It’s not often that a game mixing turn-based RPG mechanics, tactical combat and open-world exploration can utilize each element to its full potential, but with King’s Bounty 2, it truly feels like 1C are on the precipice of doing so.
We were lucky enough to take part in a preview for King’s Bounty 2, which gave us access to the first 10 hours of the game. This is but a minor slice of the end product but we’ll be providing our initial preview impressions from this time spent hands-on with the game.
The World Of King’s Bounty 2
We’re going to kick off our impressions of King’s Bounty 2 by talking about the Kingdom of Nostria. It’s a beautiful open world that never feels too big or empty. One thing that really stood out to us was the persistent ambient atmosphere.
It hit hardest when we were in the middle of a quest that had us collecting priceless chickens from around a busy city (It makes sense in the context of the game, we promise). When we reached one of the chicken locations there was a mana crystal, which we of course wanted to interact with.
In front of the crystal were two NPCs just chatting about how the mana crystals in the world were changing and that the source of mana isn’t infinite. It was such a small detail but really added to the lore of the world.
The story of King's Bounty 2 is one of conspiracy, dark magics and uncovering mysteries. We won't dive too deep here, but the story so far, especially in the opening hours, is enough to keep you on the hook and care about what happens next.
This effort also runs over into the side quests which can either provide some amazing lore for the world or offer some decent comic relief.
The scale of King's Bounty 2 seems perfect for the most part, but at times it can feel like a drag to navigate. Your character's running pace is a light jog at best and having to call your horse every couple of minutes can be a pain. This is a very slight issue, though, and only really affects the larger areas in the world.
If you’re a fan of Game Of Thrones, The Last Kingdom or The Witcher series, you’ll very much appreciate the Kingdom Of Nostria for what it is, even if its scale is much smaller than many other open-world RPGs.
Tactical Combat In King’s Bounty 2
This is where a tactical RPG can make or break itself. A fun and engaging tactical combat system is not easy to achieve. Many have tried and failed to produce such a system and fallen flat. Fortunately, King’s Bounty 2’s combat system appears to be well balanced and is certainly fun to engage with.
When you start the game, you’ll pick from one of three characters, only two of which we can talk about currently. We tried out Aivar, the Warrior whose combat abilities are focused around buffing allies and demoralising enemies to make them easier targets.
However, we found ourselves playing mostly as Katharine the Mage as her personality stood out to us immediately with her quick wit and sarcastic passive-aggressive tone. In battle, she has a wealth of spells at her disposal to crush enemies and protect allies.
The character progression seems fairly simple as you increase your affinity with certain traits to unlock more abilities. There is a choice and morality system in the game, but overall it seemed to have very little effect in the game's early hours.
Eventually, once you set out on a particular path, polar options will become unavailable to you in missions. So if you approach missions with an iron fist, you may find the more passive options locked out later in the game.
The only issues we found was with the difficulty of combat and the trial and error nature of the harder battles in the game. Before you begin a battle you’ll see a summary screen pitting you against your foes. Here is where you find out how you stack up against the opponent; in most cases early in the game we found ourselves facing a’ strong enemy’.
What this meant in practice was that we’re likely to lose a few units (which is permanent) and maybe scrape by with a victory if we play it right.
The truth is that if the enemy is classed as a strong enemy, it’s almost not worth fighting at all. The AI is fairly consistent in the way it battles and when we ran a few battles under the same conditions, the enemy made the same moves in the first few turns like clockwork.
In reality, this isn’t a bad thing, but it encourages you to really approach each battle tactically, even if that means not taking on the fight at all.
Once we were a few hours in and the map really opened up, we were able to look at taking multiple routes to objectives. If a difficult battle stands in your way, you can take another route where you may come across a weaker enemy or no enemies at all.
The Sights and Sounds Of King’s Bounty 2
King’s Bounty 2 is not going to blow you away with its visuals in the traditional sense. The game looks great, but you won’t be zooming in on your character to see each individual pore on their face.
What King’s Bounty 2 has done very well, is create a world that is stunning to take in. There’s no wasted space and dark corners where you feel the developer didn’t mean for you to venture. The world is full of life, just like we alluded to earlier with some of the conversations you can listen in to as you pass by.
Certain environmental set pieces are stunning to take in, like the Throne Room which you’ll visit very early in the game. It is wonderfully crafted and the grandeur of it is really something to take in. As you move through the space you’ll notice the echoes of conversations around you and the spatial audio is absolutely on point.
The only thing that sometimes takes you out of the experience and causes a few raised eyebrows is the voice acting. For all the amazing work that has gone into creating the living, breathing game world, the voice acting can sometimes pull you right out of the immersion.
It’s not that the voice acting is bad, not at all, but the way some voices have been paired with character models makes for interesting cutscenes.
The best way we can describe it, is that some voices are just far too young and bright for the characters. Early on you’ll encounter an aged guard with a long grey beard and seemingly the voice of a 20-year-old. The spritely nature of the voice and general tone doesn’t suit the character at all, which is harder to deal with when this guy is supposed to be a threat.
King’s Bounty 2 Preview Final Impressions
Overall, we’re impressed with what we have experienced so far in the world of Nostria. There is a compelling story, dense world and challenging tactical combat. While frustrating at times due to the pace and trial and error nature of the combat, we can’t claim to have found either massively off-putting.
King’s Bounty 2 provides quite a challenge at times, but does just enough to avoid becoming a grind.
While playing the game was fantastic and we enjoyed our time in the Kingdom of Nostria, we can’t help but feel like there’s no way to sit and play this game in short bursts. There were times when we wanted to play but maybe could only give it 20-30 minutes and because of this, it felt like there was no point because what could we really achieve in this time?
Between the preview of King’s Bounty 2 and its release, more work will go into the product and some of the kinks we came across will have been ironed out. If the initial 10 hours we had access to are but a small representation of the entire game, we’re excited to go hands-on with the full product later this year.