Hands-On With King’s Bounty II: The Witcher Meets Fire Emblem

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The King’s Bounty series has been going since 1990, but with the latest entry in the series, King’s Bounty II, developer 1C Entertainment is hoping to attract a wider audience.

For a start, there’s the matter of platforms. While previous King’s Bounty games have generally only been available on PC, when King’s Bounty II launches this August it will also be available on consoles. And the format of the game has changed too, with players exploring a fantasy world in third-person before engaging in strategic, turn-based battles.

We’ve been hands-on with King’s Bounty II, getting a feel for what to expect when we dive into the full release in just over a month. We’ve been pretty impressed by what we’ve played through so far. At the outset of the game you’re able to choose between three heroes: a warrior named Aivar, a mage called Katharine, or a paladin called Elisa. Each has their own talents, so you might want to choose carefully.

Our journey with Aivar, the warrior, began with him being released from prison. The word around the fort is that such an instance is a rarity, and then we found out the reason for our newfound freedom: the prince of the land wants a word with us for some reason. So, with a lump of money, some soldiers and a horse thrown our way, we begin our journey to go and talk to him.

It’s nice that King’s Bounty II wastes little time before giving you control. After paying attention to some concise tooltips, we left the fort and entered the wintery outdoors. While following the main story was primarily on our agenda, it wasn’t long until we found our first diversion. Upon entering an abandoned settlement, a statue sat in the centre of an open area, its arms removed. Dismounting from our horse, we searched the area and founds its arms before reattaching them. Our reward for our time was a chest full of treasure, and who doesn’t love loot?

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The truth is, if the early hours of King’s Bounty II are anything to go by, the full game will be chock-full of side-quests, with many of them forcing you to make important decisions. It wasn’t long on our adventure until a dwarf caught our attention, for example. He needed help, as the rest of his group were being troubled by some assassins who wished to lay siege on the fort we’d just been freed from. And so the choice was ours: we could either side with the dwarves or the assassins. We chose the former, and after dispatching the assassins in combat were rewarded by the dwarves for our good choice.

When combat is instigated, you’re taken to a preparation screen where you manage your army before battle commences. Up to five units can take part in battle, but you can have many more in reserve. Once you’ve selected your five units, you’re taken to the battlefield and can place your units before finally kicking things off. Units act according to their initiative; if multiple units have the same initiative, then other stats are used to determine who moves first.

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There are, of course, a range of units. Some are melee-focused, so you need to move them close to your opponents to attack. Others can hang back and attack with magic or ranged weapons like bows and arrows. Many units have special abilities available to them as well, such as powerful attacks that inflict bleed on the enemy, or healing spells to keep units in the fight for longer. Needless to say, combat is tactical and strategic, especially when you add in the fact that you need to consider line of sight and other complexities.

What’s really peculiar about King’s Bounty II‘s combat is that your chosen hero doesn’t play that much of an active role, especially if you choose the warrior. Instead of being a unit that you move around the battlefield, they instead stand back and play the role of tactical commander. They can, however, make use of magic, casting one spell each turn. As Aivar the warrior can’t learn magic, he instead has to rely on consumable scrolls if he wishes to directly attack enemies in combat. Though of course, not all spells are of the attack variety; buffs and debuffs are also available, as well as summons and more.

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Succeed in combat and you’ll receive spoils, as well as experience for both your hero and the units that took part. As your hero levels up they’ll earn talent points, which can be used to enhance their abilities and make them more effective a commander. As units level up, they’ll become more formidable in battle. You need to be careful, however, as if a unit is defeated, they’re gone for good. After a breezy start, we found that combat soon became rather challenging. Needless to say, units will be lost, and you will be disheartened. Thanks to fast travel, it’s easy enough to travel back to a recruiter if you need more units though. Just make sure you have enough gold to afford them.

We played King’s Bounty II on PC, and were pleasantly surprised by its visuals. 1C Entertainment has created a rich and detailed world here, filled with interesting characters. Though granted, they’re not always animated that well. The voice acting is good on the whole, too, with just the occasional weirdly delivered line.

After going hands-on with King’s Bounty II, we’ve definitely grown more excited about it’s upcoming release. It has nice production values, an intriguing story and an enjoyable balance between exploration and combat. Even better, the battles you engage in are relatively fast-paced and tense – the threat of permanently losing a unit is always at the back of your mind. In fact, that’s our only concern so far given the somewhat uneven difficulty level of the battles we’ve taken part in; just one that doesn’t go entirely your way can leave your forces decimated, which can be a costly affair.

King’s Bounty II launches 24th August on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.

Pre-order King’s Bounty II on Amazon