Under The Radar: Kings Bounty

Hey everyone, it’s me TheExMachina with another installment of Under the Radar where I once again inform you about the hidden gems of this generation! In this article I talk about a computer game that combines the intensity and strategic thinking of a turn-based RTS with the grinding and exploration of an RPG. That game is King’s Bounty. King’s Bounty is an RPG/RTS hybrid computer game where you are the commander of a great army, exploring a vast fantasy world and unleashing the might of your soldiers upon the forces of evil. Victory or defeat hangs by a thread from the decisions you make in battle.

The original King’s Bounty was released in 1990 by designer Jon Van Caneghem of publisher’s New World Computing in 1990. It was originally an MS-DOS title but it later found its way on Apple 2, Commodore 64, Amiga, Sega Genesis then on Widows and Mac OS. It is a turn- based tactical role playing game where the player leads his/her army across four continents, gathering 25 pieces of a map leading to an artifact known as the Sceptre of Order. There are 4 hero classes to choose from: Barbarian, Paladin, Knight and Sorceress. Each class has varied levels of attack, magic and leadership over his/her army. The main attributes of your chosen hero is leadership which determines the number of men in your army, commission which decides on how much income is rewarded after each battle and maximum spells determining the maximum number of spells cast. The soldiers in your army vary from Infantry, Archers, Arch-mages, even Dragons, Vampires and Demons, all reporting for duty and ready to assist you in obtaining the Sceptre of Order.

King’s Bounty is considered by many to be the predecessor of the Heroes of Might and Magic series which was also published by New World Computing and designed by Jon Van Caneghem. The turn-based combat and the character development are very much alike between the 2 computer games, with other similarities also being noticeable. King’s Bounty has also been featured in some versions of the Heroes of Might and Magic anthology as an executable file. Those who did not grow up with King’s Bounty but are adept with Heroes of Might and Magic will feel right at home.

In 2008 the Russian game publisher 1C Company, along with publishers Atari and developers Katauri Interactive releases the successor of the classic King’s Bounty with the title: King’s Bounty: The Legend. King’s Bounty: The Legend stays true to its roots by keeping all the game play elements that made the original a joy to play while adding a vast number of improvements, catering for both veterans of tactical role-playing games and newcomers of the genre and like other computer game in King’s Bounty: The Legend’s category, the game is easy to learn, but difficult to master.

The world of Endoria is in need of a hero. As Sir Bill Gilbert, you have sworn service to King Mark Leonard the Wise. Having completed your training, you embark with your brothers in arms towards adventure, searching for pirates, overthrowing kings, rescuing princesses and more. These are everyday challenges you will face in King Darion’s service, all for the good of Endoria.

Right off the bat you are given a choice of three character classes: Warrior, Paladin and Mage. Each class varies in levels of attack, magic and leadership. The Warrior can recruit more men in his army, has greater attack power and can increase the combat parameters of his men teaching them new skills to use in battle. He has the biggest increase in leadership and rage. He develops his might skills faster than the other two classes. The Paladin is a mix between the warrior and the mage. He is able to gain more combat experience and gold. He can even convince enemies to switch side and maintain two stacks of reserve troops. The Mage is a magical powerhouse. He is able to improve the spells he learns and increase their power. As he progresses, he can cast spells more frequently in battle and gains more intellect than the other classes. The game is played much like many other RPGs. You and your soldiers travel across maps, meeting friendly NPCs who will greet you and sometimes give you quest. You do the quest and you get rewarded with experience and money. You’ll also be entering dungeons and caves finding loot and battling many enemies, much like Diablo. You can view your characters three attributes through the sub-menu: Might, Magic and Mind. Might is what determines your strength, Magic is what governs you magical capabilities and Mind focuses on the rate of experience and money you gain from battle. You can also buy armor and weapon upgrades from various shops, although strengthening your men is not done through healing spells as there are not alot of them to be found. Instead you’ll bolster your army by buying more troops. Your army can be made up of mages, arch-mages, archers, knights, swordsmen, even creatures such as bears and spiders.

Like its predecessor, combat in King’s Bounty: The Legend is turn based. Your hero’s men are deployed on the field on one side where the opponent’s army is on the other. An encounter takes place on a flat plain with small hex grids, indicating the number of spaces your units are able to move to. Units are only able to move a certain amount of spaces, much like chess. Although your hero does not get involved directly in battle, the class you’ve chosen, the attributes you upgrade and the equipment you buy will determine how well you men fare in battle. How much training they’ve been given, what abilities are available to them, their attack power and so forth. You are able to cast spells and summons to assist your men and turn the tide of the fight.

