Sometimes, out of nowhere, a jewel, a diamond arises from the ashes of a long forgotten game – and it raises high into the sky of value, surprising everybody around with its huge, glowing aura of greatness: a game of fantasy, a game of might and magic, a game that has all the premises to become one of a generation. That game’s name is King’s Bounty: The Legend.
Developed by an unknown Russian company, Katauri and published by 1C, this game proves to everybody that you don’t need hundred of millions of dollars to create a pure entertaining, quality title. Unfortunately, because of a complete lack of media exposure and basically no marketing, this jewel has all the chances of being completely missed out by the public. And, oh, what a HUGE mistake that would be!
King’s Bounty: The Legend is a RPG with turn based strategy elements based on the game that started the Heroes of Might and Magic series and it resembles the latter from many, many angles. Yet it is a unitary game which brings enough new features and elements, as well as tons of improvements to be considered an evolution and under no circumstances a copy or something.
The game’s main story is simple: you’re a hero in the world of Endoria (a paladin, a mage or warrior – your choice) and you must help the king get rid of the monsters invading the lands. Slowly, everything will become kind of fuzzy and you’ll probably stop following the main story (as I did), especially because it is fractured heavily by the huge amount of side quests. But I am not complaining at all, because the more quests mean a bigger play time and I promise you it’s high quality time!
If you are familiar with the HoMM gameplay, you basically know the rules of King’s Bounty: The Legend. Fortunately, I am one of the few people who consider HoMM III the God of fantasy TBS, so I had no problem adjusting the style for King’s Bounty. However, I have no idea if newcomers would find it difficult to learn their way around Endoria – and I’d be tempted to say they would since there is basically no tutorial involved and there are lots of things you can do and, more important, there are tons of mistakes you can do.
But since practice makes perfect and Katauri will offer you a ton and a half chances to practice your strategy, it should be OK: the game world is huge, divided into more “islands”, as well as territories that are not shown on the maps, but you’ll visit every now and then to finish your quests. Half of your time will be spent on the realm’s map where everything happens in real time: monsters lurk around the lands (and can even run after you and attack), day is followed by night and so on… while combat takes you to a new perspective, that of a turn based game. The fight takes place in a “battlefield” divided into hexagonal pieces, one similar to those of the HoMM series: basically, it’s the same thing, with the exception that here initiative is the one who decides the troops to move first, and not speed.
Both your troops as well as your opponents have all sorts of special abilities, ranging from pure destructive, berserk attacks to tactical spells and incantations. The variety of special abilities becomes huge if you start counting the different types of troops: from peasants to mercenaries, from cavaliers to griffins, from spiders to all sorts of animals, from skeletons to dragons, from orcs to devils and everything in between. Actually, I think there is no creature present in the general fantasy universe that does not have a relative in Katauri’s game. And that, my friends, is pure Heaven for any fan of fantasy RPGs or turn based strategies!
Still, different to the original Heroes of Might and Magic series, is the fact that your hero does not have a “home” or castle and you will not build structures for troops or other bonuses. Instead, you will be able to hire them as mercenaries in a pay-per-troop system (gold is the only resource) or just create them from in-game items you find throughout the quests: for example, if you get a few spider eggs, you can use them and get yourself a spider army and so on.
However, the number of troops is limited, so you’d better think twice before throwing the wolves into the arms of the cyclops, or you might be responsible for the disappearance of a species from the lands of Endoria. Uhm… I’m just exaggerating a bit right now since, honestly, there are enough troops for you to purchase throughout the game and even the most suicidal player will still have plenty of troops available to hire and replenish his or her forces.
Also the game introduces the concept of “Spirits of rage,” a number of four legendary creatures that can help you during combat. Kind of similar with the Commanders in HoMM: WoG, these spirits can be summoned in battle to offer you an advantage – generally offensive spells. They gain experience as well, so it’s a good thing to use them as much as possible in the early stages to have them prepared for the later ones. Unfortunately, there’s not a big fuss when you get the chance to summon these spirits of rage (as they have to be “Activated” first from the hero’s menu) and there might be bad consequences because of that: I had to restart the game after about 3 hours of gameplay, when I discovered that I could’ve activated the spirits a long while ago…