King’s Bounty 2 sounds like a tired, tactical RPG. It’s not the sort you make when you feel frustrated or relieved. Instead, it’s more like when your feet are tired after walking up long flights of stairs. It’s mostly fine. It’s actually quite enjoyable to watch the tactical combat, the music is excellent, and the scenery is beautiful. It feels unpolished in many technical aspects and the poor storytelling never got me excited to see what the next adventure might bring.
This long-awaited sequel is similar to RPGs like ELEX and The Technomancer. It’s a mid-budget competitor that wants to be a top-selling BioWare game but doesn’t have the necessary resources or expertise. King’s Bounty 2 may be a little less ambitious than the other two. It doesn’t attempt to do anything crazy and sticks to the basics. Despite the camera’s general glitchiness and the story cutscenes that were teleported in, I felt like 1C developers had taken on too much.
One thing is inconsistent with the voice acting. One of the three characters that I was able to play, Katherine the sorceress, is a pleasant timbre. She has an aristocratic, high-class delivery. Some of the random NPCs scattered around the world sound like they just grabbed someone new to the mic and gave them a script. If the distractingly poor performances are any indication, it’s more like that. These moments are distracting from worldbuilding.
As with everything in the story, characters are introduced abruptly. You’re constantly ping-ponging between clues, with very little space for anyone to build relationships, let alone individual ones. Although there were some surprises, it was worth the wait. However, the motivations of the leaders and factions were presented with little nuance so not much emotional impact was made. It’s almost as if all the effort went into setting up the scene and little was put into the story and cast.
This fantasy world 1C created is quite impressive for a project of this size.
It’s a shame because the fantasy world 1C created is quite impressive for a project of this scale. Some graphics look a little dated, including the lighting and animations of creatures. It is not up to the standards of a game as old as The Witcher 3 (6 years). They’ve chosen an art direction that is just stylized enough that it didn’t bother my eyes that much. Zooming in on individual units shows a lot more detail, especially for the larger monsters. I also liked how increasing a squad’s veterancy would visually improve their equipment. Although large areas of the map may feel monotonous, a lot of it is just green hills. However, it’s filled with interesting lore bits like discarded notes or history tomes.
It would be so much easier to get around if it weren’t so painful. Your default running speed is slow enough that it can be very irritating. There’s also a walk button, but not a sprint. It’s hard to believe anyone would want this country to be travelled through at a slower pace than it is. Although you do get a horse very early in your career, the controls are clunky and the horse is limited to walking speed in larger cities. The animation that it uses to move around also freezes you in place. This was frustrating at times.
Here’s a quick recap for those who haven’t played King’s Bounty before. The games combine turn-based strategy and role-playing. A player controls a hero in a fantasy world. He or she drags a group of soldiers and creatures around combat. The hero is not required to enter the battlefield when a battle happens, but the army does the heavy lifting. You can buy more units, including soldiers or creatures, from cities and towns all over the world.
King’s Bounty II uses a third-person perspective, unlike the two-dimensional top down games of the past. Although the battles are still turn-based, top-down affairs, exploration takes place in real-time and includes finding treasures and quests. King’s Bounty 2 could be mistaken for a game from the Gothic series if one glances at it.
There are ups and downs to the new perspective. The upside is that cities and towns have become more lively than a place for soldiers. This change does slow down the pace of the game. The game is slow-paced due to a lot of cut scenes and dialogue. Additionally, the various treasures in the world can be a little boring. The majority of stuff in the barrels and chests are useless junk that can only be sold to merchants. It is difficult to find equipment, spells, and money.
Other problems arise from the new perspective. The graphics from the original games are still beautiful to look at, but King’s Bounty 2 looks a lot more like a game from the Xbox 360 than a modern RPG. The voice acting is weak and the production budget is small. The interface is even more confusing than it was before. There are some button shortcuts that can make things easier. It takes some time to get used to, but it is well worth it.
The turn-based tactical battles are what save King’s Bounty 2.
King’s Bounty 2’s salvation is its turn-based tactical battles. There are some difficulties, especially when you play a magic build early in the game. Once you get the hang of it, they can be quite good fights. Each army can contain up to five units. There are dozens of options, from human knights to the most gruesome undead to deadly mythical beasts. This allows for endless combinations. You can divide them into four factions: Order, Anarchy Power, Finesse and Finesse. While you will want to stick with one faction for the best synergies, there are other ways to make your character more faction-agnostic. However, this may mean that you won’t be able to concentrate on one faction at their maximum potential.
There is an interesting twist to the talent tree. Higher-level talents are linked to ethical decisions that you make in the main story as well as side quests. When given the option to complete a mission in multiple ways, Finesse will prevail over Power to unlock the most powerful magic spells. This is actually a better choice in theory than it is in practice. Finesse options are usually the best choice unless you don’t want to risk your life for the sake of a challenge. Anarchy vs Order often boils down to a mustache-twirling villain versus a righteous hero. It would have been nice to have seen more complexity and nuance, which could have made it more difficult to make decisions.
This is where things got awkward. There are only so many battles and so much treasure in the whole world. This means that you can’t grind down weaker enemies to gain experience or better gear if your stuck. Some sections felt like I was going side-by-side looking for fights I could win with my current level of power. This means that you can technically “game over” if all your units are lost and you don’t have the money to buy new ones. King’s Bounty 2 allows you to save anywhere, at any time. This is more of an issue theoretically. It’s also a good example of the few ill-conceived design decisions.
King’s Bounty 2 has a feeling that I keep returning to: It’s fine. Sometimes, that bothers me more than if it was really broken or flawed in any way. Tactical battles are a big deal. I would have been happier if there were just a few interesting combat encounters and some flavor text. The tedious work required to get to the best parts is a drag. I could not muster any enthusiasm, even though I tried my hardest. If you are really interested in the story, I would not advise anyone to skip it.