King’s Bounty is a little-known, but fairly high-impact game series in the tactical RPG genre. The first game came out in 1990 and greatly influenced Ubisoft’s more well-known Heroes of Might and Magic series. However, the spiritual successor King’s Bounty: The Legend, is considered the first game in the series, with the second coming more than 13 years later. Read on in this review to find out if King’s Bounty II lives up to the standard of its predecessors.
In King’s Bounty II, the player can choose from three main characters corresponding to the game’s classes. Aivar, a warrior who can command more troops than the other classes, but is limited in his use of magic. Katherine, a sorceress who wields the game’s spells best, but cannot form a sizable army. The last character, Elisa, is a paladin who is more or less a combination of the other two classes and is also the most balanced. No matter which character you choose at the start of the game, she will find herself in a prison in the mountains where she was imprisoned for 6 months for the so-called poisoning of King Claudius of Nostria. However, the prince of the kingdom, Adrian, frees the protagonist to send him on a mission to save Nostria from a corruption called Blight.
The game’s story isn’t bad, but it’s not out of the ordinary either. This one is pretty simple, the protagonist is the “chosen one” who must travel far and wide to save the kingdom. Nothing special. But there are plenty of interesting moments, with the main quests having an intriguing and often mysterious narrative thread. Don’t expect a complex story full of plot twists and you won’t be disappointed with the story in King’s Bounty II.
The actual combat of the game is what differentiates the game from a simple RPG. It is tactical, the game features numerous troops, each with their own abilities, buffs, debuffs and bucket spells. But aside from the tactical combat, the rest of the gameplay is rudimentary, you can walk around, collect items and solve a few puzzles. These moments, however, make up more than three-quarters of the time spent in the game. Add to that the fact that the character controls as if it’s a game from 2011-2012, not 2021.
The skill tree system, or talents as they are called in the game, is relatively small. What is special is that many talents are hidden behind points associated with ideals. These are Order, Power, Anarchy and Finesse. In order to unlock many of the talents, the player will have to choose decisions throughout the game that correspond with these ideals.
A bonus point can also be given to the gameplay, also with reference to these ideals. If the player chooses an ideal in most of his decisions, the protagonist will automatically reject decisions that violate that ideal. It’s a pretty interesting mechanic and puts emphasis on the decisions the player makes, so the player has to be more careful with choices throughout the game.
Previous games in the series followed the character from an isometric perspective. King’s Bounty II makes use of a third-person camera, and this is considerably to the game’s disadvantage. Had the ratio of combat to exploration been more tilted towards combat, perhaps this would have been remedied. However, the majority of the game is spent travelling all over the place doing boring activities. Thus, it loses the essence of the gameplay that made the series famous.
The graphics in King’s Bounty II are particularly poor, and that’s an understatement. Character models are poorly animated, especially in the movement area, animations that don’t fit the year this game is released. But the game’s biggest problem graphically is the lip sync. It would be better if the characters didn’t open their mouths, their faces are already static during dialogue. Granted, the game’s cutscenes don’t suffer from this problem, but we shouldn’t be referring to them, but to the graphics during the game itself. Also, there are a lot of low resolution textures, especially on walls and plants, and compared to the high textures on armor and weapons, visually “it doesn’t look good”
The graphical effects that come from performing spells are decent, though. Compared to the other graphical components of the game, they are much better. Basically, the game doesn’t look like it was released 3 years after games like God of War or Red Dead Redemption, but 5-6 years before. True, the creative studio doesn’t have the number of employees as some big budget studios. But for about 50 developers, graphically the game is very limited.
The game’s music is exactly what you’d expect from an RPG set in a magical fantasy world. The ambient music you hear in the city or in the forest as you walk through it is just right. The soundtrack features epic tunes that are also appropriate to the world in which the game takes place, and the sounds of animals, and even the protagonist’s footsteps, come through very well.
Moving from soundtrack to dialogue, we jump off the cliff. The dialogue is particularly weak. The lines are poorly written, with no nuance or gravitas behind them, and the responses given back are mostly predictable. It also doesn’t help that, being an RPG, the majority of the game is made up of dialogue with unimportant NPCs that takes longer than it should.
When it comes to voice acting, the three main characters also hit the mark with the best voice actors. They give their interest with the audio presentation, the lines are narrated very well. My favorite was Katherine, whose voice actor did a very good job, her voice and lines were very enjoyable. But when the dialogue is what it is, the voice actors won’t rise to the level needed for a great experience either. As a result, the dialogue and voice acting of many of the characters in the game is disappointing.
Atmosphere is probably the only category that is totally to the game’s benefit. Most of the time this is due to the ambient sound I mentioned earlier. Nostria is an intriguing realm , full of activities that are interesting enough to make you want to know more about the game’s universe. Also, various scrolls are present, or more “hidden”, in the game world. They add a lot to the universe and therefore to the atmosphere of King’s Bounty II. For those who have the patience to look them up and read them, they draw you into the story and the various characters told in them.
In terms of in-game activities, side quests add almost zero to the game’s atmosphere. Not a few of them are simple fetch quests that serve no purpose. This seems more like a job you have to do, rather than one you want to do. More effort could have been put into the relationship between these and the game world, which could have definitely helped the atmosphere of the game.
King’s Bounty II isn’t a bad game, but its problem is that it tried to be something it’s not. It tried to provide a lively world full of interesting activities, while giving boring gameplay. It tried to provide mysterious characters and intrigue, but delivered disappointing dialogue. The tactical combat sections are enjoyable and fun, but also sparse and short. All in all, King’s Bounty II was released long after it was supposed to be released.
Our criteria at Games Row for rating games are as objective as can be. Of course, reviews are influenced (also) by personal experiences. So our ratings may not meet everyone’s expectations.