Somewhere in between the final boss assaulting your Princess%26rsquo;s home castle, receiving a pet dragon, gaining command of an army, getting your own ship, entering a new dimension, disobeying your father and destroying a priceless artifact, you might wonder if Armored Princess is squeezing too much into its first 90 seconds. Is this really a hex-based strategy game?
It is. Because developers Katauri still feel the same the way about plot development as FPS developers feel about bullets. It tends to be overwrought, but in the most wonderful, lunatic way. Controlling the princess on a quest to save her kingdom is incredibly rewarding because of the giddy speed at which she progresses in her hexagonal jaunt. Experience, gold and the %26lsquo;leadership%26rsquo;, which lets you control more and more troops, is always pouring in, along with skill runes for advancement along three separate trees. On top of this, new levels and abilities for your dragon are dumped on you at an extraordinary rate, along with a mass of loot to equip and discard, including banners, dresses and armour-bearers.
It%26rsquo;s lunacy that made the original, King%26rsquo;s Bounty: The Legend, lots of fun. Every side-quest you encounter in Armored Princess is like an epic saga; the music swells ridiculously as you rummage through your inventory, and your troops enjoy a survival rate similar to decapitation victims.
Thanks to the sense of humour, the surprises, the relentless, tense fights, and that colourful world that rewards every inch of exploration, it%26rsquo;s as enjoyable at the 20 hour mark as it is five hours in. But as for what%26rsquo;s actually been added to King%26rsquo;s Bounty besides the new campaign %26ndash; between 25 and 35 hours%26rsquo; worth of play %26ndash; there%26rsquo;s not a great deal.
The appearance of lizardmen means a nice handful of fresh units to fight and recruit, and the new super-bosses %26ndash; hulking creatures that demand special tactics %26ndash; do a great job of shaking things up. But while the pet baby dragon gives the player one more side of their character to develop, his cutesy doughiness and irritatingly slow animations are at odds with the rest of the world. The armour-bearers that replace King Bounty%26rsquo;s wives and children aren%26rsquo;t half as fun, either.
Maybe Katauri%26rsquo;s market research informed them of an elusive gamer who loves dresses and lizardmen, but aren%26rsquo;t they aware that Oblivion actually lets you play a dress-wearing lizardman? They haven%26rsquo;t made enough changes to force a purchase from anyone who either bought or didn%26rsquo;t like the 2008 King%26rsquo;s Bounty. Newcomers to the series could buy the original for a third of the price. If you%26rsquo;re flush with Christmas cash, pick up Armored Princess. But if you%26rsquo;ve spent that money on A Guide to Russian Plot Development, get the original instead.
Dec 14, 2009