It was partway through this second hands-off presentation for King’s Bounty II that we had been kindly invited to, that a thought occurred to me: How on Earth can I – a guy who writes about games in my spare time – expect to give King’s Bounty II, with its size and scope, a fair review when it comes to release in August?
But as overwhelmed as I was, I was also very impressed. King’s Bounty II is shaping up very nicely indeed. From the original presentation we had back in November where we got a very early overview, this latest showing gave us a much more in-depth look at the core gameplay loops.
Simply put, after this latest presentation, I have resigned myself to a lack of sleep when the full game releases.
King’s Bounty II can be split into wildly different loops, and during this second presentation we got a decent look at both; world exploration and tactical turn-based battles.
During the open-world sections, the team at 1C Entertainment cited such examples as Fable, The Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect as examples they are trying to emulate. We were introduced to one of the three main playable characters in King’s Bounty II, Aivor. Each of these main characters plays vastly differently, and the word replayability was batted around in order to get the most out of King’s Bounty II.
We saw Aivor wandering around a peaceful market town, chatting to residents and taking on various forms of quests from them. He then dipped into a dungeon to dispatch some skeletons, and we got a better look at the battle system, but more on that later. There was firstly a quest to turn in.
Quests can have multiple ways of completing them, that in turn offer different rewards. Another example we were shown involved visiting an area called Old Cemetery to retrieve a crystal from some undead humans. Up until that point, it all sounds terribly generic RPG territory, but King’s Bounty II lets you complete the quest as you see fit. And these decisions will alter the story so that each playthrough will be unique. In this example, depending on who you return the crystal to will either allow the undead to fight alongside you, or against you.
King’s Bounty II only features the one ending, but how exactly you get there will likely be vastly different to another player.
The various paths and rewards are built into your progression skill tree, known as Ideals. There are four to choose from, and they’ve changed names slightly since the first presentation. Now known as Order, Power, Anarchy and Finesse, it is completely down to you how you level these up. Whether you are going for purely a Power build or a jack of all trades, King’s Bounty II allows you total freedom.
But what do these Ideals translate into? Amongst other things, they grant you access to various different units, many of which are unique to specific Ideals. This is where the second major loop of King’s Bounty II comes in – the tactical turn-based battle system. You see, even though you choose a main character, these aren’t the ones you control on the battlefield. Instead, these act as the commander of the army, and it is these units that do the battling for you.
It is during these battle phases that the camera changes from a third person over the shoulder to a more isometric point of view, allowing you to survey the battleground better. Fights take place on the same world-map you are exploring which means that terrain, line of sight and troop placement is hugely important. Before starting a battle though, you can place your troops where you think they will be most effective, as opposed to randomly throwing you into a fight with zero preparation. When it is your turn, units can move and attack in the same turn. In the presentation we were shown plenty of ranged and area-of-effect attacks that lit the screen up with bright colours, along with some units charging in and slashing away. There wasn’t much detail exactly in the types of units you can command – though it was confirmed that Dwarves will be in King’s Bounty II – but quick glimpses at pre- and post-battle screens indicate you won’t be spoilt for choice.
Which is just as well, because troops will become obsolete over time. Alongside levelling up individually and changing appearances over time, their power and abilities will become redundant as you progress through King’s Bounty II. How exactly this is implemented remains to be seen, but it is designed so that players try a variety of troops during their time with the game, and don’t get too attached to the same ones.
There isn’t too long to wait now for King’s Bounty II as it nears its 24th August release date on Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC. The marriage it has struck between exploration and tactical RPG is unique in that most games of this type simply opt for one or the other, and it’s a marriage we are quietly hopeful for.
As always, huge thanks go out to 1C Entertainment for the invite to the hands-off King’s Bounty II presentation.