King's Bounty 2: growing pains mar an otherwise encouraging return

Not yet one to treasure.

This is quite the change. If you didn't know, King's Bounty 2 has gone 3D, in the sense that the camera is now over the shoulder of your hero rather than high up in the sky looking down on them, and the world around them. And that really changes things. It brings you into the world in a way the games previously didn't. You're in the world rather than observing it. You're up in the faces of the people who live there, talking to them, deciding things, buying things from them. You're inside their houses and their castles, and you're looking up at the rooftops of caverns or crumbling ruins.

Glance at King's Bounty 2 and it could be any number of other third-person role-playing games that you've played, and that's a huge step forwards for the series. It's never looked this accomplished before. And perhaps this is the beginning of a whole new era for King's Bounty. But there are growing pains that come with it.

Being so close in appearance to other RPGs means King's Bounty 2 invites comparison to them, and in these, it suffers. It's a bit rough around the edges, and that's fine, but it tends to mean you've always seen better somewhere else. Those snowy environments and castles aren't quite as nice as you've seen in other games. That character moves a bit woodenly, and that horse is annoyingly hard to turn around. And while it's great that there's an attempt at a cinematic story and performed dialogue, it tries a bit hard and feels overwrought, and it wasn't long before I ignored it almost entirely.

I think part of the problem comes from expectations. King's Bounty 2 is pushing towards a kind of experience it hasn't quite achieved, and one it's not known for. We know King's Bounty for being a series about building fantasy armies to fight in grid-based, turn-based battles. We know it as a strategy series with RPG layers on top. The fundamentals were galloping around a map and vacuuming up anything useful for increasing your hero's or army's power, which are essentially one and the same thing. The series had focus.

Now, it seems a bit at odds with itself and what it wants to be. On the one hand, you are the lone adventurer, running around on foot with a crossbow strapped to your back, and you're talking to people, buying and selling, and so on. But you can't actually fire the crossbow. You have to pull away from that immersion when combat comes around because you're the commander of an army which magically springs from you in battle, and you're standing at the back not quite taking part. This is how it's always been in King's Bounty and I like it this way, it's just the two styles of game jar, at times, rather than mesh.

kingsbounty2_screenshot_ruins
kingsbounty2_screenshot_snow
kingsbounty2_screenshot_battle
A small selection of King's Bounty 2 screenshots, including some battle gameplay.

The new, more cinematic RPG presentation slows things down a bit too, both in terms of technical performance and concept, and it can make King's Bounty 2 sag and get boring at times. It's just not quite as good at the new bits as it wants to be, yet, and it feels like those are the parts it wants you to spend time admiring.

I think it's still growing into its new clothes. I'm glad King's Bounty is back, though, because many of the old pleasures are still there. It's not quite as zippy and assured as it was in, say, King's Bounty: The Legend in 2008, but give it time to adjust and I'm sure - at least, I hope - it will be.

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About the author

Robert Purchese

Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer  |  Clert

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.

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