Let's face it: King's Bounty newer reached the same level of recognition as the famed Heroes, even though eleven years ago, 1C got the timing perfect with the release of The Legend – the remake of a cult-classic that was the original inspiration for Heroes of Might and Magic. At the time, Ubisoft was experimenting with the formula that PC players adored, but we would have to wait a little longer for the ultimate result of their efforts. Meanwhile, the Russians, quite unexpectedly, entered the fray of turn-based strategies with King's Bounty, offering not only a nearly identical combat system, but also an adventure module, which was a nice, role-play seasoning of the otherwise familiar premise.
The success of The Legend, released in 2008, was so big that it warranted another three installments of the King's Bounty series. None of these was, however, a full-blown sequel. Exploitation of the brand was rather an attempt to expand the proven idea with new elements, while maintaining the original framework – which resulted in each subsequent entry in the series being more outdated and obsolete. Now, years later, we can talk about a complete reinvention, which is apparent by just looking at the title – the number two appearing there is no coincidence.
LET'S BE MORE SPECIFIC
1C allowed us to test the same demo we could play on Gamescom, but this time, we had a chance to spend almost four hours with it – instead of just thirty minutes. This enables us to closely examine all the gimmicks the developers prepared, as well as to conduct a preliminary assessment of the gameplay mechanics – even of those that are far from finished.
Surprise number one
After launching the game, fans of King's Bounty are in for a minor shock. The biggest change (not just at first glance) is the perspective. The developers opted for third-person, setting the camera at about the same distance and height as in the recent God of War. As a result, the protagonist takes up a lot more space on the screen, and we're closer to the action. This decision has profoundly changed the way we explore the world.
In previous releases, we had a very broad field of view, which made it easier to decide where to go. There was no fog of war, so we knew exactly which items are within our reach, and which are blocked by enemies. In King's Bounty 2, you just have to go looking for stuff – just like in an RPG.
Exploration is quite an important element of the peaceful phase, i.e. the stage, during which we visit different locations and gather resources for battles. The items crucial for our operations are located in chests which totally do not stand out against the backgrounds. That wouldn't be much of a problem if not for the fact that these chests are immediately marked with an icon on the minimap once they come into our eyesight. As a result, we're mostly focused on the circle in the bottom corner of the screen – if we don't want to miss anything.
That's a rather poor solution, especially since the game also constantly highlights items that are not in our character's direct sight. What follows is that when you're crossing a bridge, you will certainly learn there's a chest at the bottom, right underneath it. The devs should make up their minds and decide whether to give the player such information or not. I wouldn't mind knowing where all the chests are, provided they would visibly stand out against the background. Constantly looking at the mini-map is simply a nuisance.
The pursuit of the chests would not have mattered so much if it had not been for one, small detail. The authors decided to remain faithful to the core principles of the previous parts of the series, where the search for resources was insanely important. Thanks to the objects found in the world (gold, crystals, etc.), we were able to arm and develop our character, which is absolutely crucial for success. I dig the fact the devs haven't forgotten about this aspect, but a slight correction is really needed here. Fortunately, it should not be a problem.
CAN'T GO HERE, CAN'T GO THERE
The way the world is constructed reminded me of GreedFall. While we have an area that we can freely explore, but we can't go anywhere we want. King's Bounty 2 quite often uses all sorts of obstacles (also invisible walls) so that we can't freely satisfy our curiosity. Simply jumping off a ledge, which is a usual thing in an open-world game, can be problematic. I also didn't like the fact that I had to move on foot the entire time. You can use sprint, but the speed of running is a bit disappointing. The devs promise there will be horses, but the demo featured none. So, I had to do away with teleports.