If you’re anything like me, the King’s Bounty series has been known as a fun romp through a series of games that were highly inspired by the Heroes of Might and Magic series. Since 2008 there’s been a number of them coming out from 1C Entertainment, each with the same core gameplay loop, but different characters, maps, and elements. Thus when they announced King’s Bounty 2 I was curious about what they were going to do, especially when it was announced that it was going to serve as a reboot of the franchise.
Set to recall the franchise’s roots of the 1990 original that inspired Heroes of Might and Magic, King’s Bounty 2 also follows the trend of Eastern European developers going big in the RPG market like The Witcher 3, and Kingdom Come Deliverance. In a nutshell, that is the elevator pitch of King’s Bounty 2: a gameplay loop based on the King’s Bounty formula, combined with more complex storytelling, characters, and roleplaying elements.
How King’s Bounty 2 Is Evolving Combat
While King’s Bounty 2 is retaining the core concepts of tactical gameplay, there are also a number of new ideas coming to change up the format.
First, and foremost of these, is a change in how terrain and maps function. Previous King’s Bounty games used a small discrete, battle map of the same size, with elements based on the battle or location added as obstacles or scenery. King’s Bounty 2 goes away from that and places the action directly on the map, with a hexagon battle map descending over it. The terrain will dictate movement and lines of sight for battle, meaning where you choose to engage while exploring has a big impact. A really nice upside of what they showed is that it means far bigger battle maps, and that ones that can be in very different configurations than what we saw previously.
Another change is in the units you command. King’s Bounty 2 will continue the tradition of a wide variety of troops, with over 50 different troop types, but how they are handled has been modified. One of the big things is that numbers will be capped based on what unit it is, so no more stacks of 500 archers taking up one square, or 30 dragons in a pile. Instead, it might be nine spearmen or a single dragon for a unit slot. Units in King's Bounty 2 will be able to improve over time, with level-ups giving them new stats, and abilities. That said, there is a definite point of diminishing returns, and your starting spearmen will probably need to be replaced, as the developers attempt to both allow players to play with what they enjoy, and push them to experiment with other units.
One thing that will help with this is that you’ll be able to have more units with you than just those that are taking part in the battle. With these extra units, you’ll be able to see what sort of troops your opponent has and decide who gets deployed to the battlefield with you, letting you choose who you use in the skirmish based on what you’re facing. As you might expect, match-ups of certain units were mentioned to be very important.
That’s not to say everything is changing, however. One aspect that isn’t changing is the ability to recruit almost everything you face. Merchants will be selling almost all units available in the game, with only one faction, who is being positioned as an outside force at the start of the game, being an exception to this. Another is that your hero won’t be directly involved in the battle. Instead, their stats influence your army, and the ability to impact it with spells, which return with both out-of-combat and in-combat spells, albeit with some new management constraints.
How King’s Bounty 2 Is Changing Exploration
While combat is evolving, exploration is getting a bigger overhaul. Gone is the isometric camera view, instead replaced with a third-person perspective as you travel the large open world. This is a modern open world in many ways, much like you might see in other RPGs like Kingdom Come Deliverance.
This change brings you into the world, rather than the previous bird’s-eye perspective that you had, which is meant to enhance the roleplaying aspect of the game but also serves as a way to further emphasize the world. This is taken advantage of with environmental puzzles that are being introduced, as part of creating multiple ways to handle many problems. While the one we were shown was fairly simple, it opens up some new gameplay angles if they are making use of environmental puzzles. In the presentation, they stated there is a designer working just on these environmental puzzles.
Like past games, the map will have a number of interactive objects. During the presentation, 1C mentioned that there are hundreds of points of interest, which given past games in the series, and trends of modern open world games probably comes as no surprise. One such point making a return is the classic EXP Stone, called the Ancient Legend in this game, but it looks like a stone slab with scribbles on it, giving your character experience.
One thing that you will have to gather that you haven’t in the past is mana. In the world of King’s Bounty 2, Mana is a limited resource, being used up when you cast a spell that requires it. You don’t automatically recharge mana, instead, you need to go to points that mana can be found and pick it up. This resource management means magic needs to be used with greater care, and can also push you in certain directions of play depending on whether you are willing to use mana, or if you need to pick some up.
King’s Bounty 2 Roleplaying and Story
While exploration and combat have changed, as has the presentation, no aspect is perhaps more integral to the reboot, than King’s Bounty 2's goals with story and roleplaying.
In the past, both were essentially minor elements, with light character elements, a somewhat comedic sensibility, and simple storytelling, with roleplaying aspects being largely restricted to the numerical and gear side of the genre. King’s Bounty 2, however, moves them to a major element to share the spotlight with the tactical combat.
Conceptually, the story isn’t going to blow people away. It seems to be an invasion story, featuring a faction called The Blight, who use dark magic and have the only units in the game that you can’t recruit. This is the main story, and they don't have multiple endings, but different characters will journey through the story in different ways, as factions are a key element of King’s Bounty 2. As faction-based stories often plan, the different factions will interact with you differently depending on how you approach things, shown by the ideals system.
Instead of the binary good/evil bar, King’s Bounty 2 is going with an ideals system, wherein how you handle problems will increase your level in those ideals. The four ideals are Power, Anarchy, Order, and Finesse, and you earn points in all of them based on what you do. These ideals are also important mechanically, as your character’s Talents will only be unlockable if you have a sufficiently high rank in the ideal. Ideals also impact how you interact with characters, factions, and armies in the world; bandits are more likely to trust an Anarchy-favoring lord than one who is known for Order.
Overall King's Bounty 2 is intriguing, and marks a big bet for 1C Entertainment, as it's their biggest project to date. It's a big step away from the sometimes whimsical and occasionally silly series they had brought together with the IP they purchased, and one that looks fascinating to see how it plays out.