King’s Bounty II has evolved the series bigger and better than ever with outstanding visuals, a decent story and enhanced turn-based combat.
Kings Bounty II is a turn-based fantasy RPG from 1C Entertainment that released on August 24, 2021 on Steam, Xbox, PlayStation and Switch. Despite there being several Kings Bounty games dating back to the 90’s, this is the first true numbered sequel in the series. This game is fully voice acted with amazingly detailed 3D characters and jaw-dropping environments, and it puts you right down into the thick of the battlefields of what has previously only been an isometric gaming experience. The more I played, the bigger the smile on my face as I felt like I was completely immersed in the adventures I’ve been having over the last 20+ years.
Even though Heroes of Might and Magic III in 1999 was my very first foray into these turn-based RPG games, King’s Bounty was the title that started these fantasy adventures in 1990. Albeit, Heroes of Might and Magic may be more well known amongst gamers today, King’s Bounty games have been favourites of mine since 1C Entertainment purchased the rights to the franchise, releasing King’s Bounty: The Legend in 2008. My brother-in-law Justin and I have played every game in the series since then, from Armored Princess, Crossworlds and Warriors of the North, to the most recent title, 2014’s King’s Bounty: Dark Side.
However now 7 years later, we have the true sequel King’s Bounty II which has both Justin and I giggling in gamer glee. If you’re a fan of the series, there’s a lot to love in this evolution of the series. With its new third person view, I think newcomers will enjoy it too but temper expectations. While it may have taken inspiration from the likes of The Witcher, it’s not as polished or RPG-rich. But if you’ve come from playing the older games, the new viewpoint, voice acting, and amazingly detailed environments will be welcome sights as darkness descends over the world of Nostria. Conspiracies, sabotage, and necromancy are overshadowing the country. But maybe a saviour – the kingdom’s last hope – is already here, to fight back and finally restore peace and order in Nostria!
You get to choose one of three heroes to play with – Aivar the fighter, Katharine the magician and Elisa the paladin. I usually play as a paladin in these fantasy/medieval games, but this time I went with Aivar. Each of these heroes is fully voice acted and as I heard Aivar’s first conversations, I recognised veteran voice actor Doug Cockle with a slightly different tone than his previous work in The Witcher games, Victor Vran and others. Upon starting the game at Fort Crucis, I was taken aback by the detailed conversation happening between Aivar and a guard, as I found myself locked in a jail cell. The detail of the characters was amazing, but it was almost jarring coming from a 2D isometric game to all this splendour, in a good way though.
As I walked around the barracks and started talking to people, I was told some spearmen would join me on my journey. If you haven’t played a game in the series before, your character has command over units of troops. Your character doesn’t fight themselves, other than using scrolls or casting spells. Levelling, upgrading, and equipping your hero will increase the magic and strength of your units. I was given a unit of three spearmen to travel with me, a horse, and then sent to a vendor to purchase a unit of three dogs of war. The number of actual troops within a unit is significantly lower than in previous games where you could have 200 spearmen, 300 archers and so on. Numbers are intentionally low to get players to try different unit types as you come across them in your travels, but there are further limitations with ideals and morale.
As soon as I stepped out into the wilderness, I was blown away by not only the incredibly detailed environment but also the realisation that I was playing out the fantasies of the previous games. Now I’m zoomed right into the action, and I am the penultimate hero of the story. Similarities with previous games became more apparent as I headed down the path, turned a corner and came across an altar. Interacting with these altars and obelisks can only be done once only and they provide different bonus stats. Warfare provides extra damage for your units, magic power increases the strength and duration of your spells, arcane knowledge increases your mana useable in battles, and leadership allows you to field more units.
Each character you play in King’s Bounty II has a set ideal alignment and perks related to their profession. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock talent points which will allow you to further specialise your chosen character to your playstyle. These talents though are tied to the game’s ideal system made up of four distinct ideals – Order, Anarchy, Power and Finesse. As you come across quests, you’ll need to decide which ideal to pursue, and this decision will affect the story and quest availability as you adventure further.
For example, my first side quest involved some Dwarves whose livelihood was being threatened by some humans. I could choose to side with the Dwarves (an order choice) or go with the Humans (an Anarchy choice). I chose to side with the Dwarves and gained order alignment points. However, going down one path will have consequences for the other ideals to the point you may not be able to do certain quests or access areas. If you chose Elisa as your starting character, she starts with three Order points so didn’t get a choice with the Dwarves quest and could only attack the humans.
