Chimera: It is told of an imaginary monster that spat flames and had the head of a lion, the belly of a goat and the tail of a dragon. Or what is the same thing, a being created through pieces of other beings. Today our game fits that description perfectly. Today we travel back in time to bring back one of the fathers of the strategic medieval fantasy genre. With this sequel, we salute the rebirth of King’s Bounty II.
From 1C Publishing, they were clear from the start. This sequel should be much more than that. First of all, the term sequel would not be entirely correct, despite a huge “II” on the cover. We’re talking about a rebirth of that franchise that Heroes of Might & Magic saw in the face in the nineties.
First of all, the story is completely new. The kingdom of Nostria is facing the plague, dark magic capable of destroying everything in its path. The typical. We will have to put an end to this. But … who are we? Here we can choose between three characters. The warrior Aivar, the magician Katherine and the paladin Elisa. The choice is not as critical as it may seem, as it is unlikely to change the story beyond the circumstances surrounding our protagonist at the beginning of the adventure. And in terms of his abilities … luckily we can improve our character to our liking, as despite my choice as Aivar, I had no problem learning and performing powerful spells in combat.
First of all, we can say that King’s Bounty II is made up of two big blocks: exploration and combat. The first has undergone a very heavy renovation, abandoning the isometric camera to offer us a third person. Yes, very good The Witcher or Assassin’s Creed. Combat continues to be a turn-based strategy in which our character becomes the commander without directly fighting at any point. Something really cool and unusual for me. A bit like Dalinar from Stormlight (Brandon Sanderson).
The world of Nostria is presented to us as a large sandpit. But be careful, it’s not what it seems. The movements are really limited and prevent us from doing such simple actions as jumping. “You see that 12-inch fence … you won’t be able to cross it even if you’ve just killed two dragons.” This is not a whim, as the game, despite being an open world, is fairly linear in evolution. This is because of the difficulty.
The game will make it clear to us what the main missions are or are, but at the same time the map will be filled with symbols in the form of secondary ones that are vital to improve our troops and make money. We’ll get stuck no matter how good a strategist you are without passing most high schools. Therefore, if we do not want to lose our units and find ourselves in a difficult situation, we will not only be restricted by the terrain levels, but it will also be the fighting in strategic areas that will keep us from passing.
Maybe that’s what exhausted me most about the title. King’s Bounty II is a terribly corsetted game where there is no way we can farm and where resources as basic as gold (which allows us to buy units) are limited. So in order to move forward we need to put in a strong trial and error process. Load the classic pre-fight savegame when we see we’ve screwed it up. Here I have missed a little more information about the route. That said, you can’t give me an open world in which to shamefully punish me for leaving the corral, which forces me to make some really annoying detours, at a turtle speed that becomes unbearable when entering cities as our horse sink will be, already slower, rhythm.
I see the studio’s intention to create a more immersive experience by leveraging this chimera of genres. But the truth is, exploring an excellent fight puts a heavy strain on it. Here, for example, the items that we find, and there will be many, will be largely useless except to sell them as trash for a few coins. You will explore to perform secondary tasks (usually fights) and sell trash.
Last but not least, since there is more than enough reason to bring this game to the top of the genre, I want to tell you something about its narrative, about how the world is changing according to our choices. I really liked the way our character developed. Here we will have countless dialogues, but in none of them we have to choose between several lines of text. The Bethesda Formula is great, but the truth is, new suggestions are welcome. In King’s Bounty II, our actions will not only forge our hero, but also change the world around us. For example, it will be very common to have to decide how to solve a mission, be it main or side mission. All of this always under four ideals, two of which are opposed to each other. For example, we have order vs. lawlessness and power vs. cunning. One example I remember is when I spotted a traitor in the king’s troops, we could choose to hand him over for execution (order) or to take bribes and let him go (anarchy), which of course had its (anecdotal) sequence in the future.
