In August of this year, King’s Bounty 2 will appear, the direct successor to the game that came onto the market over 30 years ago as the spiritual father of the Heroes-of-Might – & – Magic series. We were allowed to look around the round-robin strategy game for ten hours in advance to get a first impression, and we can tell you in advance that a lot has happened since then. Also compared to the new edition of the original from 2008.
When playing, two things caught our eye that distinguishes King’s Bounty 2 from its legendary predecessor and the offshoots that have come onto the market over the years. On the one hand, the new game is much more accessible and also allows complete beginners in the genre to purposefully plunge into battle. On the other hand, outside of the fights, the game is no longer played from a bird’s eye view, but from the third-person view.
So you can explore the different cities, towns and areas, find and equip items that reinforce your main character and their armed forces, and every now and then you have the opportunity to talk to more or less interesting NPCs. Although the world seems rambling and open at first glance, on closer inspection it is a typical tube that just needs to be followed. Every quest objective, every interaction and every puzzle is neatly marked on the map. In this way, the characteristic freedoms of a strategy game are exchanged for pure adventure travel.
Whether you explore the places and the few optional branches on foot or on horseback is up to you. But since you are often chased from A to B and back again, the possibility of doing this from a high horse is much faster and recommended. In addition to the objects and people to talk to, which you can find everywhere, there are also small puzzles, but the core is, as always, the turn-based battles.
My spell, my troops, my hero
King’s Bounty 2 is one of the few games in this genre where you have a real overview of your troops, because they are not just represented as a symbolic figure as with Heroes and represented by a small number that indicates how many units of you actually have this variety in tow. Instead, the space for maximum troops is very limited, but in compensation they are all displayed on the battlefield. Losses can be felt much better and accordingly more painful.
Even newbies should be able to get a good sense of which units need to be protected, who is suitable for a direct attack and whose skills are better saved until it gets really tricky, after just a few fights. Gradually, one finally understands the passive powers better and begins to set up the units wisely before a fight, which brings a great advantage in the battles.
Although the first few fights weren’t really challenging, the AI seems to be quite clever, which suggests that things will get a lot more challenging later in the game. The enemy adapts to the tactics of the player, and those who restart a fight and proceed differently must quickly recognize that the enemy adapts to the change and initiates appropriate counterattacks.
It gets more complicated when you add the sometimes difficult to make out differences in height and obstacles on the battlefields. If archers don’t have a clear firing path, they can’t attack, that much is clear. But what exactly stands in their way or blocks their view has eluded my perception several times. Nevertheless, after a few fights, a certain routine crept in, as you very often fight the same types of opponents and only gain new units and new skills over long hours of play.
If you are looking for variety, you will get it when you play through it again, because you can choose from three different heroes. Aivar the warrior, Katharine the magician, and Elisa, a female paladin. These three characters have different abilities, different set moral compasses and tread quite different paths in the course of the plot. Later on, you can freely assign talent points you have earned and develop your character according to your own ideas.