King's Ransom, Perhaps, But Fun
OverviewThe fact that this game is a remake of a nearly 20-year old game is, at least to me, a little disconcerting. Not least because remakes usually suck, but also because a lot has changed in the time between then and now - not just the obvious (graphics, etc), but more subtle things. The entire expectation of a gamer is different. Consider that when you buy a game today you have a feature-set expectation depending on the genre of the game; suffice to say, when you purchased a game in 1990 your expectations were entirely different.
So, lets take a look at Kings Bounty: The Legend.
Hero CreationYou get to choose from three classes for your hero: Warrior, Paladin, and Mage. The values that define each class is spread out over the following statistics (excerpting some for brevity):
Attack - Damage bonus to army.
Defense - Defense bonus to army.
Leadership - Determines size of army.
Intellect - Influences spells (damage, duration).
Mana - Used to cast spells.
Rage - Used to summon Spirits Of Rage (explained later on).
The Warrior and Mage are essentially opposite ends of the spectrum - the Warrior has high attack/rage, low mana/intellect; the Mage has low attack/rage, high mana/intellect. The Paladin is in the middle, with no outstanding qualities in any department (although a few nifty skills all his own).
SkillsThere are three skill trees for your hero - Might, Mind, and Magic.
The Might tree has combat-oriented skills, ranging from decreasing leadership requirements for certain troops to the incredibly useful ability to prearrange your troops before the battle starts.
The Mind tree has a bunch of miscellaneous skills, with things like Scouting (you can right-click on enemy units and see information on their exact troop makeup), gold bonuses, and convincing some enemy units to join you before battling the rest of them.
The Magic tree is, as the name implies, oriented towards magic. Aspects of this tree include prerequisite skills for learning certain types of magic, resurrecting a portion of your army that died in the previous battle, and being able to cast more spells per turn in combat.
ArmyYour hero's army is comprised of up to five troops simultaneously, with types ranging from zombies to plants to knights, and other exotic creatures. The size of the troop in question depends on two factors: your leadership and the leadership requirement per unit type - the leadership requirement tends to scale (less powerful units have lower leadership requirements, etc).
The hero's leadership is counted on a per unit type basis - to best illustrate this, let's imagine our leadership is enough to support exactly 500 Zombies. That means we can have 500 Zombies in our army, period - we could have one huge Zombie troop, spread it out into two troops of 250, or whatever. The point is that leadership determines how many units of a specific type can be in your Army at one time, divided however you want.
The variety of unit types is pretty impressive, and it's worthwhile to note that the spread of abilities among them is quite diverse. This creates a nice dynamic of having to occasionally use a specific troop to battle an enemy, which is nice.
InterfacePretty standard point-and-click to move, while right-clicking and holding on various objects (and enemies) will display specific information about it - this is especially useful with enemies, although the usefulness of it can depend on specific skills (specifically, Scouting).
You can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel, which can give you a decent view of what lies ahead (and around) of your Hero. To rotate the camera, you right-click and move the mouse - I found this system to be functional, if occasionally frustrating due to the lack of a mouse sensitivity setting. I even poked through some of the configuration files, but was unable to change the sensitivity. Personally, I like low sensitivity and found the default (and only) setting pretty damn high - and given the subjective nature of what makes for "good sensitivity" and "bad sensitivity", it made the lack of a setting all the more mysterious.
Adventure ModeKing's Bounty features different areas, each composed of a single large map (a la Disciples, etc). The player maneuvers their character around the map in real-time by left clicking on a destination, and can right-click (and hold) on various objects to receive a description of them (an especially useful feature is right-clicking on enemy units to con them). An interesting note is that your character seems to have perpetual access to a horse, which he is always riding (which makes for good movement speed).
It's pretty standard stuff. One issue I've heard raised, and I experienced myself, was that it is occasionally difficult to locate interactive objects (chests, etc) on the maps, although exactly why this is can be hard to quantify in words - a combination of the perspective/art style, the resolution? While it was an annoyance, it is worth mentioning that I never had that problem of "I can't figure out what to do", and thrashing for 2 hours, only because there's a lever next to a door I never saw.
Monsters in the game are visible actors on the map, with their own scripted paths to travel. Once you cross a threshold distance, they will aggro to you and chase you down - however, because of the aforementioned perpetual horse, running away if you really want to is, generally speaking, a valid option. Once you "collide" with an enemy, though, they will go through a spiffy little animation and you'll load Combat Mode.
Combat ModeWhen Combat Mode is done loading, you'll see a hexagonal grid with the left side populated by your army and the right side by your enemies army. Initiative determines action order, and as soon as you select an action (and a target if required) it is executed, followed by the next Initiative, so on and so forth, in turn-based fashion. Assuming you kill all the enemies, you'll collect some loot and experience, and go back to Adventure Mode.
