King's Bounty: The Legend

Killzone 2 will astonish you with its deferred rendering engine that utilizes multi-sampled anti-aliasing to produce unbelievable graphical fidelity for a home console. Burnout Paradise will have you sweating at a blistering 60 frames-per-second as you soar over skyscrapers crashing through billboards (queue 80s rock DJ!) Madworlds protagonist, Jack, wants to violently seduce you as he chainsaws his way throughout a blood-spattered--Frank Miller enthused--world justly confirming that it really is a mad mad Madworld he lives in. But recently I was plucked out of the hardcore gaming stratosphere to be reminded that gaming isn’t always about boiling your blood with crazy gameplay antics or pumping your adrenaline over its procedural merit.

King’s Bounty: The Legend is here to say it is ok to slip back to a more classic style of gameplay and focus on strategy while having a good time. It's ironic that I initially found King's Bounty: The Legend to be precisely the game I wasn’t looking for. For the last two years I've been feverishly pushing forward at 180 mph playing everything I can get my hands on. To name a few, I've played through to completion F.E.A.R. 2, Mass Effect (five times), Far Cry 2, Fallout 3 (twice), Dead Space, Metal Gear Solid 4, Grand theft Auto 4 (twice), leveled a Priest to 80 in Warcraft obtaining 4/5 of my Tier 7 gear, and really just about everything else imaginable. I consume games and love every minute of it (hence the name of this blog). But after spending some times with the game I realized I almost missed out on something special and now I'm here to inform my fellow gamers they might be too.

King's Bounty will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played the Hero's of Might and Magic series. That is to say it's a turn-based tactical RPG that takes place in a fantasy setting. You control one of three character classes (Fighter, Paladin or Mage) in real-time, traversing a map overflowing with treasures, monsters, and NPCs. These NPC bestow quests upon you which push you farther and farther into the recesses of the world. Sometimes you'll just fall into a wacky situation--I once chatted up a stump only to discover he ailed of distraught and was in dire need of help. How could one resist!

As you progress through the game your character will gain new abilities through the now ubiquitous skill tree, obtain new weapons and armor from merchants and treasure chests, and venture off to new lands. These lands are segmented by portals that whisk you to-and-fro consisting of super-green grasslands, dank mines, eerie swamps, chilly ice-lands, gloomy forests and scorching dungeons.

The turn-based warfare takes place in a completely separate battle-screen that essentially resembles a chessboard. Though this might sound a bit dowdy, the board is modified throughout the game to vary movement strategies.

I do not remember the last time I played a game that possessed such a vibrant, colorful, hand-drawn palette. When I saw the menu screen for the first time I just sat there staring at the beautifully drawn image analyzing its absurd level of detail. Unfortunately, once in the game, the game loses that level of impressiveness and moves to something more similar to the Warcraft series. But that’s not to say it isn’t a good looking game. Although clearly inspired by Blizzard’s work, there does seem to be just enough of a departure from it to tell the two apart. Overall it is a very visually appealing game.

If there is going to be a downside to King’s Bounty it will probably be that it really does nothing new in this particular genre, and some might perceive it as borrowing heavily from the above mentioned Heroes of Might and Magic series. The interesting twist is that the original King’s Bounty came out in 1991—four years before the Heroes of Might and Magic series. For me personally this was never an issue, but I suspect that this will be a source of contention for some.

The dialog that carries the story can be a bit monotonous at times as its standard fantasy fare. It’s worth noting that the Russian developer, Katauri Interactive, tried to inject some comedic value into the dialog to liven things up.

With King Bounty I realized I was letting a small portion of the gamer in me miss out on something special just because I was caught up in the mix of things. If you’re looking for something to change that up you should give this game a chance--it’s worth your $30.


Mark said...

It just hit me that this game would make a fantastic port to the consoles if they followed in the design footsteps of Civ Revolutions.

Steve said...

I loved this game when it was out for the Sega Genesis. I'm sure it's much more complex now, but it sounds the spirit and fun remain in this new version. This should definitely be ported to the consoles.

Mark said...

Hi Steve! :)

I'm curious how well the original played on the Genesis, and just how diferent it was from the remake we have today. Was it very similar in design?

Mal said...

I hope you sent that ArsTechnica guy a fruit basket or something; it seems like since that fateful day (or maybe before?) you've just gotten deeper and deeper into the world of gaming journalism.

GL man.

Mark said...

Welcome Mal!

I'm very thankful and consider myself very fortunate that Ben (Kuchera) asked me to write for Ars Technica a few times. It's been an amazing experience in so many ways, but most of all it just been a lot of fun to do.

I have no idea where things are heading--I'm just holding on tight and going along with it.