Each class in your army has their advantages. Swordsmen and knights are naturally better melee fighters, mages can cast both offensive and defensive spells, archers can attack enemies from a distance et cetera et cetera. The classes can also learn special skills, giving them the edge over the other side. Your men and the opponent’s men are affected by the terrain as well. Some surroundings have hazards such as bee nests and possessed crucifixes which can damage your unit’s health and create status alerting effects, such as poison. The undead fight better in cemeteries and narrow passages will mean certain death for melee units unfortunate enough to be funneled in. On the other hand, the battlefield offers some positive surprises. Sometimes you’ll find a treasure chest, which one of your men can collect revealing gold, spells or special items. All this including the enemy themselves will mean a lot of obstacles to overcome if you’re serious on destroying your opponent.

From a visual perspective, it looks very pleasing to the eye. The bright colours make all the characters and the environment look lush and vibrant, making the game look and feel more fun to play. The daylight outdoor areas look luxuriant and diverse. While traversing the daylight outdoor areas you’ll notice some nice little details such as birds in the air and fish in the river. The caves and dungeons look atmospheric and moody. Traveling through dark forests, cemeteries and lava levels feel fiendishly distinctive. The musical score is appropriate for the fantasy genre. You’ll listen to big, sweeping musical numbers as you explore the world on Endoria and do battle with the forces of evil.

King’s Bounty: The Legend is one of the most difficult games out there. You’ll find yourself facing stronger opponents all the time no matter how much you’ve leveled up, even at the very start of the game. Normal difficulty will give even the most battle hardened strategy fan a tough time. Enemies just feel so unfairly overpowered and even when you have the stronger side, the enemy still manages to find a way to dwindle your numbers! You’ll have to play with brute force at the very start in order for you and your men to become a force to be reckoned with, but even then there’s the danger of starting the campaign all over again because your men were wiped out by another opponent! What’s worse is that places of commerce only have a limited number of reserve troops, thus players who die a lot will end up with a very small and very pitiful army!

There is plenty to do in King’s Bounty: The Legend. The continents that you travel to are humongous. Each continent have their own sub regions, each cram-packed with side quests to complete, treasure to grab and enemies to fight. Even if you’re not going for 100% completion, you may end up playing this game for a very long time.

When you do eventually complete the game, there’s more adventure to be had in the world of Endoria, as there is also a standalone expansion pack of the game entitled: King’s Bounty: Armored Princess. This new chapter in the King’s Bounty universe was released in 2009 in Russia and North America, then in 2010 in the United Kingdom. This expansion maintains almost all of the gameplay conventions of the previous title and adds a plethora of improvements, making your King’s Bounty experience that much more special.

Set 10 years after the events of King’s Bounty: The Legend, the world of Endoria is in peril. Darion, the domain of King Mark Leonard the Wise has been overrun by demons. His daughter, Princess Amelie has traveled to the world of Teana in search for her mentor: Sir Bill Gilbert, the knight who pledged his service to the King 10 years before. All in an effort to eradicate the evil that threatens the world of Endoria.

Gameplay is identical to its predecessor, as you choose once again between the classes Warrior, Paladin and Mage, explore the new world of Teana, traversing over massive continents, battling foes, completing side quests and collecting treasure to strengthen your army. Improvements include a more comprehensive tutorial, instantaneous sea voyages between continents, new spells, new enemies and new friendly units. You will also gain the ability to turn your horse into Pegasus and fly and you’ll also acquire a humorous pet baby dragon which will aid you in battle.

Princess Amelie will struggle at first to hold back much stronger armies. However, over time, leadership and a higher level, she’ll be commanding units such as giant snakes, giant spiders, ancient bears, pirates and vampires. No opposing army will ever be able to stand in Princess Amelie’s way.

The new King’s Bounty games are prime examples of how a classic gameplay style should be brought into the new generation. This RTS/RPG hybrid has something for every gamer to enjoy. Veterans of the genre who played the classic King’s Bounty will be pleased to know that the new King’s Bounty games have done the original justice. Even if you didn’t grow up with hybrid games such as King’s Bounty and Heroes of Might and Magic, it’s not hard to appreciate this traditional take on a tactical RPG being brought into this generation of gaming. Both Kings Bounty: The Legend and King’s Bounty: Armored Princess are very simple to learn, thus gamers who may never have played a tactical RPG should have no problem grasping the gameplay basics of King’s Bounty. However, beneath that simplicity is a deep, intuitive, addictive and challenging experience that will have you constantly adapting to changing situations and planning attentively to survive in battle. If adventure, excitement, fun and glory in battle are what you crave for in gaming, then the King’s Bounty games could be exactly what you need.

Happy Gaming.

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