King’s Bounty 2 is a tired sigh of a European-style tactical RPG. However, not the kind you do when you are frustrated or relieved; it’s more like when you sit down after climbing a long flight of stairs and you feel somewhat distant and content. For the most part, it’s okay. The tactical combat is quite enjoyable, the music is great, and the world looks good. But it feels bad and unpolished in many technical respects, and the lackluster storytelling rarely motivated me to see how the next step in the adventure might unfold.
In many ways, this long-awaited sequel is comparable to RPGs like ELEX or The Technomancer – a mid-budget contender who really wants to be something of a blockbuster BioWare game, but doesn’t really have the resources or the experience. to get there. King’s Bounty 2 is a bit less ambitious than either of the other two, and it’s probably better for him – he doesn’t try to do anything wild and sticks to the fundamentals. But from the general camera failure to the phone story scenes, I still have a feeling the 1C developers bit off more than they could chew.
The voice acting, for one thing, is very inconsistent. The sorceress Katherine, one of the three playable characters and the one I spent the most time with with over 40 hours of adventures, has a pleasant timbre with a haughty and aristocratic delivery. But some of the random NPCs scattered around the world sound more like they’ve grabbed someone who hasn’t been in front of a mic before and handed them a script, if distracting bad performances are something to go on. And those moments detract from the construction of the world.
The characters are introduced very abruptly, like everything else in the story, sending you ping-pong from court to court with little room for anyone to develop relationships with others, much less as individuals. There were a couple of surprises that were worth waiting for, but in general the motives of the various leaders and factions were always presented with so little nuance that nothing that happened left much emotional impact. It feels very much by the numbers, as if all of the heart has been dedicated to building the set and very little to the cast and story.
It’s a shame, because the fantasy world 1C has created is pretty slick for a project of this size. The graphics are a bit dated, especially with the lighting, the animations of the creatures and some of the faces. Compared to even a six-year-old game like The Witcher 3, it falls short. However, they have opted for an art direction that is stylized enough that it doesn’t bother me as often. Zooming in on individual units reveals a lot of depth and detail, especially on some of the larger monsters, and I particularly liked how increasing a squad’s veteran would also visually improve their gear. While large portions of the map may seem a bit repetitive, much of it is just a hilly green forest, it is also filled with little story details like discarded notes and tomes of history that were entertaining to read.
If moving wasn’t such a pain. Your default running speed is slow enough to be completely irritating from first moment to last, and for some reason there is a button for walking, but not for running. Why would anyone want to move through this sprawling country even slower than it moves by default is sure beyond me. You get a horse pretty early, but it has clunky controls, is restricted to walking speed in larger cities, and has a long up and down animation that freezes you in place. That never stopped being frustrating.
What saves the bacon in King’s Bounty 2 is the turn-based tactical battles. Of course, there are some nasty difficulty spikes, especially if you’re playing a magic setting early in the game. But they’re actually pretty good fights once you get into the swing of things. Take an army of up to five units each, with dozens of options from human knights to gruesome undead to deadly mythical beasts resulting in virtually endless interesting compositions. They’re divided into four factions of order, anarchy, power, and finesse, and you’ll typically want to stick to one for the best synergies, but there are ways to make your character more faction-agnostic, at the cost of not being able to focus on reinforcing one. faction to its full potential.
King’s Bounty 2 review screenshots
The talent tree also has an interesting twist, as higher-level talents are tied to ethical decisions that you will make in both the main story and the side missions. To unlock the most powerful magic spells, for example, you will have to choose Finesse over Power when given various ways to complete a mission. However, it turns out that this is a better idea in theory than in practice. Finesse options tend to be the best option in almost all cases, unless you really want to put yourself in unnecessary danger for the sake of a challenge, and Anarchy vs Order usually ends up being reduced to a bad boy turning the mustache against a righteous hero. I would have liked to see a little more complexity and nuance that could have led to more difficult decisions.
Where this got a bit awkward is when I realized that there are only a finite number of battles and a finite amount of treasure in the entire world. That means you can’t take out weaker enemies for experience and better gear if you’re stuck, so in some sections I felt like I was rushing from side mission to side quest looking for a fight that I could actually win with my power. current. It also means that you can technically “game over” if you lose all of your units and don’t have the money to replace them. King’s Bounty 2 lets you save anywhere, anytime, so this is a more theoretical problem. But it’s also something of a poster child for the handful of awkward design decisions that just don’t seem to be well thought out.