Overall - 90%
King's Bounty 2 is everything turn-based fans have been screaming out for. The traditional RPG elements are executed to near perfection. The combat is challenging and engaging from start to finish. The story is dark, heartwarming, and impactful. Put simply, this game has everything.
Building on a franchise that set its roots in the early 90s is no easy feat, but that’s exactly what 1C Entertainment hopes to do with the release of King’s Bounty 2, a combination of real-time RPG with turn-based combat and a unique army management system.
The modern RPG has long shied from the turn-based tactical approach of yesteryear, instead opting to modernize everything with flashy real-time whatevers and gizmos. However, as these reinventions of the classic formula continue to cast a shadow over the turn-based roots of my youth, I await that shining beacon of light, that one game brave enough to admit that turn-based is just better. I know how corny that sounds but there’s nothing more I crave than a fantastic turn-based RPG, and a fantastic turn-based RPG is exactly what I’ve been playing.
King’s Bounty 2 Review
It only took a few moments alongside my trusty steed to notice just how massive a leap this game is. Seldom does a franchise evolve in such a meaningful and fantastical way – think the early days of the Grand Theft Auto franchise or the incredible leaps of The Witcher 3. King’s Bounty 2 is as big an evolution for 1C Entertainments strategy fueled RPG as any we’ve seen before. The older games featured a predominantly isometric style perspective with visuals closer to that of a cartoon than a realistic depiction of a high fantasy world. King’s Bounty 2 throws players into an absolutely gorgeous third-person game world, packed to the brim with charm and character. While its visuals and environments have seen a massive overhaul, the core features of the franchise remain strong.
King’s Bounty 2 is a gentle mix of RPG and strategy. Controlling the main character in third-person, you walk through bustling towns, explore spooky graveyards, and loot chests and coffers aplenty. It has everything a fantasy RPG promises and delivers, and while much of this style is very familiar, it’s the nature of the main character and the combat that sees King’s Bounty 2 carve its own unique niche within the RPG space.
The main character itself never actually fights. You can find legendary equipment, learn powerful spells, and buff your allies, but you’re always on the outskirts of combat, watching from afar as your carefully designed army massacres everything in its path. The core combat mechanic of King’s Bounty 2 is a combination of tabletop style turn-based combat and modern strategy unit management. You can hire an impressive roster of troops, everything from gargoyles and eagles to vicious wolves and plump dwarves with flamethrowers. Each unit belongs to a specific style of play, levels up, unlocks new skills, and brings different strengths and weaknesses to your army.
As the general of your very own death squad, you need to make sure you’re prepared for anything. Hire some heavily armored cavalry to get behind enemy lines and take out the mages before a meteor drops from the sky. Recruit some shielded dwarves to tank your frontlines while your archers dwindle enemy numbers from the rear. It has all the complex strategy of the large-scale RTS games of today but in a smaller, more personal, and more immersive package that is as rewarding and exciting from the first minute to the last.
Each battle fought is unique. Between the combination of enemy troops, the abilities available to the enemy general, and the battle maps that are a perfect representation of the real-time counterparts, you’re constantly on your toes. Players will constantly be adapting to each challenge thrown their way, but don’t be fooled; King’s Bounty 2 can be brutally difficult at times.
As your troops increase in level and learn new skills, so does the main character. There are four main paths of progress – Anarchy, Order, Finesse, and Power – core principles that are etched into the very society of the game. These core values are tied directly to different types of troops, but it’s not simply a matter of choosing the best of everything; your characters choices will dramatically impact the options available.
During these grand adventures, you will often have to make a choice. These choices are tied into the aforementioned system, creating an intriguing and constant moral dilemma as you weigh up the potential consequences of your actions with the benefit, or lack of, to your army. A friend asks you to charge the gates of a castle to save a loved one, while another is offering a squad of highly trained Death Knights if you take another route. What do you do? Do you make the right choice? The greedy choice? What makes the right choice, the right choice? It’s a very interesting system that will constantly having you question every decision you make.
King’s Bounty 2 is flooded with choices, more than I cared to count. Some are massive, altering the very world you’re fighting to save, while others merely alter the lives of a small hamlet, or the fate of two dead lovers looking to rekindle the flame in the afterlife. Every road, every river, everything leads to something, somewhere new and exciting, new quests, new rewards, new stories, the scope of the game world is matched by the quality and character of the content hidden within.
Visually, the transition to this much grander project is near flawless in execution. The world of Nostria is beautiful from coast to coast, but some areas of the game didn’t quite make the same leap. The user-interface has issues throughout. I was about 20 hours into the game before more tutorial prompts started to appear, making that introduction to the core mechanics rather brutal. Trying to inspect troops and abilities has a similar problem, with prompts appearing and disappearing in a way that just becomes frustrating. Having to navigate a near endless inventory pool to find out what that last quest reward was; it wasn’t fun at the start, and it was definitely less fun by the end.
The RPG shell will likely fool some, but King’s Bounty 2 is a game of patience at its very core. The battles are slow, methodical, strategical, and much can be said for the rest of the game. You will constantly discover chests, caches, interesting characters, and a million and one things to distract you from your current goal. Just note that all of this is at a very slow pace. You dismount your horse (slowly), walk over to the loot (slowly), grab the loot, and then return to your horse and mount it (slowly). If you’re the kind of player to truly appreciate the level of effort that goes into every little detail of a game world of this size, the kind of player that likes to stop and smell the roses, King’s Bounty 2 is a bouquet feast for the senses. For those with a little less patience, that feeling of awe could quickly be overshadowed by frustration.
King’s Bounty 2 is everything turn-based fans have been screaming out for. The traditional RPG elements are executed to near perfection. The combat is challenging and engaging from start to finish. The story is dark, heartwarming, and impactful. Put simply, this game has everything.
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