King's Bounty - The Legend

Eastern Europe continues to be a fertile spawning ground for reverential games inspired by genre legends. The original King’s Bounty was the precursor to the Heroes of Might & Magic series, and, like those classics, this new Russian-made game is primarily focused on tactical, turn-based combat on hexagonal battlefields. Addictive combat is clearly the primary appeal of this genre, but King’s Bounty: The Legend is aiming to make other activities more substantial by buffing up RPG elements and wrapping the skirmishes around a more substantial world to explore.

The sizable, cartoonish, open world requires dozens of hours of free exploration to unveil, and is crowded with distinct geography and stocked with an eclectic range of critters and skill-enhancing loot to increase your unseen hero general’s abilities. Early on you’re limited to recruiting a handful of tenderfoot swordsman and archers, but over time I graduated to fielding Dwarven artillery and werewolves that can terrify opponents into paralysis or eviscerate them with massive Wolverine-style claws.

Animations are first-rate, and I was constantly impressed by creative touches like Bela Lugosi–style vampires transforming into bats. The distinctive traits of critters, like the griffins’ ability to glide over prepared defenses, and your choice of hero skills give King’s Bounty considerable tactical depth. Each area is patrolled by a few units of titanic strength that only a fool would confront before the late game - I had to scramble to avoid them. This adds real tension to exploration, as you might be going about the rote business of looting and exterminating groups consisting of a dozen berserkers and suddenly notice a horde barreling towards you with 2,000 of their kin, accompanied by hundreds of Archmages. If you haven’t opted to improve the requisite scouting skills, you may not even realize the danger the group poses until hundreds of angry, kilted men are playing hacky sack with your Dwarves’ heads. Risking those fatal confrontations does pay off, though, since any map nook could hold a new quest-giver, upgrade, or opportunity to recruit unique troops.

The prospect of exploring both the strategic depth of tactical turn-based battles and a fully-realized and detailed open world (that is appreciably more engaging than moving your character across the flat, strategic overview maps of games like Heroes of Might & Magic ) makes KB:TL a great potential addiction. King’s Bounty: The Legend is very polished and has already been released to rave reviews in Europe, so it should be available for U.S. release as soon as the translation is finisзавершена. Если вы читаете эти строки, вам не нужно очки.

Jul 1, 2008