August 24, 2021 is the day that marks the return to the scene of a very important saga in the history of turn-based RPGs. In fact, in 1990 King's Bounty laid the foundations of a genre that will reach its highest peaks with its direct spiritual sequel, or thatHeroes of Might and Magic which will inherit its structure, almost obfuscating the original brand. So much so that, at the end of the 2000s, the brand passed to the Russians of 1C Entertainment which first gave life to a spin-off series that began in 2008 with King's Bounty: The Legend and then finally, in 2021, they decide it's time to try to innovate with a new numbered chapter. This is the genesis di King's Bounty 2.
The new iteration takes us to the unprecedented setting of the Kingdom of Nostria, where the political equilibrium is turned upside down when, in the halls of the King, the mysterious figure of the Seer appears in the crowd announcing the looming threat of the Mischief and indicating the protagonist as the savior of the situation. A not very happy choice of time considering that the King is on the ground, suffering from poisoning, and pointing the finger at the major suspect therefore becomes a rather simple exercise. After six months of imprisonment, however, it is the prince heir to the throne who gives us back our freedom, with the aim of investigating the strange events that occurred in Magifabricum and see if we really are the keepers of the kingdom.
One of the most lively criticisms of the chapters produced by the Russian team had been to propose Main storylines that are anything but memorable, without particular bite, and from the very first bars the intention to reverse this trend is very clear. Our protagonist can be selected from the three available (a warrior, a sorceress and a paladin) all with their own background, their own personality and a singular predisposition to a certain type of strategic approach. This immediately affects both social interactions and our chances of developing the game, since yes, it is not the hero who fights in first person, but his construction and abilities affect the performance of the army under his command during battles. Therefore Aivar, as a good warrior, he will not get along with magic but will positively affect the strength of his units; Katharine, powerful sorceress, will focus much less on her subordinates to try instead to inflict damage in the first person through the various magical abilities available; Elisa, as an enthusiastic paladin, she has a greater predisposition towards amassing numerous squads and then supporting them with offensive skills and why not, even healing.
The power that the player has on the development of his adventure is very high and his every choice, strategic or social, has a weight in his path within Nostria. A land full of environmental and political pitfalls, where you can get in more easily thanks to the artistic choices made by the guys of 1C Entertainment. King's Bounty 2 proposes for the first time a camera behind the protagonist and no longer isometric, allowing you to immerse yourself with greater involvement in the world created by the Russian team. This abandons the colorful tints of fantasy-style Warcraft, adopted in previous chapters, to visibly approach High Fantasy with dark shades proposed by recent genre productions made in Eastern Europe. It follows a greater contact with a world that is perceived more "I live" and engaging, even with its obvious limitations, and a more intriguing and mature writing of the NPCs.
Nostria, in addition to the intrigues narrated in the main storyline, is full of dignified characters that propose a significant number of side quests, in large part all pleasant and genuinely interesting to play, also useful for tracing a further development of our character: in fact there are many subplots that the game offers and many of these have different possibilities of resolution. Based on the choices made, these influence the protagonist's attitude by increasing the statistic dedicated to one of the four available inclinations that make up the talent tree. Order or Anarchy? Power or Cunning? It is up to the player to choose his own destiny and benefit from the bonuses derived from the path taken, a path that will then have consequences both on his social interactions and on the type of ideal units with which to compose his army.
Proposing King's Bounty 2 with a new camera and a different type of interaction with the game world brings considerable risks and, at the end of the fair, not everyone is completely averted. Nostria is indeed an open and explorable world, but with many, sometimes too many limitations that underline the desire to innovate and take some risks, but to do it with caution. Circulating through the kingdom, the rather conservative approach that has been chosen is evident, with paths towards the resolution of quests sometimes too guided and that expire in excess when you pay more attention to detail and being forced to circumvent a simple step a little higher because our character is not able to go down it, ends up returning a pinch of frustration. However, it remains a venial sin dictated by excessive prudence, quite understandable considering the attempt to follow a path substantially unexplored by the genre, but a little more attention, in this case, would not have hurt.
The choice of partially addressing the player is also useful for presenting the other big news of King's Bounty 2 which are the real battles. These no longer occur on a standard grid with an interchangeable background based on the corresponding biome but they are staged in the actual place of the encounter with the enemies and are often placed as real obstacles to the player's continuation on a certain path. The threats are delimited by an evident circular area and, once set foot, the player is presented with the deployments in the field, an estimate of the difficulty of the clash and the possibility of studying the statistics and abilities of the opposing units. Only then can the player choose whether to fight or retreat and return with a more adequate army. There are many units available, more than 70, and they all have a particular affinity with one of the four attitudes at play, therefore those in our possession will rather faithfully reflect our approach to the game. The player can find them by buying them from special merchants or as a reward for the completion of certain missions and these also have their own rank progression system that changes their performance on the field, increasing statistics and active skills available.
About the theaters of the clashes, as mentioned, these take place in the actual point of the map where they are proposed, with all that follows. Differences in height and obstacles have a considerable weight in the conduct of battles and in their strategic depth, forcing the player to take them into account as factors and to learn to exploit them to their advantage based on the deployments in the field. The choice of units is on the whole as important as their use on the hexagonal grid, but also the endowment of our character has its weight. While not taking the field, the equipment worn endow him with statistics which then translate into bonuses for his troops and any increased ability to learn and use spells.
Spells deserve a small separate mention: divided by concept between the different schools of magic, the player can decide to cast them with a disposable parchment or to use them to learn them permanently through an expense of Mana. Yes, because, also for narrative needs, this supports the common gold as a real game currency, thanks to which you can acquire and enhance your skills based on the progression within the talent tree. A special reserve is then available during the clashes in order to place a limit on the indiscriminate use of spell on the battlefield. A singular and courageous choice of mechanics that however seems to work properly.
King's Bounty 2, ultimately, tries to mark a new beginning for a genre that desperately needed it, rejuvenating a whole series of formulas so much appreciated by fans, but which had honestly begun to show the signs of time.. The title of 1C Entertainment makes a courageous attempt, tries to raise the bar by following new paths and taking the necessary risks in an overall rather successful operation. All the novelties proposed, from the new camera to the new types of clashes, passing through the general change of tone of a work that tries to wink at the lovers of other titles (above all The Witcher e Kingdom Come: Deliverance), could make fans of the previous chapters turn up their noses (who will still find the usual, perfectly fitting soundtrack, almost a trademark of the brand), but they put together a pleasant experience both narratively and from the point of view of pure gameplay. King's Bounty 2 has the merit of actually charting a new path for the genre, albeit with the foresight to try to respect its origins as much as possible without ever denying them. A fun and enjoyable title, which does not fail to get lost several times in some inaccuracies and smudges that do not allow it to reach the status of a masterpiece, but which do not compromise too significantly a pleasant and more digestible gaming experience in the approach. for the uninitiated of turn-based RPGs.