Units of troops are also aligned with these ideals and the morale of your team will be affected if you have too many polarising unit ideals. You can preview the unit’s ideals prior to purchasing them, and you can also store some units away which gives you some versatility and variety when facing various groups of foes. If you group same ideal units together, you can earn a morale bonus that can give you an extra turn. Conversely, if there’s too bad a mix of ideals, a drop in morale may mean you skip a turn. Morale of troops is shown as a face icon in their unit details – green smile for positive, grey for neutral and red for loss of morale. It was easy to just stack units of all the same morale, but if you want to diversify and put some skeletons in your human crew as an example, you can vary the effect of morale by spending talent points to negate the differences somewhat.
The turn-based combat has always been key to the King’s Bounty series. The battlefield is hex-based, as is customary with most turn-based combat games. Units of troops are represented in single hexes, and they can be placed in your zone of the battlefield pre-battle. Placing melee units on the front lines will help protect your ranged units and healers from melee fights. There are also attacks of opportunity where, if an enemy tries to move away from your current hex, your unit will get a free attack, and units will counterattack when hit for the first time. The battle music is very cool too. So far so good in King’s Bounty II.
Rather than fighting on generic placeholder battlefields, you will fight in an isometric view of the field you’re situated in prior to commencing battle. This gives weight to the immersion of fighting at that location in the world at the time you encountered it. Line of sight matters, as does elevation. The order of turns is determined by every unit’s initiative stat, though this isn’t shown visually well enough when you’re on the battlefield. You can inspect enemy unit strength pre-battle, but once you’re in battle, it’s hard to know who is going next, at least for the first turn. Your hero’s leadership stat will determine how many can join your army, though you can place more in reserve. Healing of units can be done during battle but it’s post battle that was of interest to me.
In previous Kings Bounty games, if you lost some units in the previous battle, you’d limp to the next battle and must fight with a lesser strength army. In Kings Bounty II, post-fight you will be shown a summary of the battle, however you’re given an opportunity to heal and resurrect units at a cost of gold. You can press H on each unit that requires healing or hold down H to heal them all in one hit. I was able to heal up my Dogs of War that almost got wiped out in battle, and now they’re back to full strength. You’re limited by how much gold you have so healing every unit every battle may not be viable as your army grows, but it means you don’t always have to go back to a merchant to replenish your army after every battle, which is an awesome feature.
As you explore the world further, despite it feeling more open world, it’s still the linear branching progression like previous games. There are many items that you can loot where you may find items for your character to equip, but most items I found were just trash sold for gold. I didn’t mind this considering I could heal up my armies after each battle, plus the cost of buying items later can get very costly. There are also some cool puzzles to solve that can reveal hidden treasures.
One such example is after defeating some wolves, there was a statue nearby where the arms were broken off. I wouldn’t have taken notice of this had it not been for Aivar mentioning it as I walked past it. I found one arm lying next to the statue, and the other was at a nearby house. Once I placed the arms back onto the statue, Aivar said “it doesn’t look right, one arm should be up.” Moving one of the arms then revealed a treasure chest close by. It’s these kinds of encounters that made exploring every corner of the world exciting and rewarding for your time.
One major gripe I had after several hours of King’s Bounty II was the character walking speed. Your main character moves at a gentle jog, but I felt like I wanted to sprint faster. Usually you would hold down shift to sprint, but this makes you walk instead. This was acceptable in the first couple of areas as, had I sprinted around any faster, I dare say I would have missed looting many items and could have missed some of the early puzzles. But once I got to the second zone, I really felt how slow Aivar walked. Using a horse mount therefore becomes mandatory for outdoor exploration, but even that doesn’t move terribly fast. Furthermore, when you are mounted, you can’t interact with the any lootable items or converse with npcs. You must constantly dismount, so in the end I would just park the horse (I called him Roach), run around and collect everything nearby, jump back on Roach and then move onto the next section. Thankfully there are road steles which permit fast travel between other steles you’ve discovered; you just need to find them first.
Overall, King’s Bounty II has evolved the series bigger and better than ever with outstanding visuals, a decent story with heaps of side quests and enhanced turn-based combat elements. Exploring the world up close and personal has been a joy with heaps of loot and puzzles to discover. There’s incredible detail everywhere you look, from the different environment biomes and underground caverns, to the hex-based battle zones utilising terrain and obstacles from those exact locations, not placeholder combat boards. I’m excited to try playing as the other two hero characters and am looking forward to what additional content could be added to the game in future updates.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis