King's Bounty 2 Review: Knight Errant
King's Bounty 2 is a game that feels like it's at war with itself, with disparate ideas that never fully mesh together. It’s an effort to combine open-world RPGs with Might and Magic-style, but the open-world elements end up detracting from the experience more than they help it.
Despite some high points and a combat system that gets better as the game goes on, it unfortunately never melds into a cohesive whole, and little bits of frustration don't help matters.
King's Bounty 2 Review: Knight Errant
King’s Bounty 2 lets you choose from three distinct characters: a Warrior that focuses on unit strength, a Mage that can learn a wide array of spells, and a Paladin that has support magic.
No matter which character you pick, the story starts out the same way. Your character has been put in prison after being accused of poisoning the King of Nostria, but they’re given a second chance when the now-ruling prince sends you on a special mission.
The story may be the same for all three characters, but there is some variation in how each character responds. Unfortunately, the only interesting character is Katherine the Mage, who consistently throws out witty one-liners and sarcastic comments.
The core structure of King’s Bounty 2 is pretty close to what you find in the genre, as the lone hero strikes out on a series of quests to unravel the core mystery of who’s causing trouble across Nostria. The story doesn’t do much to grab you initially, and it doesn’t get much better even 30 hours in.
As you follow the main story, the formula of King’s Bounty 2 becomes abundantly clear; proceed to an area filled with NPCs and load up your quest journal, complete those quests, and then rinse and repeat in the next area.
The game is filled to the brim with both main quests and side quests, but few of them manage to tell engaging stories. The writing is consistently very dry, and a mish-mash of questionable voice acting only helps drag things down even more.
My biggest issue with the quests in King’s Bounty 2 is how they all kind of blend together, especially in terms of how they’re tracked. You can only track one quest at a time, which will be highlighted on your map, but every other objective is simply a basic exclamation point with nothing to denote which quest it belongs to.
This can lead to a lot of confusion unless you want to consistently dig through your quest journal and reference it to your map.
Getting around the world of Nostria also isn’t as intuitive as it could be. Fast travel points dot the world, but the way quests are designed means it would be better if you could simply fast travel at any time, without having to go to a point.
This problem is coupled with an abysmally slow walking speed, with no option to sprint or anything else. To be fair, you do have a horse that can be summoned at any time, but bafflingly, when you’re in towns, the horse moves slower than you walk.
The good news, however, is that Nostria is an absolutely gorgeous world, with a wealth of particle effects and wildlife dotting the forests and hills. It’s a shame that the world and NPCs end up feeling so lifeless because King’s Bounty 2 consistently wowed me with gorgeous vistas, putrid swamps, and more.
While the actual structure and story of King’s Bounty 2 leave a lot to be desired, the game’s combat system fares a lot better. Combat is an evolution of the grid-based system used in King’s Bounty: The Legend, and it has a lot of strategy built-in. Units take turns based on their initiative stat, and almost every unit in the game has a unique special attack.
There’s a ton of variety in terms of army composition, as units are grouped into four different ideals; Order, Anarchy, Power, and Finesse. These ideals also correspond to moral choices throughout the game, and the more points you have in one ideal the better the moral for those unit types will be.
Layered on top of your units are a host of magic spells, with the ability to use one per round. Past even that you also factor in the equipment on your character, who doesn’t take part in battle, but the equipment will grant certain stat boosts and perks.
King’s Bounty 2 is absolutely unforgiving in its battles, and there’s a definite learning curve to the game, but it still manages to be an engaging system that truly encourages tactical thinking. The combat system does a good job of expanding and becoming even more complex as you unlock additional units.
There’s a bit of frustration in the mix as well, though, as enemies consistently feel like they have a leg up and know every weakness in your army. There were multiple instances where I simply couldn’t find any way to beat a battle until I spent some time grinding to upgrade my character and army.
This leads to one of my other main issues with King’s Bounty 2, and that’s actually restocking your army. If you want to restore a certain unit, you’ll need to remember which recruiter has them, as the map doesn’t denote what kind of units anyone has. It’s absolutely baffling that the map wouldn’t at least note what type of units a recruiter has, and this leads to a few instances of wandering around trying to find the right one.
King's Bounty 2 Review — The Bottom Line
- The world itself looks lush and gorgeous
- Tactical combat that deepens as you progress through the game
- A wealth of options for building your own army and strategies
- Boring and forgettable quests that feel tedious
- Stilted and wooden voice acting and animations
- Frustrating lack of detail on the map and objectives
- Crushing difficulty that can bring your progress to a halt
If I had to pick one word to describe King’s Bounty 2 it would tedious, and that applies to every facet of the game. All of the various ideas don’t mesh together in a meaningful way, and the interesting combat simply isn’t enough to prop up King’s Bounty 2 against all of its other flaws.
Fans of the series may still find something to love, but King’s Bounty 2 lacks the special spark that the most memorable RPGs have.
[Note: Deep Silver provided the copy of King's Bounty 2 used for this review.]