Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

WellPlayedWellPlayed

Review

King’s Bounty II Review

A bounty not worth the hunting

Have you ever played a pre-made character in a tabletop RPG? It was common practice for beginners when I started playing in 2000’s 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, but I’m too old and creaky to know if that’s still the way to go. Hell, when I do play tabletop it’s always Pathfinder – 3.5 D&D with years of extra polish. Socialising? Sounds like a trap to me. Anyway, creating a new character from your own imagination (or, in my case, conglomerating a number of media influences together like plagiarist play-doh) is a huge part of what makes RPGs so interesting, but the challenge in roleplaying a character that somebody else designed brings its own reward. At least it’s good acting practice, and at most you’ll come away having considered a new outlook on not just the game but the real world as well.

King’s Bounty II, by Moscow-based developer 1C Entertainment, is dedicated to this bold ideal. So dedicated, in fact, that it’s willing to pull as much agency away from the player as possible in order to do so. King’s Bounty II is your stock-standard fantasy RPG in terms of story: Your character – you choose one of three at the beginning of your game – is imprisoned after their complicity in a regicide plot, but is suspiciously released at the behest of the realm’s prince. It’s a stock-standard fantasy tale with almost no interesting or unique moments whatsoever. Not awful by any means, but it’s not bringing home any awards. Uncovering the rest of this story, however, also lays bare the game’s woefully lackluster storytelling mechanics.

Don’t let the cool skeletons fool you, we’re in for a bumpy ride

A telling example is in its morality system. Gameplay decisions adjust your character’s moral fiber along two rulers, which determines their future conversational attitude as well as your gameplay choices. For example, a more Anarchist-leaning character would say something during conversation with a noble that would make Maximilian Robespierre blush, or outright refuse to perform quests that aid ‘The Man’. But what if you don’t want to make enemies of nobility, or wanted to do that quest for the presumably sweet loot? “You reap what you sow”, says King’s Bounty II.

“Fair enough”, I reply. “But I’ll simply become more extreme along either moral axis because opportunities to retain a centrist position will literally be denied to me thanks to my past actions.”

Then, the game bumbles and runs out of the room in fear of my awesome intellect. My boobs grow two cup sizes instantly thanks to my logical triumph, and I retire as champion. Meanwhile, I still can’t do the bloody quest for all the loot I’m dreaming of because my character was railroaded into (correct) anti-monarchist sentiment. If you, like me, read about this system and believed that it’d be just like cracking out the pre-made characters in high school D&D, you’d be both right and wrong. It’s certainly good acting practice if you’re in the business of talking to yourself, but it’s let down by how narrow the acquisition of these moral points are. Conversations don’t branch like they would in a Bioware title, and the actual points on the morality scale are granted through binary choices in quests. Encounters are static as well – each playthrough will carry the same story beats regardless of your moral positioning. When I realised that my choices would become more narrow as I made more decisions, I started avoiding most side quests altogether. When a game makes you want to play less of it, something’s not right.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.



King’s Bounty II doesn’t even feel complete

Finally, our dyson sphere is complete

This disconnect is pushed along by the lack of personality in general that King’s Bounty II can boast. Each player character’s…character is about as wafer thin as Mister Creosote’s after-dinner mint, making the game’s focus on roleplay highly difficult. English-language voiceover work is the biggest indicator of the game’s budget, so I swapped to Russian within the first two hours and had a marvelous time pretending it was a fantasy tongue. Visuals and sound are acceptable, but only acceptable. The game’s realism-focused graphics don’t stand out much from other fare, relying on colour to do all the work. Bland fantasy classical infects the wriggly air entering your eardrums, numbing you to obvious loops. Exploring the world boils down to finding and taking obvious paths, which wouldn’t be as dull if the world you were exploring carried some uniqueness. As if to put the fanciest full stop possible on the end of their argument, King’s Bounty II doesn’t even feel complete. Judging from the series’ history, it’s safe to assume that this emptiness will serve as a vehicle for future DLC.

Thankfully, King’s Bounty II has more to offer than medicore storytelling and environments. There’s above-medicore combat as well! At points in the story, you’ll come to a combat scenario. It’s pretty average turn-based fare akin to 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, with some additional aspects thrown in. Frustratingly though, an unintuitive UI makes even this a chore. Initiative, for example, determines the order in which units can move. Instead of you taking your turn and then the enemy taking theirs, individual units move in order. This sure would prove a boon to combat if you had any idea of knowing who was going when. Tooltips are often your only source of information as aspects of the UI, like what order they can do stuff in, are absent entirely. Even then, things like range and line of sight aren’t explained until you’ve made (permanent) mistakes by not knowing them. Save-scumming is a natural part of playing any tactical game, but becomes frustrating when it proves absolutely necessary as to not grind your playthrough to a halt. Even outside combat, the UI pokes you and then whinges that they’re not even touching you. You’ll be forced to remember a number of hotkeys for opening menus, as there’s no on-screen menu with them all available. Even something as rudimentary as Final Fantasy XIV‘s toolbar would have sufficed.

A minimalist UI makes keeping up with combat more difficult

Not all of combat breeds frustration, though. There’s enough of the series’ winning formula here to warrant a small smile, and the variety in terrain and abilities makes combat engaging once initial confusions are set aside by making tooltip surfing a habit. After that, it comes together in some genuinely rewarding ways. The player character themselves also conducts combat from the sidelines, providing extra damage or support at the cost of consumable materials. They also have a skill tree, which provides the most variety in playthroughs that King’s Bounty II has to offer. Unsurprisingly, it’s easier to play a game when you’ve got a full deck. A shame, then, that finding all the cards isn’t easy.

Final Thoughts

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.



An okay combat system, honed over the course of years, doesn’t make up for a lack of vision everywhere else. Again, King’s Bounty II isn’t the worst game in the world. Performance was smooth on my middle-tier rig and I could count the minor bugs I encountered on one hand. That aside, there’s nothing that makes it stand out from the crowd. A samey story, wearisome world and a millstone morality system drag down the whole experience, turning what was marketed as a triumphant return into a title you’ll most likely grow tired of.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

Click here for information on WellPlayed’s review policy and ethics

King’s Bounty II Review
Fit for a prince, maybe
King's Bounty II is a well-meaning sequel that unfortunately lacks the character required to live up to its predecessors. Mediocre storytelling and shrug-inducing graphics and sound are partially redeemed by a decent combat system, albeit one without the courage to experiment.
The Good
Combat can prove engaging with time
Variety in skill tree
The Bad
Mediocre world and story
Patchy UI
Railroading morality system
5
Glass Half Full
  • 1C Entertainment
  • 1C Entertainment / Prime Matter
  • PS4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch / PC
  • 24 August, 2021

King’s Bounty II Review
Fit for a prince, maybe
King’s Bounty II is a well-meaning sequel that unfortunately lacks the character required to live up to its predecessors. Mediocre storytelling and shrug-inducing graphics and sound are partially redeemed by a decent combat system, albeit one without the courage to experiment.
The Good
Combat can prove engaging with time
Variety in skill tree
The Bad
Mediocre world and story
Patchy UI
Railroading morality system
5
Glass Half Full
Written By Arana Judith

Arana blames her stunted social skills and her general uselessness on a lifetime of video games. Between her ears is a comprehensive Team Fortress 2 encyclopedia. Her brain remains at large.

Comments

You May Also Like

Advertisement