With satisfying gameplay KB:TL more than makes up for its dated graphics and uninspired storyline
Kings Bounty: The Legend is a deceptively simple game. While you will be up and playing in moments the game does hide a level of complexity beneath its colorful surface and it will take you some time to truly master the gameplay. But this time will be well worth your effort as the gameplay, especially during the combat screens, is where KB:TL is at its best.
KB:TL is a world saving RPG at its core with a mix of tactical combat thrown in. You start the game as a recent graduate into the ranks of the good king Mark. As his newest leader you are given charge of several army units and sent forth into the kingdom to combat the recent increase in monsters, bandits and general badness that has befallen the kingdom. This phase of the game looks a lot like Diablo as you wander the countryside visiting various buildings and underground locations and getting into trouble. When you encounter an enemy unit the game shifts into a hex field battleground where each of your various units, along with the enemies, are broken out onto separate sides of the grid. Battle then takes place in initiative order for each unit on the battlefield.
The world is very colorful and pleasing although the graphics do look a bit dated. The isometric view can be rotated to let you see around buildings and obstacles which is handy at times. Unfortunately, the layouts of each world screen forces you into following paths in order to reach specific locations; there is no cutting cross country to save time or to reach your destination. This frustrated me several times during the game since I was unable to use clever tactics to avoid a more powerful foe.
The game can be unreasonably hard and if you aren’t familiar with this type of game there is no shame to set the difficulty to easy. The first map you start on has a very high percentage of “impossible” and “overwhelming” encounters. If you get into a fight with a superior foe you can retreat, leaving all your army units behind to be destroyed and begin again at King Marks castle. Fortunately, you can pause the game by hitting space and right click on an enemy unit in view to get a view of your relative strengths. If they are to strong you can attempt to avoid them or run away. If you outdistance an enemy group they will give up the chase and return to their map position.
This would have been a useful feature to have learned in the tutorial section of the game. In fact the tutorial skips right over many features of the game including the map screen, the quest log and any use of tactics. During the tutorial section you are given an overwhelmingly powerful group of army units and sent forth do complete some simple battles. The transition from the powerful units in the tutorial to the simple peasant hordes and basic swordsman units you actually start the game with was a tough transition. It was no longer possible to just overwhelm enemy units but careful tactics became much more important.
The map screen, suffers from a lack of auto notation feature found in most of the more recent RPG games. You are allowed to create your own map markers and I would highly recommend that you make extensive use of them; otherwise you will quickly forget where certain quest locations are given or completed at. Very few of the games important locations will add themselves to the map for you.
The music is suitable for a fantasy genre game and I found it fairly pleasing. The sound effects for combat are also fairly good but a little understated. I would have liked to hear more swords clanging on armor and more emphatic sounds for magical effects. The voice acting is uniformly dreadful but is also mercifully infrequent, as the weak story line is told in simple text conversations with King Mark and many other inhabitants of the land.
For all those negative comments I have to admit to really enjoying this game. It’s easy to jump into and out of for quick gaming pleasure but it’s also easy to spend hours absorbed in the title. The world to explore is absolutely huge and the game will offer many hours of gameplay to anyone interested in finding it. The games best feature is the tactical combat screens. Each battle screen has random obstacles, dangers and even rewards which allow players to make strategic choices in battle. The animations in combat are also fun to watch. There is a definite Battle Chess quality to combat as you eagerly watch each new unit you encounter in action. They do grow old after a while though and the menu option to use fast animations in combat becomes very welcome.
As you progress through the game you not only gain access to more powerful types of troops but your Leadership skill increases which allows you to employ more troops. Increasing the number of archers, for example, from 6 to 12 doubles their offensive firepower. Another great feature of combat is the use of your special skills. As you level up you can spend resources to gain magic spells, improve the defensive or offensive skills of your units or even rearrange units on the hex grid before combat starts. Most combats can be heavily influence by the careful use of your personal magic in addition to the special skills any of your units brings to the field.
Another fantastic feature is the rotating quick save. There are three quick save slots that are used in rotation every time you press the quick save button. I loved the security that gave me instead of having the traditional one shot for a quick save slot and manually managing any others I wanted to create. I wouldn’t mind seeing that feature in more RPGs.
KING'S BOUNTY: THE LEGEND VERDICT
With satisfying gameplay KB:TL more than makes up for its dated graphics and uninspired storyline. The combat, especially, is highly enjoyable and it is very easy to find yourself loosing hours to this title. Be sure to take advantage of writing your own notes on the maps and carefully selecting which opponents to engage and this game world will be your oyster.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Finally getting to use the promised Rage Spirits in combat.