Also positively groaning with choice are the side-quests. Although, really, they're so abundant and engaging that the actual game story ultimately feels like a side dish to the surprising parade of smaller narratives you stumble upon as you wander around. These bite-sized sagas are just the right size, easily completed in fifteen minutes or so, but almost always lead you to the start of five more. It's another mental fishhook, keeping you baited as yet more gameplay hours slip past in a delicious blur.

Navigation can sometimes be a fumble, thanks to a camera that's rather too keen to revolve and spin depending on your movements. Coupled with a rather poorly designed map, this can make any concerted effort to reach a specific location more of a trial than it needs to be. It's almost as if the game wants to tug you from the obvious path and send you cantering into unexplored regions instead. A noble intention, but one that makes it a bit annoying when tradition dictates that you have to impose some sort of deliberate direction on your journey.

King's Bounty is also a game that rewards independent, adventurous spirits - it's every Choose Your Own Adventure book ever made, all stapled together so you can stroll from one page to the next at will - and the downside to this is that it's often frustratingly obtuse, giving you very little in the way of instruction or guidance despite the plethora of icons, gauges and menu screens that combine to form its dark heart. It's not nearly as complicated as it looks, but that doesn't excuse the fact you're left to work out the basic mechanics of a very deep game. Key elements such as the Spirits of Rage are just plonked into tiny buttons with no fanfare or illumination. Strip back the daunting clutter of options, insert some plain English explanations, and you've got a game with much broader appeal.

2
Despite the top-down view, the environments are incredibly detailed. If you value hours and hours of fresh content over big shiny graphics, this is the game for you.

The notion of plain English also brings us to hilariously wonky translation. Often this simply adds to the oddball charm, like when your mentor declares "You were almost like a son to me - young, hot and certainly talented" or, should you opt to follow the magical path, the way your character enters one early battle with a cry of "Mage came!" Other times, however, the mangled syntax renders important information unclear, a problem made more prominent by the habit of cramming reams of dialogue text into a tiny window.

Right now, King's Bounty feels like a 10/10 game wriggling inside a slightly-too-wonky 8/10 game engine. None of its flaws are enough to dull the many pleasures of its impressively varied world, and the more time you sink into its meandering delights the more surprising the experience becomes. Rare are the games that have you muttering "Well, I didn't know that could happen!" after more than 30 hours, and the fact I could have written another 2000 words describing weird and wonderful moments you're best discovering for yourself is all the recommendation you should need.

9 /10

About the author

Dan Whitehead

Dan Whitehead

Senior Contributor, Eurogamer.net

Dan has been writing for Eurogamer since 2006 and specialises in RPGs, shooters and games for children. His bestest game ever is Julian Gollop's Chaos.

More articles by Dan Whitehead

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