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King's Bounty: Armored Princess • Page 2

A right royal result.

That's what you'll spend most of your time doing - pitting armies against each other, earning experience points and cash as a result, and in turn buying new units and upgrades for your own team. It's very much an RPG, comparable in some ways to the compulsion, drive and visual reward of Diablo or the recent Torchlight, only at a slower pace and with a whole lot more brains. Outside of the fights, you roam a lavish, World of Warcraft-style fantasy world, picking up quests and buying new stuff.

For its first half at least, The Legend did the latter well, bombarding you with semi-satirical dialogue made even funnier because it was seen through the prism of a so-so Russian-English translation. It threw divine madness at you - most notably, the option to take a zombie as your bride, then to divorce her because a frog-lady gave better buffs. But it was always text, and the quests involved no choice, no resolution bar fighting something to death.

This is why Armored Princess is slightly underwhelming if you have played the first game. There just isn't as much madness, because the rigid structures of the game limit what can be shown and how the world can be interacted with. Text is the only way to convey anything outside of collecting and fighting, so it's hard for Armored Princess to drop genuinely new experiences on you. Alas, it loses a lot of its absurdist charm even in the writing, instead getting carried away and bombarding you with long screens full of fantasy wibble that you'll struggle not to simply click past. The running gag of the titular princess brooking no flirtation from the many men of a male-dominated world can be amusing, but it's not quite sparky enough to generate anecdotes, which The Legend did so well. There are some wildly inventive boss fights and powers, but essentially you'll be playing this more for the mechanics than for the strangeness.

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Bright colours! In a videogame released in 2009! I know, right?

The good news is that those mechanics are great - pairing Diablo-like compulsion with the tactics of Might & Magic is an enormously impressive feat in itself, let alone doing it as masterfully and charmingly as this. You'll spend a couple of dozen contented hours roaming a beautiful world, collecting and doffing up weird creatures. It's slicker than KB in a lot of ways, too - the incongruously cute pet dragon that lends a remote hand during your fights is a smart amalgamation of the over-complicated Rage uber-powers from the first game, for instance, while an instant transport system means there's nowhere near as much backtracking through now-empty zones. There are tons of tiny under-the-hood changes and improvements, resulting in a smoother-playing and slightly more accessible experience than its noble parent.

Yet the original stands just that bit taller thanks to its extra wildness. If you're going to play a King's Bounty game for the first time, make it The Legend - and I'd say that whether or not it was available so cheaply. If you're all done with that and crave more, then Armored Princess will not do you wrong. It's a mighty, beautiful and highly-polished game, and a welcome presence on any PC. I just hope the mad-as-bat-cheese developers are saving up the crazy they didn't quite unleash here for a full sequel.

8 / 10

King's Bounty: Armored Princess Alec Meer A right royal result. 2009-11-20T14:00:00+00:00 8 10

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