King’s Bounty II is the long-awaited sequel to the original King’s Bounty game, released all the way back in 2008 and carving itself a reputation as a great strategy RPG. It’s now 2021 and a sequel has finally arrived promising much to long waiting fans. Is it worth the wait? Lets take a look.
Darkness descends over the world of Nostria as Conspiracies, sabotage, and necromancy are overshadowing the country and it’s king. But maybe a saviour – the kingdom’s last hope – is already here, to fight back and finally restore peace and order in Nostria! Take up arms and help to repel the darkness which seeks to claim all.
The game opens up with a choice of 3 characters to choose from, a mage, a knight and some plucky heroine. I went with the plucky heroine as each character not only has their own abilities but each has a bonus, the heroine could recruit units easier for example. One of the key aspects during the game story is the choices on offer, as not only can they have an effect on your current situation, but can also change your characters personality. This personality difference can open up new abilities as you progress, as well as effect your recruitment. Certain units will prefer a specific personality over another, so you gotta try and balance things out on occasion as well. The story itself is alright, but its these other aspects to it that can affect the game play which made it more interesting to me.
The uneven aspect of the game starts to rear its head when it comes to the presentation on offer given how much of a mixed bag it can be, to the point that early screenshots of the game come across as bullshots really. Main culprits for this comes down to the texture & animation quality used throughout. Texture quality in particular is the most blatant. There are times when you can have vastly different asset quality next to each other, a high detailed gate on a PS3 looking wooden fort wall for example. As noted the animations are the same, you get some decent stuff yeah, but things usually end up looking a little stiff – especially during dialogue with everyone seeming to have a damn good poker face
Audio follows suit in a way. There’s plenty of voice acting and good effects used throughout, but the soundtrack seemed a little forgettable. Performance is good, though the game does seem to push my system (R51600/16GB/RTX 2080ti) more than expected given how uneven the graphics are, even at maximum settings across the board. The game would regularly drop frames when aiming for 4K/60 unfortunately, even with how uneven it looks, but a simple reduction to the rendering resolution % (down to around 90%) kept those drops at bay and smoothed things out. Some folk out there will struggle to get a locked framerate for little gain in visuals.
To be honest its easier to look at the game as two really, the world exploration and the actual battles themselves. World exploration will take up a hefty amount of your time with the game as you mooch around looking for things to do and completing quests – vital for the coin & XP needed to boost your forces. You’ll occasionally come across traders and the like for gathering new equipment, but the most important folk to talk to are the recruiters. These allow you to purchase units for skirmishes, starting with simple spearmen and war dogs, before moving onto archers and more later on. The unit variety, skills they offer, and how to effectively combine them in battle will be where you’ll be most tested, as the exploration side of the game doesn’t really deal in conflict – chin wagging aside.
Whilst the game is a strategy RPG, it does have more of a tabletop feel to it than you would expect. This means it plays less like a Disgaea or Agarest, and more along the lines of something like W40K Battlesector that I recently reviewed. Skirmishes play out on a grid with each unit having their own turn, with ability ranges and positioning of units key to trying to force the enemy into an advantageous position for your mages & archers. This can be tough as you’ll usually always get flanked, the limited unit count means you can’t plug every gap, but luckily reinforcements are never too far away if you got the gold for reserves. Downside to that is units gain XP etc so you can lose some units if you are not wary enough of enemy movement and attack ranges. Your hero unit can be found at the edge of the battlefield firing off abilities and healing units, generally not too involved in the battles in truth At first it can feel a bit limited in that regard when in a battle, but things do improve a fair amount as you get through the game and expand your abilities.
Kings Bounty II is a decent little adventure with some good ideas, the way choices build your personality which affect other aspects of the game and the battle system itself is well done, but just how uneven the presentation is has an affect on the exploration & storytelling of the game. At times it can seem like something released a decade ago, but luckily there is now a post release roadmap which looks to tackle some of these issues. Worth a buy? I guess Kings Bounty fans will already have the game snapped up, but it will have interest with strategy RPG fans too. As uneven as some aspects are, the strategy RPG gameplay itself I found to be enjoyable.
There’s a great little blood & sweat soaked RPG adventure buried away here if you can get past how stilted & uneven it can be.