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King's Bounty: Armored Princess

A right royal result.

I'm both the best and the worst guy to be reviewing this. The best because last year's strategy/role-playing curio King's Bounty: The Legend was comfortably my game of the year, and one I bent the ear of anyone unlucky enough to be in the same room as me about. The worst because, well, that. I know the thing inside out. Armored Princess is a standalone expansion for it, and as such it's pretty much the same game. If I'd come to it without already knowing how good King's Bounty is, I'd have been grabbing people in the street, staring at them with wild eyes, shaking them by the shoulders and shouting, "Princess! Armored Princess! Omi god it's amazing it's a proper PC game you have to play it you have to play it whoops I just had a trouser malfunction."

It is a proper PC game. You do have to play it. I have just had a trouser malfunction. It's just... it's the same game again. When you can pick up the first game (well, not the first - The Legend was a semi-remake of the old 1990s King's Bounty) for less than a tenner, it's very hard to tell you to spend £30 on this one instead. And that's the nub of it - if you haven't played the first King's Bounty, get that. There isn't anything in Armored Princess that's worth spending an extra £20 on, unless you particularly get off on inventory screens showing a girl in chainmail that cuts away to reveal an impossibly flat stomach. She might be an Armored Princess, but she's certainly not a Well-Armored Princess. As for whether you should pick this up if you do know King's Bounty intimately, I'll get into that shortly.

Pirate vs bear vs robot. Don't pretend you haven't often dreamed of this.

First, though, let's talk about what King's Bounty is. Heroes of Might & Magic is the easiest touchstone - a fantasy world which you roam around from a fairly birds-eye perspective, being sucked into turn-based strategic battles whenever you encounter an enemy. Whilst the battles are ostensibly Final Fantasy-esque, with two opposing sides taking turns to biff each other with wild abilities, the difference is that you're pitching armies against each other. You've got 68 archers, 108 snakes, 34 guard droids and three Cyclops and a bunch of werewolves; he's got a gaggle of ghosts, skeletons, dragons, pirates and bears. Fight!

While you're initially pretty cavalier about the lives of your units, the game increasingly becomes about minimising casualties. A victory doesn't count for much if you're left too weak to fight anyone else and you don't have enough cash in the bank to buy reinforcements. So, combining your various abilities is key - one unit might buff another, a spell might increase susceptibility to fire attacks , or your pet dragon (bear with me) could summon a temporary, disposable squad of, say, griffons to soak up the enemy's attacks. It's complicated stuff, but very pleasantly so - both in terms of feeling like you've got a handle on it, and because the game's almost absurdly colourful appearance and super-charming animations act everything out so well.