E3 '07: King's Bounty: The Legend Hands-On

We spend some quality time with 1C's revival of the classic King's Bounty franchise.

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While the Heroes of Might and Magic series is still going strong, King's Bounty, the 1990 PC game that's generally viewed as a precursor to Heroes, hasn't enjoyed the same success. But 1C is hopeful it can bring the franchise back to its former glory, which is why it's releasing Kings Bounty: The Legend for the PC (and quite possibly the Xbox 360) in early 2008. We spent some time with the game at E3 2007 and came away pleasantly surprised with what we saw.

You'll be able to select either a paladin, magician, or knight to start with, and you'll also be able to distribute limited attribute points to customize your character a bit. Our demo began with us in control of a knight atop a horse. The overworld map was viewed from an almost top-down perspective and had a medieval setting. There will be other levels, though other than a castle with a moat of lava we didn't get a chance to check them out. You won't be capturing castles in King's Bounty, nor will you be given mission objectives to complete a scenario. Instead, you're able to roam free and get quests by talking to people throughout the land. You will be able to visit castles, where you can spend your hard-earned money on new party members, items, and supplies.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

Not long after we set off into the forest we encountered some snakes blocking our path. This simply would not do, so we initiated a fight. As soon as we engaged the snakes in combat, the game switched to a side view with our party members on the left and the enemy on the right. Like in many turn-based games, the entire area was covered in a honeycomb-like movement grid. Our party consisted of a knight, archer, dwarf, and a magician, but those aren't the only classes you'll be able to use; we also saw unicorns, orcs, and demons. Once the fight began it was pretty standard stuff, with lots of strategy revolving around maximizing the abilities of each character. Our knight moved forward to attack with his sword, and our archer launched arrows from a safe location in the rear of the formation.

There are two kinds of magic that can be used, one normal and one ultrapowerful. After flipping through our magician's massive spell book, we settled on an ice spell and knocked a good chunk of hit points off of one of the approaching snakes. Our standard magic worked fine, but we wanted to check out the good stuff, so we summoned the grim reaper, who appeared in spectacular fashion and made short work of yet another snake. After conjuring up a giant stone sword and some rage demons, the battle, and our time with the game, ended with our party standing victorious.

It's still a long ways off, but King's Bounty's visuals are already quite attractive. The overworld map was nicely detailed and full of vibrant colors. Other than some neat-looking winged demons and a cool bone dragon, none of the characters we saw were anything groundbreaking. But there was plenty of variety, they were all detailed, and they had some nice attack animations.

Though our time with the game was brief, it looks as if King's Bounty: The Legend is shaping up quite nicely. Fans of both the original King's Bounty and Heroes of Might Magic will want to keep an eye out for the game's release in Q1 2008.

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