King’s Bounty 2 feels like it’s been a long time coming. There’s actually been quite a few entries in the series, but it’s all a bit hard to follow as the first game released way back in 1990, before the series was kickstarted in 2008 by King’s Bounty: The Legend.
King’s Bounty 2 is actually the follow-up to King’s Bounty: The Legend, so it’s technically a sequel that’s coming 13 years after the original game, not 31. I’ve no idea if the other games are necessary to play, but I’ve also no idea if The Legend is essential either, as I’ve not touched it.
Pick a side
Getting my hands on King’s Bounty 2, it took me a little while to work out what was going on due to all the politics, named characters being referenced, and all the random bits of lore chucked your way. Once you get to grips with all these details, it does seem to stand fairly well on its own, at least in terms of the story. You get to take control of one of three characters, and each one has their own motivations, history, and preferences, along with special abilities that influence how their army works in combat.
You see, King’s Bounty 2 is a turn-based tactics game, but it’s one where you wander between missions, puzzles, and battles on foot, like in a less strategic RPG. It means you get the chance to soak in a bit more of the world than normal, engage with random townsfolk, find treasure, and just feel a little bit more connected with the world of Nostria. It’s an interesting enough world too, with spires, towers, monsters and ruins all over the place. I just found it a little frustrating to traverse at times as your character is a bit slow, and your horse can’t always make it into certain areas.
Nostria itself is in deep trouble. Necromancers have cropped up all over the place, everyone’s corrupt, and other classic grimdark things threaten the realm. You’re one of the few who can rise up and help get things back on track, and to do that you have to guide an army across the world to right the wrongs and throwdown against the undead, wolves, and the odd elemental spirit. You know, the usual fantasy stuff.
battles take place on a hexagonal grid, often filled with bits of rubble and things to take cover behind. You move units near to enemies, they slap each other around a bit, the next turn happens, and so on. You can also choose to use one of the unit’s special moves, which might be healing or flaming arrows, or even take an action yourself. What you can do is dictated by your hero, but you can learn new skills as you level up and unlock new talents, or learn new spells thanks to scrolls you find dotted about.
A lot of the actual strategy comes before the fights, in my experience. Which units you choose to field, the spells you learn, and your own equipment and talents all impact what’s going to happen. You need to try and remember the strengths and weaknesses of both your own units and your enemies, and make sure that your army is as powerful as possible by managing your mana, which you can get more of by finding it strewn across this magical land, and your money, which you earn in fights and quests.
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail
It’s all about making sure you’re fully prepared for basically anything beforehand, and then the battles are usually more about making sure you get the first attack each time and trying to keep your ranged units away from the rather hungry bear that’s eyeing them up for lunch. It’s fun, but it also takes a while to properly get started. There are also some incredibly entertaining animations with monsters flailing about, and the occasional ragdoll body getting flung across the battlefield.
The story and characters, on the other hand, are merely okay. I wasn’t in love with the writing, nor did I find myself enamoured of any of the people I met along the way, but it did the job. In fact, that’s kind of how I feel about King’s Bounty 2 on the whole so far. There’s still time for a bit of polish to be added here and there, and it might be that fans of the series will feel differently to me, but I thought the whole experience was good enough, without being astounding. It all feels a bit run-of-the-mill in places, although I did thoroughly enjoy the mix of turn-based battles and the exploration. There’s really not many games that offer that.