Despite that simplistic explanation, there is some good fun to be had here. You'll fight a decent variety of enemies, each with different abilities, and the AI will soon take a liking to turning your troops into sheep. A lot. Which, while it can be a little annoying, is acceptable - it's possible to turn them into sheep, and it's kind of cute, so it gets a pass.
Rage (and Spirits)At some point in the game, you'll start getting Rage - which can be used to summon Spirits of Rage, which are basically these four spirits that you can enlist to help you in combat, and they all have pretty awesome abilities - killing from 10-50% of a single troop instantly, dropping orbs that give mana/rage boosts, summoning an Ice Ball that attacks people or a "Gizmo" that attacks enemies and restores your health, and other dank stuff as well.
The way you accumulate Rage is pretty simple: when you take damage or some units die, you get Rage. This has an interesting effect in that the longer and harder the battle (more damage exchanged, more troops dead), the more Rage you will get and the more you'll be able to use the Spirits. It really works quite well, and adds another element to Combat.
SpellsThe spells in King's Bounty are, actually, pretty original. There are the staples like Fireball, but then there are some others like Pain Mirror, which inflicts damage to an enemy unit equal to the amount it just inflicted on you - which I found pretty useful.
With a high Intellect, max level spells (level 3), and the ability to cast two spells per turn (instead of one per turn), a Mage can wreak havoc and inflict thousands of points of damage before anyone has moved. Which is nice.
ItemsOf special mention here is the upgrading certain items, the story of which is backed up by some pretty expansive in-game lore.
Certain items can only be upgrading by battling demons (more specifically, Gremlins who live in little towers) that occupy the item. After defeating them, the item usually receives a significant upgrade. I typically found items could be upgraded twice this way.
CampaignThe campaign in the game can be summed up as the player doing things for the King, with zero ability to tell him where to stick it (if that is your thing, that is). This rigidity withstanding, it is still fairly interesting, with several landscapes and some interesting NPC's.
Something else that has been raised, and I again also experienced, goes something like this: you're exploring a map, handily dealing justice in the name of the King (see TANG for details on how that works), and then you'll stumble onto a very powerful enemy unit, which can (and just might) handily wipe you out. Saving often is a response to the problem, but hardly addresses the root problem. It's not a game breaker, but something to certainly be aware (read: wary) of.
Your (Hero's) Old LadyOne thing I found to be a pretty great feature was the ability to get married, and one wife in particular I found enchanting: a wife that can turn into a Zombie (and back)on command. There are several choices of wives, and you can have children with them as well (yes, even with the Zombie one, although they don't come out all freaky or anything).
There is a bit of a trade-off here, though. Initially, when you get married your wife apparently travels with you, and she can equip four items of your choosing (which benefits your army greatly). However, when you bring children into the world, they permanently take up one of those four item slots - although, the babies do offer benefits of their own.
And, after divorcing one wife and having four more kids with another wife, I found the bonuses of the little rugrat's to generally be inferior to that of my items. With no option to "swing by the orphanage", I left the second wife, too.
Before you say I'm a monster, be aware that women in King's Bounty come equipped with the best divorce lawyers money can buy. When you leave a wife, she cleans house: takes the kids, any items she has equipped, and 20% of your gold. Although not explicitly stated by the game, I'm pretty sure she takes some dignity as well.
QuestsThe quests in the game are ... alright. Some are more notable than others (for better or worse), but most were a little plain, and I found myself running across maps that were already empty quite a few times.
You'll mostly get gold for doing quests (obviously, quite useful), but you'll also snag a few items along the way. There's also a little humor to be found here, but it's all in the vein of being the King's loyal servant - which you may or may not find appealing.
GripesWhile when I first started playing the game it was very stable, later on towards the end I ran into a few crashes to the desktop. I was able to finish the game, but whether this was an issue specific to my platform (32-bit Vista) or not, is beyond me.
While this is not a problem for me personally, it might be for some: no multiplayer. Nothing, at all.
ClosingIn addition to the amusing wife feature, there are several other nice touches I found here, like the day/night cycle affecting certain unit types, buying a boat and sailing around (for loot and stuff, obviously), fighting in a tournament, and getting promoted by the king (Duke, Earl, etc). There are others, to be sure.
As a package, King's bounty is fun the first time through, but I don't really see a lot of replay value here. Because of that I kind of feel like the 30$ price tag (Steam/Impulse/D2D) was at the ceiling of the dollar amount of value here - if it had hit shelves at 20$, I'd feel a lot better about it.
If you're dying for a game like this, pay 30$ - if you can wait it out, pay 20$.