But the ideals of the game go beyond decision making. Our skill tree is again divided into the four ideals, and our troops will always be identified by one of them. Causing problems of coexistence when, for example, we mix archers of order with anarchic ghouls. This will lower morale and cause trouble in battle, and this is where we don’t want trouble. Hence, we need to be careful when mixing our units as we are a surefire way to create different armies based on a single ideal.
As I expected, I was enchanted by the fight. Not only that, it also intrigued me. It was like rediscovering Fire Emblem a few years later. Yes, big words. The fight takes place alternately on a field of hexagonal fields, on which each unit has several actions per turn, be it abilities, attacks or movements. Terrain will be another point to consider, as will our enemy. We will have structures that provide coverage as well as bumps and complexities in motion. You need to learn to read the terrain to gain as much advantage in combat as possible and choose carefully the equipment to wear. For example, in areas with lots of slopes, it never hurts to have flying units, be they giant eagles or dragons.
The units are amazing. There are many very different types of each other, each with its strengths and weaknesses, with different attack ranges and of course unique. We will have real madness from the dragons mentioned above to the undead, humans, elementals, trolls, wolves, bears … We can buy them all from the different vendors, although we will unlock better units in some ideals depending on our choices and the different side quests. Don’t expect to be able to buy a kite the first time you swap it out.
Our troops can reach up to three tiers in total, and as long as at least one member of the battalion survives, we can replenish them (for gold) at the end of the encounter. The bad thing is when they completely destroy a unit, as it disappears and you have to go through the box to recruit new members from level 0. A real slut who at the same time creates that wonderful nervousness that we already enjoy in games like XCOM (José Luis DEP)
I already told you that our character does not intervene directly in battle other than giving orders. Which is not entirely true. Here we will not only have gold as currency, but also collect mana, thanks to which we (and with the necessary knowledge) will be able to memorize the spells that we find on paper and perform them at any time in battle. Some will be easier to learn and some will require us to be true wizards. The scrolls that we cannot remember can be used in battle by being consumed. Whether they are found or bought, the best thing to learn is to learn how to create our pages of the book and be able not only to brutalize our troops but, most importantly, to reduce the enemy. Either by weakening their defenses, poisoning them and calcining them.
The battles in this King’s Bounty II exceed a hundred and make each one unique, among other things due to the very different enemy groups. From the plague to bandits or beasts, undead or powerful wizards. A real miracle that makes me think … Was exploration really necessary when you had such a great fight? That said, a dialogue system and a market interface wouldn’t have been better, yes, games like Fire Emblem: Awakening come to mind again. I don’t mean that exploration has suffered badly, I just want to emphasize that it is a few notches below the quality of the fight.
Plus, to order, it wouldn’t have been bad to have next-generation versions. I enjoyed the title in Series X with the One version and, without looking bad, unlike the PC version, the differences can be said to be more than remarkable. With problems with textures as well as dragging distance on consoles, which seems ridiculous to me, the new generation has waited an inch of dust for titles that fulfill their potential.
The game is quite nice though, the replica of the world of Nostria is well executed, with moderately generic characters in terms of notoriety but with some pretty sophisticated equipment and unit models. The artistic range that the creatures carry is great, the cards they present perfectly capture the essence of the soldiers, from the creepy zombies to the ferocious battle dwarves. The animations are very colorful and we will be amazed when our troops destroy the enemy. The sound section doesn’t look bad either, with very typical and haunting songs taken from the manual of entertaining role-playing games. But most of all I was able to highlight the extraordinary battle noises, the clash of swords, the impact of projectiles on enemy bodies as well as the bursts of fire from the dragon that calcines everything in its path, it is a pleasure for him to hate.
King’s Bounty II is a long, deep and challenging game in which we have to learn to manage our army and overcome endless skirmishes. This not only brings us into the field, but also forging our hero based on our ideal of building a full fellowship with our troops and getting the most out of them in the face of the inevitable final battle. No doubt King’s Bounty II will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the genre, with games like Fire Emblem, Heroes of Might & Magic, and even XCOM.