There is something delightfully old school about King’s Bounty II: whether that be the dodgy character models, laughable voice acting, restricted “open” world or even the tactical RPG nature of the game itself. All these are quirks on the surface which may seem bad but they have inadvertently transported me back to a time long since passed.
31 years after the original King’s Bounty, this is the first time a direct sequel has been released. There have been spin-offs, and not to mention Heroes of Might and Magic born from the series, but King’s Bounty II marks the first direct sequel. And yet, despite being a sequel, it is set in a completely different world with new characters.
King’s Bounty II is set in the world of Nostria. Your chosen protagonist has had a six-month spell in prison after being accused of plotting to kill the king. After the real king has been taken sick, the acting king has asked for your release and summons you to the capital to help out with the strange goings on there.
You have a choice of three protagonists for your epic journey: Aivar the Warrior, Elisa the Paladin or Katharine the Mage. Each of them starts in the same prison and follow mostly the same path, aside from a few moral choices and narrative options. These character unique moments however seem to disappear as you progress and have a more customised character build. Even Aivar can wield magic after learning the spell from scrolls. Aside from differing starting stats, it appears you can easily tailor your chosen protagonist however you would like.
However, these are not who you control when in combat, as your character acts as a general in command of a small army. As a tactical RPG, whenever you go into combat the perspective changes to a top down view of a hexagonal grid comprising of your units and enemy units. Queue position is always indicated above a unit, so you know who is attacking first. Early battles will feature standard melee units, but you’ll quickly be utilising ranged units and employing various other units from all walks of life into your army. Expect to control humans, animals, skeletons, undead, mages and more. Almost any unit you fight against you can control if you find the right vendor, apart from those tainted by the Blight. Units have a level cap too, so those you use in the first few hours will soon become redundant as your journey progresses.
Units have a whole range of stats that you can pour over if that is your thing. There is a lot of depth to the combat with screens full of numbers, but they can also be largely ignored if that amount of granular detail isn’t for you. There is no punishment to not knowing exactly what armor percentage your Dogs of War have when your main character has a Warrior’s Belt equipped, but that information is there to those that want it at the same time.
Team morale is also a major factor to keep in mind. It is one thing to have a varied army, but too varied in terms of their Talent alignment will see your army skip turns in the heat of battle.
Essentially, every action and reaction you take in King’s Bounty II falls into one of four Talents: Order, Anarchy, Finesse and Power. Order and Anarchy are polar opposites, as are Finesse and Power. Army units fall into one of these four Talents, these act as your skill tree, and any missions that have various solutions will also show you which Talent the decision you make will fall into. They are like the underlying system behind everything in King’s Bounty II.
For example, Finesse is mostly associated with spellcasting, but as Aivar, this is open to you from the beginning. Progress too far in the other Talents though and they will lock out any further unlockable skills, but at the same time it is wise to not neglect a Talent completely. It can be a bit like walking a tightrope at times trying to finely balance them all, but ultimately, they do not have any major bearing on the final outcome of your journey; they just change how you get there.
When not in combat, King’s Bounty II has an over the shoulder perspective and open-world environment. It is a very basic open-world however, and very linear. A map will show you where your next mission marker is, along with dozens of other helpful icons, but it really is a case of simply following the path. There are plenty of off-shoots with various chests and caches to loot but stray too far from the designated walkway and you will be met by blockages aplenty.
The world itself is quite pretty as long as you don’t look too closely. There are impressive vistas to take in, and the environments and architecture can vary wildly between areas. Most of the buildings on your journey cannot be entered, so expect to see tavern patrons and such like all sat outside drinking, regardless of the weather.
Character models are a different matter though. Your chosen character is very wooden in terms of movement and will only ever jog at a slow pace. You have a horse at your disposal, but it isn’t any better. When talking to NPCs the perspective again shifts a bit closer and you can really get a good look at them. This is an Xbox One game – no optimisation for Xbox Series X|S – but character models look like a generation before even this. They are devoid of any expression apart from having eyes that could burn through to your soul.
Couple this with some voice acting that would give the original Resident Evil a run for its money and any sense of immersion is quickly lost.
But there is a unique charm to King’s Bounty II. It may be long, at times laborious – especially if you want the full 1000G as it requires three complete playthroughs – and a bit rough around the edges, but it’s reminiscent of early 3D RPGs. And for that, it’s an enjoyable throwback.
Fight back against the Blight in King’s Bounty II for £54.99 on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S