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King's Bounty: The Legend review

Excellent
AT A GLANCE
  • Insane and joyous
  • Consistently surprising
  • Stable and wonderful-looking
  • Somewhat unbalanced
  • Not always fair
  • Not well-translated

Great love triangles of our time: the frog, the zombie and us. Oh, how we long to marry both, but society’s cruel rules forbid it. Also, there’s no space for two wives on the character screen. Damn it. This is a strategy-RPG in the mould of Heroes of Might & Magic, with a simple structure – perform quests, build armies, kill other armies – that still manages to be consistently surprising.

Case in point: wives are an optional interface element whose sole purpose is to grant bonuses to your character’s army. That after dezombification or defrogification they can replace inventory items with children – clothes or babies, what a choice – is either rampantly misogynistic or a stroke of genius. Or both.

In between overseeing turn-’n’-hex based battles, our Paladin has performed dentistry on a dragon, brought peace to a warring family of toadmen, become a pirate, reunited a talking castle with its girlfriend and fought a war inside his own belt. Oh, and he married the zombie in the end, but he had to pay 5,000 gold to buy her off her first husband. The level of invention in this Russian-made wonder is incredible. While strategy skirmishes are its bread and butter, it’s far more interested in being an RPG, in offering absurdist vignettes within a huge, open high-fantasy world.

It’s very much the right choice, especially as the battles themselves can, though they grow in complexity, get tiresome. There’s a singular joy in constructing an army consisting of 98 giant snakes, 206 pirates, 56 Beholders, 12 cannoneers and oh, what the hell, let’s throw in a few vampires for good measure, but the sliiiiightly too long and too frequent fights are sometimes an unwelcome interruption. Regularly upgrading your army with new weird-’n’-weirder soldiers, replete with their own abilities, keeps it fairly fresh, but there’s a tendency to stack the odds a little too high against you.

Between that and the enthusiastic but all over the place Russian-English translation, it’s certainly not a game for everyone. At the same time, it’s free from the stereotypes of bugginess and low-rent production values many associate with East European games: it’s slick, it’s stable and it looks wonderful, albeit in a very Warcraftian way. It’s also the game we’ve enjoyed the most this year, by a comfortable margin. That’s a very different thing to ‘the best game of the year’, but frankly it’s not too far off that either, at least by our standards. Like Space Rangers 2, many of whose developers are behind this, it’s a game that requires a deep and genuine love of PC games – affection for and tolerance of their complexities and absurdities. It’s confusing and silly and fiddly, but it’s absolutely joyous with it.

Turn-based hex-battles or no, it appeals to the same part of me MMOs did before they slid into being all about the statistics. Huge open worlds to explore, packed with sights and delights for the cavalier adventurer. Just as our favorite aspect of WoW was the silly hats and the gimmick quests, here it’s recruiting angry bears to our army, or divorcing our zombie bride for a winsome frog – or any of a hundred other magnificently odd anecdotes.

Nov 7, 2008

More Info

Release date: Sep 23 2008 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: PC
Genre: Strategy
Published by: 1C
Developed by: Katauri Interactive
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Drug Reference, Language, Mild Fantasy Violence
PEGI Rating:
16+

5 comments

  • Crashman - November 16, 2008 9:22 p.m.

    I'm going to have to agree with the other comments. Even being familiar with Heroes of Might and Magic, this review really didn't do much to tell me what this game is like. And what is up with the pros and cons section? "Insane and joyous"? What the hell does that mean? Also, there is no mention of the rest of the King's Bounty series. Does this have any relation to the New World Computing series of the 90's? Given that this reviewer gave the game a "9", I would think they could have been a bit more thorough. I love Games Radar, but if you want a good review of this game, go read the one at IGN.
  • magicwalnuts0 - November 15, 2008 9:06 a.m.

    Jesus, for the love of god Alex Meer. You can reference other games but please, give us some explanations. I for one never played Heroes of Might and Magic, so I honestly have no idea what your talking about. Stop writing about game elements as if we've played the game. We're reading the review because we're deciding weather or not to buy the game, and once again I have no idea what the specifics are in this product. It's a hexed turn based RTS, but I don't know the significance of cannoneers or vampires, so don't mention them if they're gonna take up valuable page space. Bad review!
  • Yazleb - November 13, 2008 2:31 a.m.

    Oh shoot me now, its Alec Meer trying to write, haha...not as bad as that horrid Hinterland review, again not disagreeing with the score.
  • DaFencngHobo - November 11, 2008 5:23 a.m.

    this review is almost as bad as the hinterland one. after reading this i have no idea what the game is about or if it is good or not. get a reviewer who has finished high school next time.
  • neofile - November 9, 2008 1:19 a.m.

    I'm well into this game now after way too many nights playing it, and I agree with the reviewer. Except don't be too put off by the comment about the Russian translation, it's much more amusing than annoying (one of the pirates rejoices in the name Ron Wet Nose, as I recall). I really only have two issues with the game and that may be simply because I'm not a great player: as the game progresses, I've consistently found myself short of the gold I need to raise an army, so I'd like to have seen a much bigger margin for error. As it is, if I spend just a bit too much gold, it's very easy to find myself unable to fight any of the opposing armies on the board because I simply can't afford to raise a sufficiently large army myself. And speaking of opposing armies, the second point is that I think there are way too many of them! There are hardly any neutral units in the game, and so far I've only found one place where NPCs have offered to fight on my side. Instead of alliances being recognized and reflected in the alliegances of army units, virtually every army in the game is your enemy and stays that way even if you are allied to their cause. So don't think that helping out the dwarves will stop their units from attacking you, it won't. Small issues really in what is a fun and generally relaxing game. The storytale graphics are just right and the characters rarely stray into total seriousness, this is an RPG for people who swear they don't like the genre. And most importantly it has that "I'll just play for another half hour" factor and that's getting rare to come by. By the way I chose to play as a Mage and have subsequently read elsewhere that it's the way to go. And you get to wield a magical axe the size of a bus, so what more can you ask?

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