After starting life back in 1990 and seeing multiple spin-off releases over the years, the famed strategy title King’s Bounty finally has a bona fide numbered sequel. King’s Bounty II is out now on PC and consoles, bringing with it an experience that’s packed to the brim with strategic finesse but that can also be frustratingly difficult. Believe me, this might be a rough ride if you’re new to the genre.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
King’s Bounty II puts players in the role of one of three characters: Aivor the Warrior, Alisa the Paladin, or Katharine the Sorcerer. The trio have their own tales to tell of their destiny to bring peace to the land of Nostria, whilst each also brings with them their own varied abilities, strengths, and weaknesses that help differentiate them from one-another. They all begin their journey in a prison, but it doesn’t take long before they’re venturing across Nostria with the fate of the kingdom in their hands.
At first glance, it’d be easy to think that King’s Bounty II is another open-world RPG. The action takes place from a third-person perspective and players venture across a sprawling fantasy setting, whilst there’s plenty of dialogue options to choose when interacting with NPCs that help shape the story. It’s a different approach for the series and one that might help broaden the player base.
Or at least it would, if the open-world was a bit more interesting to explore. There’s not a whole lot to see and do across the world outside of recruiting new units, taking on side quests, or finding some treasure, whilst a lack of interesting locales and a slow movement speed could make exploration feel like a chore. There were moments when it all clicked, such as when you come across a cool landmark or you find a new recruit that really strengthens your forces, but for the most part it felt a little underwhelming. It just didn’t feel like an open-world really suited this kind of game, where the action is so ‘stop-start’ thanks to the strategic nature of the battling.
“Your main character won’t join the battle directly, but instead leads on from the side lines – they can use their abilities to affect showdowns in different ways, but, like most leaders, they’re very hands off and instead lead their team.”
At least battling is a lot more enjoyable, with the action shifting to a top-down viewpoint and adopting a typical strategy setup by having battles take place over a hexagonal grid. From here, players can shift their units around and assign actions, with different units having varied abilities, attack ranges, movement speeds, and so forth that distinguish them from each other. Your main character won’t join the battle directly, but instead leads on from the side lines – they can use their abilities to affect showdowns in different ways, but, like most leaders, they’re very hands off and instead lead their team.
There’s a lot of customisation to be found across your team, with different gear to equip, skill trees to level up in order to fine tune their abilities, the sheer variety of the units on offer – the game really adds an emphasis on player control, with plenty of options in place to establish your own perfect setup that suits your playstyle. Genre veterans will love the level of finesse they have when it comes to moulding their team, with the depth on offer bringing plenty of diversity across the game’s meaty adventure. It might be a little bit intimidating to newer players though, especially since King’s Bounty II is a tough game that demands some real strategic prowess.
“The game really adds an emphasis on player control, with plenty of options in place to establish your own perfect team setup that suits your playstyle.”
There are no difficulty options in King’s Bounty II, so you’re going to have to get used to trying to push your way through tough encounters fast. It feels as though enemies will always have the upper hand, whilst the fact there is permadeath means you can lose some of your more powerful units if a battle goes wayward. There were so many occasions during my time playing that one of my better units was felled and it always felt like it hindered my playthrough, with subsequent battles always feeling more difficult as I tried to recruit new forces and build up their power all over again. It didn’t make for a satisfying gameplay loop and just felt frustrating; expect to close the game and re-load your save regularly, because repeating the recruitment process gets dull after multiple deaths.
It’s a shame too because I really liked the combat. It brings with it plenty of depth and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a battle go your way after some careful planning. It was just a bit too unforgiving, with the permadeath feeling like a big hindrance on the gameplay. It’s all well and good and having an exciting battle that sees plenty of bloodshed, but the satisfaction is sapped away when it comes at the cost of half your team. Naturally, it gets easier the longer you play and the stronger you become, but the opening five-hours or so can be really rough.
“There were so many times during my time playing that one of my better units was felled and it always felt like it hindered my playthrough, with subsequent battles always feeling more difficult as I tried to recruit new forces and build up their power all over again.”
At least it played well on the PlayStation 4, with the UI and controls easy to handle. Of course, games like this are always at their best when played with a keyboard and mouse, but it was fine with a controller. The performance was consistent throughout too, so there were no issues there. I can’t say the same for the visuals though, with the character models and animations looking especially stilted. There’s some good visual variety, sure, but it’s never particularly pretty.
King's Bounty II Summary
King’s Bounty II offers some enjoyable and deep strategic battling, but the tough difficulty and harsh permadeath could alleviate a lot of the fun. If you’re a fan of the genre and willing to put the hours in, there’s a good time to be had once you get past the initial difficulty hurdle. For everyone else, though? I’d probably recommend playing a strategy title that’s a bit more forgiving.
– Combat is strategic and exciting
– The deep customisation offered in fine-tuning your units
– Bland open-world exploration
– Punishing difficulty will put off newbies
– Permadeath can suck the fun out of combat
Developer: 1C Entertainment
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC