An Hour With, Day 1: King’s Bounty

Digital Distribution’s become a competitive market. What this means is that we now see regular weekend sales from the main distribution platforms. For most people this would be a good thing but I, it turns out, like to spend a lot of my weekend drunk and am somewhat suggestible because of it. The upshot of all this is a large list of games that are sat on my hard drive, mostly untouched. So, in an effort to figure out just what I should devote my time to next, every day this week I’ll be giving a different game exactly one hour to prove its worth. First on the podium is King’s Bounty: The Legend.

What is it?

King’s Bounty is a ‘spiritual successor’ to Heroes of Might and Magic. Developed by Russian studio Katauri Interactive it is a tactical RPG set in a medieval fantasy kingdom.

Why’d you buy it?

I blame two people for this. Firstly GamersGate for having it on sale in the first place. Secondly Alec Meer of Rock, Paper, Shotgun who held it up as his favourite game of 2008.

The Playtest:

1:50 – Okay, character creation ho! My normal course of action in these things is to agonisingly pour over all the class choices before browsing forum posts and creation guides in order to come up with a build that both feels personally catered to me but at the same time not so gimped as to make the game unwinnable. Then, of course, I have to decide if his, or her, eyebrows are too wide, how high the cheekbones should be and which hairstyle looks the least ridiculous. All that, however, usually takes well over an hour and I’ve simply not got the time to waste. Luckily King’s Bounty’s character creation screen is liberatingly meagre. You get to choose one of three classes and pick a name. The classes are the Warrior, who biffs; the Mage, who sizzles; and the Paladin, who has commitment issues. I pick the Warrior, name him Cornelius Bicep and we’re away!

3:00 – Except we’re not, first there’s an intro to deal with. I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t pay much attention to the intro story partly because it was delivered by a bland ‘I am a fantasy game narrator’ type and partly because it was predictably generic drivel. There’s an Empire, King Carl abdicates, King Mark takes the throne, there’s possibly some evil rising somewhere, yada, yada and so on. The only question that really stands out is what Empire worth there salt allows people called Carl and Mark to be kings?

3:30 – Main game time! I’m in a castle on horse back. This raises some questions, like who exactly is training these horses to deal with stairs? Apparently I have to perform three final initiation tests at which point my instructor will pick me a career. First test: rescue a damsel in distress from a dragon. Time to get my heroing on.

7:00 – Shit my bears are dead. Combat is a tactical turn based affair on a hex grid while the rest of the game is real time point and clickery in the style of Baldur’s Gate. Actually it’s probably closer in style to hundreds of other RPGs but as the loading screen for this game is the mirror of Baldur’s Gate II I’m allowing myself the comparison. Back to the combat and I’m starting to wonder what the point of choosing a class was considering my character doesn’t actually fight on screen but orders troops about instead. Among those troops were three bears that the dragon took an immediate dislike to. When I finally take it down I’ve lost numerous troops to its wrath, but it’s the bears I mourn the most.

9:00 – I get that you’d just use a training doll instead of a real damsel for an initiation test but that was a real dragon and the instructor mentioned two more initiate tests that day. So where are they getting all the big scalies from?

15:00 – Final one of my three tests and I’m searching for a buried pair of boots. This strikes me as a cop out after the dragon and the necromancer but at least I can’t get any more bears killed – they’re already all dead.

20:00 – TREASURE SEARCHER?! You’ve evaluated me and decided I should be a treasure searcher? Fuck, this is because I got all the bears killed isn’t it? Apparently I’ve also some divine power that lets me locate buried booty. That’s really going to inspire my army when I keep getting distracted from the battle in hand because someone has buried a few coins nearby.

21:00 – My first meeting with King Mark. It’s nice of him to make out that being the Royal Treasure Searcher is a big deal. We both know it isn’t but at least he’s making an effort. Also: I’ve been given more bears. I’ll try to look after them this time.

22:00 – Hur hur, your currency is called Plugens. What kind of lame-ass Empire are you running here exactly?

30:00 – First proper fight in the outside world and my army gets decimated. On learning this the King gives me 1,200 gold pieces. I should probably be pleased he expects so little of his Treasure Searcher.

33:30 – Over half way through and I’ve just found the equipment screen. I finally equip some of the stuff I’ve picked up over the last half hour, including a cart wheel which I’m using as a shield. I don’t know how me equipping a makeshift shield helps the rest of my army, the ones who do the actual fighting, but best not to dwell. I’ve also realise that I can buy additional troops for my army. The only unit I can command on mass however seems to be peasants. Apparently a treasure hunter with a penchant for getting bears killed just doesn’t have the leadership skills to lead soldiers with training and sense.

This dwarf loves to fly. He owns an airship. You can see that the games charaterisation is pretty damn strong.

34:00 – Have my first conversation with the King’s daughter. It was a little creepy. I think she was flirting with me. I’ve not got time to go and have a shower but God do I want one.

37:00 – Bees? It would seem the combat grids have random events in them. This one has what seems to be bees attacking whoever is closest at the end of the turn. Annoyingly this means I’ve lost a fair few peasants who are currently my most powerful unit due to the sheer number of them.

50:00 – My mission from the king was to bring to justice (which is fantasy game talk for ‘murder’) to a bunch of robbers and recover the 400 Plugens (*snigger*) that they stole. The robbers are dead thanks to my bears, who are awesome, but I’ve only recovered 300 Plugens from them. Time to wonder the map searchin’ for Plugens.

There's an inverse correlation between the awesomeness of the bears and the length of time I can keep them alive.

1:00:00 – The hour mark hits as I recover my 400th Plugen. Another enemy had spotted me, however, so I turn on the auto-combat and go about the important business of rolling a cigarette. The computer loses me two bears which is a little annoying but I can’t dwell on the past as I rush to the king to finish my first quest only slightly behind my self-made schedule. He pays me some gold that, on top of the extra gold I received for getting all my troops murdered earlier on, probably means it cost more money to retrieve the Plugens than just chalking the robbery up to experience. Oh well, as the say around the Empire: You pay Plugens; you get dead bears.


The story may be clearly hokum and the setting generic fantasy tosh, but overall this was an engagingly tactical game that scores points for not taking itself in the least bit seriously (yet). By the time I’d finished I’d already amassed a fair bit of gold, upgraded my character and taken on some new sidequests. In fact the most worrying thing here is that it could be an enormously addictive time sink. By all accounts the game is going to be huge and if I want any chance of seeing the light of day in the next month then I’m probably best just focusing my energy elsewhere and giving this an hour or two every once in a while.


2 Responses to “An Hour With, Day 1: King’s Bounty”

  1. 14/07/2009 at 06:24

    You got it right, King’s Bounty is a hugely addictive time sink. It’s pretty long and the formula remains the same until the very end, but the environments and foes are varied enough that you forgive the repetitiveness. There’s also the constant motivation of new spells and abilities…
    Forget about the story, I can guarantee that you’ll stop reading through the dialogue soon enough and that you’ll simply click through it to get the next quest. King’s Bounty is basically a game of grind (the enjoyable kind), and there’s really not much more to it.

    I personally enjoyed it, but seeing as you have too many stuff to play already, this may not be your best choice. You’d probably add 5 or 6 more games to that to-play list by the time you finish King’s Bounty. Keep this one in mind for those prolonged periods of boredom, though. It’s still loads of fun.

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