Kings Bounty 2 Review: Good Strategy Packed With A Baggy RPG


You know, if you order a single HDMI cable from Amazon, for example, and it comes in a box the size of a dog’s coffin? This is King’s Bounty 2. Overpacked. There’s a tight, varied, often challenging Heroes Of Might And Magic-style tactical battle here, but you’ll have to tear your way through layers of bulging Dragon Age-style RPG games to get there.

Do not get me wrong. Some of this packaging is really nice. Winter snowy landscapes. Marble courtrooms with elaborate stained glass murals. Lavishly textured facial hair flowing from the chin of impeccably well-groomed pig farmer. It just feels like King’s Bounty II has no confidence. Or at least the confidence in an audience to take a second look if they aren’t at least trying to cosplay as a bioware game.

And I have to insist that it is absolutely fair to judge King’s Bounty 2 as an RPG because a large part of it is one. Lots of spoken dialogues, animated NPCs, large explorable maps, multi-level CYOA side quests, cutscenes. Some of it is very nice to look at. Less is fun. Even less feels necessary. I bet this stuff came in at a princely fifty pounds too, a price I can’t recommend it for.

However! This is not a bad game at all. Throw away all of the packaging, and, oh! There’s the cable you wanted. A solid core loop: robust. Flexible. A touch of shine in the right light. Win battles, earn money, hire troops, learn skills, hire new troops. Keep your finances under control. Keep your army healthy. Bang your head against this one nightmare fight until you make a tiny adjustment that brings you victory. All of this is really convincing.

Then you run out of money or hit a wall so go and find it. Light five torches, brave hero. Collect five scrolls, dashing daredevils. Use item A to condemn B, you fool, you absolute tool of a carrier pigeon. It’s the kind of fluff that’s only necessary in trying to justify such terrifyingly massive cards. There’s nothing quite on par with DA: Is egregious MMO-style time waster, but at least you’ve gathered plants like a manic apocalypse seed bank prepper at the service of a story and characters worth caring for.

“It’s the kind of fluff you only need in trying to justify such terrifyingly massive cards.”

The world of King’s Bounty II is … pleasant, almost proudly noff. It’s standard fantasy flavor, although I kind of get it as it dates back to a time when simple genre abbreviations were necessary for readability. So there are dragons! Trolls! To grab! Literally everyone is white for some reason! No, don’t pay attention, look over there: it’s a wizard who looks like Gandalf! Do you remember Gandalf?

Now there are some fun parts too. Have you ever stood around in a dungeon trying to figure out which route the designer intended, searching all the other routes for treasure and feeling like a groundbreaking genius? That is often rewarded here. The scraps of tradition in notes and books are not particularly appealing, but they are plentiful and varied. Peasant festivals and noble descent, myths and legends. Quests contain storylines within plans and character arcs that are peppered with sardonic humor that isn’t heartbreaking but not awkward. However, the vocal performances are often reminiscent of Resident Evil 1 with codpieces.

Let’s talk about the tactics, so the good things. First, alignments. There are four: order and anarchy are opposites, as are power (might) and finesse (magic). Each corresponds to a troop type and branch of the skill structure. For example, a pack of ancient wolves is power, while a deadly cadre of assassins is anarchy. Story quests offer choices that match an alignment. You choose a path, you get alignment points, you spend experience points (from battles and quests, but a separate thing about alignment points) to move up the skill tree of that alignment.

This is something of a double-edged badger, because while it offers end-to-end strategy-brain-pleasing nom-nom-numeric progression, it also hinders storytelling. Once you make enough decisions from one orientation, you will be excluded from the opposite orientation of that orientation. Also, if you choose Elisa the Paladin like I did, you are excluded from anarchy options to begin with anyway. So it is more accurate to call this stuff “fine-tuning your build” than participating in a story. Which is fine in theory, but again, the dialogue is at least as widespread as the battles.

The alignment stuff works better for army and character composition. You could build a sturdy front line of Knights of the Order, flanked by insidious anarchy mercenaries on horseback, to quickly penetrate enemy archers. High morale also means occasional free attacks, often a game changer. Since each alignment roughly corresponds to certain strategic elements (front line, ranged combat, support, damage dealer), it makes sense to distribute the upper limit of five regiments among the alignments. But here, too, not everyone plays nicely together.

Then there are your character’s own abilities: leadership, warfare, and magic. Everyone is influenced by armor, weapons, and jewelry that you collect from quests or buy from vendors. The leadership allows you to set up larger regiments – say ten spearmen instead of seven. Warfare grants an army-wide damage bonus. Magic is where things get really interesting.

There aren’t many twists and turns to the actual hex-based positioning game. No flank bonuses, very low terrain effects. Archers, for example, cannot shoot through houses, a great advantage of home ownership. But with magic, you can manipulate things a lot. Summoning bears. Teleporting entire units across the map. The enemy armor cracks like stale walnuts. Unit innate abilities spice things up too. I’ve hired some gargoyles that can fly out, attack, and then return to their original hex. Incredibly annoying to the AI ​​I guess based on how I feel when they do it to me.

I would have really liked a sleek, stripped-down version that still has all of these compelling tactical stuff. Songs of Conquest looks good, doesn’t it? King’s Bounty 2 leaves me with the feeling of an expert clinging to genre trends than something particularly creatively fulfilling or naturally complementary core game. While the narrative context and the adjacent losses, experiences, and treasures provided by the quests and explorations are good and necessary, it is all too bloated in mostly uninteresting ways.

To the right. It’s the last paragraph and I’m switching metaphors. Do you know that a kingsize bounty bar is actually just three fun bounties? Oh no! There was a murder in the factory and only one of them has coconut in it. Throw away the two extras, charge me a third the price, and you have a customer. But again, really good coconut if you don’t mind paying a premium for all that plain chocolate.

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