by Thomas Mikkelsen
previewed on PC
A Long History
King’s Bounty is one of the longest-running RPG series in gaming. Released in 1990 on the Commodore 64, Amiga, and other contemporary platforms, King’s Bounty is considered a spiritual predecessor to one of turn-based strategy’s defining titles: Heroes of Might and Magic. In 2008 King’s Bounty: The Legend was launched, bringing the series to the collective consciousness of modern players and a steady stream of expansions soon followed. These have been well received by long-term fans and newcomers alike. We were lucky enough to get our hands on a preview build of Deep Silver and 1C Entertainment’s upcoming King’s Bounty II.
My first impression of the build was underwhelming. Once the world opened up from the starting castle, it felt too guided — the environments bordering on claustrophobic. That was until I realised I was still in the opening chapter and hadn’t actually entered the open world yet. A slap on the forehead later, I rode my horse around the land, besting baddies, recruiting troops, and getting them killed in due order.
Oodles of Content
The world of Antara is densely populated with treasure, side quests, and oodles of lore, so exploration and dialogue are highly rewarded. Especially when the encounter difficulty ramps up — you’ll be thanking your completionist pedantry that you levelled and geared up through side quests and rock turning.
Nostria, the continent on which King’s Bounty II takes place, was once a powerful player in Antarian politics. Recently, though, their power has dwindled. Regardless of which character you chose to play (there are three) you’ll start the game locked up in a dungeon. Despite the trope-ish nature of this beginning, you’re immediately released on orders of the prince and told to seek him out. All of a sudden, the person accused of trying to assassinate the king (you) are named the Savior of Nostria (also you).
It’s a fun twist in the common opening trope, and reinforced by the disbelief of, and later begrudging acceptance by, the guards in the fort where you’re being held. Without going too deep into spoiler territory, it all makes a certain kind of sense in the end. My limited experience of the game world playing this hands-on preview build (after the opening segment which I mistakenly believed was the whole thing), I’m impressed by how non-grindy the side quests feel and even the most inane waste of the ‘Savior of Nostria’s’ time is rewarded by lore that deepens your understanding of the world. It’s fantasy world-building at its best.
The three characters you can pick in the beginning are a warrior, a paladin, and a mage. Only one of them can’t be named for legal reasons, but to play it safe, I won’t mention any of them here. Each of these starts with certain powers that help in turn-based combat and open some doors and close others during 3rd-person exploration. Your character won’t take part in combat directly but possesses a book of spells you can cast once per turn. Scrolls are found throughout the land and, once learned, can be upgraded and boosted.
Play Your Ideal
Ideals influence the makeup and performance of your army throughout the game. Units are categorised by order, anarchy, power, and finesse, and the more you mix them, the worse their performance as a team. You can mitigate this performance dip by levelling up your leadership skills. Your actions and choices also affect these ideals, leading to some interesting branching of the narrative and adding replay value as well. I’ve made a number of choices that sit with me and lead me to wonder what would have gone differently had I chosen a different action.
Combat is turn-based and played out on a hexagonal grid. Unit variety is quite large and so are your potential strategies. As long as you have the cash to keep your army fully manned (or the brains to keep them from dying in the first place — which I don’t) you’ll be able to keep a number of units in reserve and switch them out before combat. In most cases, combat is triggered by entering a yellow circle on the map, and you’ll see what types of units you’ll be facing by taking note of the units roaming around the land inside that circle. This lets you customise your army for every battle before you enter the ring.
King’s Bounty II is expected to release August 24th on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch, and is shaping up to be an excellent bearer of the King’s Bounty torch. Despite some lack of polish which is to be expected from an early preview build, I can’t wait to get my hands on a release copy and share my thoughts on it with you come August.