactical nuances, I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into the latest instalment.
King’s Bounty II captures the essence of previous iterations, but is it enough?
Set in the sprawling realm of Nostria, King’s Bounty II spoils you with its expansive landscapes. You will venture freely across the kingdom, completing tasks, accepting side quests, and looting boxes. It utilises many dated mechanics and has a comfortable, if not tired, feel to the gameplay. This isn’t a bad thing, it merely lacks originality. You’ll instantly note the Dungeon and Dragons’ influences and the splashes of Xcom within the combat elements.
Having played the original to death, I felt right at home with the lore and story. The latest rendition captures the essence of its predecessor perfectly and I admired the developer’s work. However, is a thirty-plus-year-old concept going to be enough for modern gamers? Only time will tell!
Three characters, a large army, and game-changing beliefs.
How you wish to approach King’s Bounty II is up to you! Mainly because each of the three characters has unique characteristics that guide the gameplay. You pick between Warrior Aivar, Mage Katherine, and Paladin Elisa. Each follows a different path and uses their skills to manipulate situations. Will you use power and brawn to overcome a problem, or guile, magic, and stealth to get the correct result. Whatever route you choose, you may select abilities that support your character.
You may create an all-powerful warrior who has no magical skills, or you can blend each ability to become an all-rounder. Whatever you decide, it matters not, as all decisions ultimately lead to the same result. The main premise revolves around turn-based battles and the subtle tactical advantages. Each fight uses a hexagonal grid system where the armies take turns to attack and defend themselves. The normal strength, weapons, and defence stats must be considered during battle. You’ll select between ranged attacks, magic, or melee. Moreover, you must analyse your opponent’s weaknesses, position your troops accordingly, and capitalise on their frailties. Sadly, however, strategy fans will experience nothing new.
Nonetheless, you’ll soon note that the fighting is brutal, hard as hell, and unforgiving. Your army will fall by the wayside and replacing them is costly and time-consuming. Now, I loved the meticulous nature of the gameplay and enjoyed selecting the best force for each encounter. Yet, mistakes set you back hours and losing your high-end group of bears, ghouls, or bowmen was horrific.
Money makes the world go round.
Nostria is a wealthy land, and its high society will pay handsomely. This is extremely fortunate, as everything costs a ridiculous amount of gold. Weapons will break the bank, spells are astronomically priced, and new units for your army will cost you an arm and a leg. It’s borderline sadistic how the developers have balanced the gameplay, and you’ll feel the pinch every time a mistake is made.
To fund your adventure, you undertake quest after quest to build up your coffers and explore the kingdom. It’s therefore disappointing that much of it feels devoid of life. The towns and villages appear empty, cold, and heartless, and traversing the world to complete menial tasks was more a chore than a pleasure. The desire to rake in money luckily overwhelmed the negative grind element, but I couldn’t help noticing the immense amounts of padding. I was desperate for the game to evolve and grab my attention, sadly; it plateaued early on.
The tasks follow a similar pattern and you’ll quickly experience the small rendition available. This was frustrating as I wanted an array of missions to try, yet, strangely, my attention rarely faded. Thanks in part to the varied landscapes, but helped mainly by the selection of foes to overcome. The fine balance between open-world exploration and combat ensured the game flowed nicely.
King’s Bounty II comprises moments of beauty, but it fails to use modern graphics to their fullest.
With the introduction of “next-gen” consoles and powerful graphics cards, I had high hopes for King’s Bounty II. However, the developers failed to utilise the power on offer and only glimpses looked fantastic. With visual glitches, low-quality textures, and character models appearing identical, I was disappointed. It reminded me of an Xbox 360 title and was, therefore, closer to original than I truly hoped for. Fortunately, though, it’s perfectly serviceable, and once you overcome the initial impact, you’ll enjoy it on a basic level.
1C Publishing EU has excelled with the audio, however. The medieval soundtrack matches the emotion and drama that unfolds before you. Calming music highlights the serene moments before high energy and sharp sounds drag you back into battle. The lifeless world would have been much duller if it wasn’t for the fantastic acting. The NPCs chatter amongst themselves and you’ll listen to their inane ramblings with glee. The story is presented and acted to a high standard and it was great to listen to. I wish the developers had put as much effort into the visual elements. It’s clear that the potential for a great game was there, yet, sadly, it didn’t quite reach that height.
A fantastic tutorial, and the world’s slowest horse.
With many elements working together, King’s Bounty II had to have a thorough and simple tutorial. Fortunately, this is what you get, and learning the fundamentals was surprisingly easy. It was pleasurable to play, even when the difficulty was agonisingly tough.
No matter how good the controls were, though, you can’t avoid how bad your horse is! It’s slow, has zero turning circle, and crashes into everything. Exploring the map wouldn’t be so bad if your equine companion wasn’t such a donkey. This issue needs addressing, otherwise, all the enjoyment will be sucked out of the game.
If you can cope with the difficulty, the appalling horse, and the dated graphics, you’ll experience an addictive game. With many storylines to explore and skills to unlock, the possibilities are endless. The plot is fantastic, if not a little hammy, and the combat is great and worthy of your time. There is plenty of replay value if you fall for its charms, and I can’t wait to try the other classes.
King’s Bounty II let its roots monopolise the gameplay.
The original was a resounding hit, so there was no surprise that it would stick to its roots. However, King’s Bounty II needed to loosen the shackles and evolve from its well-laid foundations. There is much to love about it, but you must accept its shortcomings to appreciate its concept. I enjoyed it and recommend you to buy it here! The realm of Nostria needs a hero. Will you step up and be counted?