King’s Bounty is one of the oldest names in computer strategy gaming, with the first edition released 31 years ago. Its mixture of RPG-style open-world adventuring and grid-based combat found great acclaim, although not as much as it would after being adapted into Heroes of Might and Magic. That series pivoted towards the grand strategy genre, with the player focusing on controlling resources and building epically-huge armies.

King’s Bounty 2, the new evolution of the franchise, has gone back to the series’ roots by offering players a fantasy RPG setting so rote in presentation that it literally begins with the main character in a prison cell. After being sprung by a local royal and given the job of defeating a sinister evil threatening the land, it’s up to the player to decide exactly how they want to go about doing that.

This is one of KB2‘s most obvious innovations — players start by selecting one of three heroes: a warrior who solves problems with combat, a sorcerer who would prefer to use wit, and a hybrid class that is free to pursue goals according to their own whims.

Instead of a simple good/bad alignment, players have two axes defining their characters. Are they authoritarian or anarchistic? Do they prefer brute force or mental savvy? Players will constantly run into optional side-stories that offer multiple solutions and a chance to establish themselves. It’s not the most complex morality system, but the quests I saw were well-written with clear stakes and concrete examples of how different approaches play out.

Despite these morality options, the main attraction in KB2 is turn-based combat, which, as ever, plays out like the most accessible miniature battle boardgame ever.

When things start, players get a turn to position troops on their side of the board, and then combat begins in earnest. Troops move based on initiative and their speed stat, and they can attack, defend, wait for the computer to go first so they can respond, or employ special moves. I saw a dozen or so units in my time with the preview build — and I’m sure there are dozens more to come — and found a huge amount of options for team loadouts. This is vital because players can only send out five different troop types for each skirmish, so they’ll have to focus on profiling their enemy’s strengths and weaknesses in order to build the best team to defeat them.

Even though I saw just a slice of what the full game has to offer, it’s clear that the developers have a perfect understanding of what made King’s Bounty such an enduring and beloved series. King’s Bounty lives or dies based on how well the strategic combat plays, and King’s Bounty 2 already has that on lock — anything brought by the narrative or the morality is just gravy.

King’s Bounty 2 comes to the PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch platforms on August 24, 2021

Daniel Weissenberger
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