I’ve had the chance to play the preview of King’s Bounty II, and the first thing I noticed was just how pretty it is. The clear and cheery style seems to breathe some fresh air into a genre overcome with a predilection to dreariness, conjuring the feeling I got from the Witcher’s Blood & Wine.
This is no clearer than in the background scenery, from winter wonderlands to sundrenched summertime, which never failed to bring a smile to my face.
The game combines traditional RPG elements with an innovative turn-based strategy battle and army building system. You fight these battles with units you hire from various NPCs, each corresponding to one of the four Ideals, with army Morale sensitive to any combination.
These units start with only a few individuals but can be increased in number as they level up. This means that safeguarding your elite units becomes more important as time goes by and makes a unit’s destruction really sting.
Combat uses an initiative system to determine unit turn order and is further broken down into rounds. Maintaining the Morale is important here, as happy soldiers have a chance for an extra action, while sad ones can lose their turn altogether. Each round also allows your character to cast a spell through learnt magic or consumable scrolls.
Your character also uses these Ideals for decisions and Talents, and you can think of Order, Power, Finesse, and Anarchy in much the same way as the more common Good Vs. Evil you’ll find in many other games.
These Ideals are increased through various means, most often through quest choices. And, just as in other games, when you push far enough in one direction, you’ll become locked into certain outcomes and playstyles, unwilling to go against your character’s… character.
The worldbuilding is nicely done, with lots of little ways to learn more about the in-game universe. Mostly this follows traditional RPG methods such as little books and letters for you to read, with some of these opening up quests to find the rest of a set, giving you lore and experience at the same time. There’s also the odd notice board that delivers interesting snippets or silly jokes.
The written word isn’t the end of the story here, with NPCs chatting away to each other about the issues of the day, allowing flavour and worldbuilding to be delivered without being forced down your throat through cutscenes or long conversations.
Something to note with the dialogue - and this also applies to player conversations - is that it can feel stilted at times, but the overall commitment soon overcame the Renaissance Faire vibe and sucked me in.
With the gameplay out of the way, it’s time to discuss the performance. For me, the game ran smoothly with ultra settings on an old GTX 1070 at 1440p, making it look great on pretty much any modern machine.
However, the game seems horrifically optimised and while the accompanying notes mention a GPU fix for release, the current build maxes out my card from the second I open the game, even before hitting the menu. As a result, I’ve played less than I’d wanted as the idea of running a constant stress test is pretty stressful.
Almost no basic controls can be remapped yet, which probably isn’t a problem for most people, but as one of the minority lefties, I found I had to use a controller instead. On the plus side, controller support for the RPG elements is exceptional, with everything working perfectly.
That said, I had to switch back to a mouse for the battles as the controller was very sluggish, but transitioning between the two was seamless, and when I continue to play after release, I will stick to the same.
King’s Bounty II is a pretty pleasant addition to the over-saturated RPG market, standing out with its bright medieval charm and innovative battles. The art style alone makes me happy to play it, but the gameplay is smooth and comfortable as well.
There’s also some potential for replayability, with three heroes to choose from at the beginning of the game. Each hero has their own strengths and weaknesses, from buffing troops to magic use and these open up or close down options in quests and gameplay.
Overall, King’s Bounty II looks to be a place for fans of epic fantasy and open-world exploration, and if they can fix some of the technical issues in the final release, I’ll definitely be revisiting its unique take on the genre.
About Matthew Ralphson
Matthew cut his teeth on Age of Empires and never looked back. He misses the times when games still came in boxes...