During a recent online event, we got to see the upcoming King’s Bounty sequel in action – here’s what we thought.
What we know
We were quite familiar with 1C’s King’s Bounty games from about ten years ago, but didn’t realize that the franchise actually started way back in 1990 when games still came on floppy disks. A hybrid of RPG and turn-based strategy, it was an early pioneer in a genre that’s now very well populated, especially on the PC platform. King’s Bounty II revives the series after a long hiatus and the developer is setting their sights high, aiming to move it closer towards games like The Witcher 3 in scope and quality.
That doesn’t mean there will be a radical shift in gameplay, since King’s Bounty II still features a mix of an RPG narrative with turn-based combat rather than Geralt’s real time combat focus. There’s a big game world in which you steer your main character through the world and narrative, but while in combat you’re commanding troops rather than taking matters into your own hands. These troops often consist of fantasy creatures fighting against or alongside humans, and the terrain you fight on is definitely a factor in terms of your tactical choices as well.
On the RPG end of things, you’ll have a choice between three main characters, but regardless of the character you select you’ll have a choice to either pursue order, power, anarchy or finesse – a morality system that’s rather unique. It’s not just a narrative tool either, as it also affects your selection of quests, your army units and your options for tackling the game’s various challenges – which should add to the game’s replay value.
King’s Bounty II is scheduled for release on PCs, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch, and should come out early next year. It’s currently being worked on by a large team, underlining 1C’s ambition with the title, which should offer a campaign that’s over 40 hours long on a first playthrough and casts you as mysterious stranger cast into an intricate story where dark forces threaten the land.
What we saw
Familiar with the original games in the franchise, we’ve been keeping an eye on all the screenshots and footage for the sequel, and jumped on the opportunity to see live gameplay a few weeks ago. This was through a live feed with developer commentary as well as an option for Q&A. The gameplay we saw featured Russian voiceovers, but all the text was fully localized to English.
What we thought
Visually, King’s Bounty II didn’t impress us at much as we had hoped. Perhaps it’s because system-specific optimizations haven’t been added yet, but the amount of detail in the character models and environments didn’t feel like they belong in an era where we’re switching to next gen visuals. The same could also be said for the animation, because the main character felt a little “stiff” as he jogged around the environment towards his next objective. From a PC and next gen perspective, this one needs a bit more polish (which it will obviously receive in the following months).
What did get us excited was the strategic gameplay, which felt a little like a turn-based approach on SpellForce with its hex shapes and environmental elements. Some areas of the battlefield will be blocked, others will be at an elevation, so positioning your troops becomes crucial. If you add the fact that the game features over 50 unique units to control and fight against, all of them with unique abilities, and you’ve got a multi-layers tactical combat experience that we’d be interested in even without any kind of RPG to go with it.
The morality system mentioned before also factors into this, as it affects which creatures can be recruited and will fight for you – as well as how well they get along with others in your army. From that perspective, it remains to be seen how the RPG part will serve the game as a whole. A 45 minute demo is too short to get a good feel for the story and if it it’s going to entice me to keep playing and caring about the characters, but if the developers manage to craft a solid combat experience and give players an exciting and polished RPG framework to support it, then this’ll be an interesting one to play next year.