King’s Bounty II Preview
Over 30 years ago, King’s Bounty debuted on computers when we were still figuring out just what a computer can do. While unfamiliar with the original (I was 5 years old and my dad was the only one who understood MS DOS) its official sequel, by 1C Entertainment, got me curious.
What does a strategic RPG from a franchise that some say eventually paved the way for Heroes of Might & Magic look like in 2021? What lofty ideas or innovations will be brought forth that hasn’t been already covered in the past 3 decades of fantasy RPGs? My inquiring mind had to know.
My initial impression is King’s Bounty II has big ambitions but is almost done wrong by them. It’s evident 1C Entertainment has put a lot of love in so far but specific design choices can sometimes hinder rather than immerse. Other bits seem symptomatic with a lot of RPG goers being accustomed to certain AAA trappings that King’s Bounty wants to channel in its presentation.
You start your adventure by choosing from a few differentiated heroes that have unique passives and abilities to employ in battle. From there you awaken in a dungeon, a prisoner of a snowy fort. A gruff guard barks for you to get ready. Today you’re free.
I admit I didn’t expect Kings Bounty II to zoom in enough to feel like a third person RPG akin to Dragon Age, complete with dialog. But it’s here that the seams of that ambition began to crack open.
Voice acting is wooden at best, and is made worse by stiff animations that make these detailed characters feel like marionettes.
You follow the guard, recruit some troops to fight for you, and then let loose to explore the world on horseback. As you traverse the land you’ll find treasures and even take up side quests. Some will involve finding a few macguffins or vanquishing a big bad. I enjoyed this aspect of the third person exploration. It harkened moments back to the early Witcher games and Skyrim.
When it comes to combat, that’s where you’ll find King’s Bounty II has differentiated the most. Unlike action RPGs you won’t be mashing buttons. Battlefields happen in the space where you encounter enemies but are transformed into a hexagonal grid. On this grid you will deploy various troops under your command. Your hero, still present, leads from the back of the battlefield.
Craving More in Battle
You and the enemy take turns repositioning and attacking one another. Units sometimes have special abilities or your hero can use unique effects to turn the tide.
While I’m a sucker for a good board game approximation, my hours spent I was often left wanting more from the combat. Most early battles felt a bit too easy, requiring often minimal effort. The animations of units colliding in battle are so-so with spells being oddly lackluster, taking me out of the tension. Most battles simply displayed a few units running an attack animation and then falling over.
It made me wish it had a bit of the flair in other hexagonal games like Civilization 6, where barbarians will clobber the last unit standing, or ships bombard each other only to sink in the ocean. King’s Bounty II lacks a certain oomph.
All in all, there’s some good RPG meat to King’s Bounty II. While it stumbles in certain areas, there’s so much to see and do, that I can overlook the blemishes in voice acting and animations as I chase down more recruits to serve me on my quest.
Whether the entire game can stand with the giants that came before it, only time will tell. But for now I’d temper your expectations.
King’s Bounty II releases August 21 on most platforms, with the Nintendo Switch following shortly after. If you’re a fan of a turn-based battler in a fantasy-rich setting, definitely keep your eye on it.