Written by  :  Joakim Kihlman (275)
Written on  :  Jan 21, 2009
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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If only all ripoffs where this good

The Good

King's Bounty is a game that is easy to learn but hard to master, at least when playing on harder levels. If you have played any game in the Heroes of Might and Magic series, you will feel quite familiar with the controls.

King's Bounty is basically Heroes of Might and Magic but with more focus on the RPG-elements and with the strategic portion of the game removed in benefit of a focus on tactics and adventuring. And it works brilliantly. The best part of Heroes of Might and Magic was to explore the maps and search for treasures and tough monsters to slay. The resource management and defence of the home town was, for me at least, at times more annoying than entertaining.

In King's Bounty you are free to run around and explore as much as you want, if you're strong enough. There are an abundance of quests to take on and monster armies to battle. Oh, and frogs to marry, of course.

Yes, you read it right. In King's Bounty you can marry several different girls. Among them a dwarf, a zombie and a frog. They all give you different benefits, and although it sounds a bit silly it actually works quite well and allows you to choose your wife carefully in order to get just the right bonus for your army. Do you like to use undead? Then the zombie girl is the obvious choice for you.

The first choice you make is whether you want to be a warrior, mage or a paladin (which is a little of both). From then on you are free to build your character in whatever direction you desire as in any RPG. You choose the items (and wife) that benefits your army the most and you fight armies and solve quests in order to get stronger. It's all very simple and very addictive.

The system for hiring armies is another simple but clever thing about this game. A warrior can recruit more armies because he has a high "leadership" rating and he gains lots of "leadership" as he levels up. A mage has less "leadership" and hence has to rely on powerful spells rather than mighty armies. The different armies (there are quite a lot of them) you hire from castles, taverns, villages and such all around the map. Part of the fun is finding new places with better armies to recruit. But beware, there are often limited amounts of the better armies.

You also use something called "rage" in battle. You accumulate rage when your armies are engaging in combat with the enemy, and then you use this "rage" to set loose four different "spirits of rage" on the battlefield. These spirits all have different abilities and they also level up and grow stronger the more you use them. It's quite ingenious and it opens up a lot of lovely tactical options that allows you to deal with even overwhelming odds if you play your cards right.

The graphics aren't anything special, but the landscapes do look inviting and makes you want to explore the world, which consists of several continents full of castles and villages and forests and mountains and islands to explore. There is lots to do in this game and you'll have fun doing it.

And last but not least, there are boss fights in this game. I love it. Early on you get to fight both a giant turtle and the Kraken (a giant squid). Excellent.

The Bad

Although this is a great game in many ways, it still has some annoying flaws. The map function, for example, is not that great. It is easy to run around in circles, especially in the beginning, because you just can't find that person you're supposed to talk to since his house isn't on the map. You have to place map points yourself, which can be quite a chore.

Although the landscapes look inviting the character designs are quite boring. Much clich├ęs and very little personality, sadly. It doesn't make that much of a difference, but it's definitely a shame.

The game crashes from time to time, at least it does for me. This is hugely annoying, of course, but if you save often you should be ok.

Some of the quests are very dull. You get a lot of requests to simply go and talk to someone and then come back. Easy cash, but in the end a waste of time since they're no fun to do. You can, however, ignore the more boring requests if you want to so it's not a huge problem.

Although the system for hiring armies is ingenious it can be a bit tedious travelling back and forth to various parts of the map to refill your favourite units. This is a problem that Heroes of Might and Magic V solved quite well with the summoning spell. Maybe something like that would be something to consider for a future patch or expansion?

The Bottom Line

It is, in many ways, a plagiarism of Heroes of Might and Magic (even the music is similar). But there are much worse games to plagiarise and King's Bounty has enough originality to stand on its own. The focus on tactics and RPG-elements rather than resource-management and strategy makes this a fresh and fun alternative for anyone looking for something decidedly familiar but yet surprisingly fresh.