Charming sound track and beautiful art design of the various settings of the game. Fun combat system. Tons of hours of enjoyment with each playthrough and a great deal of replay value. Randomization based at the start of each new game ensures a unique experience each time. Lighthearted sense of humor.
Generic, throwaway storyline and characters. Gameplay is a bit derivative. No spoken dialog and plenty of typos in the written dialog. Tutorial and instructions are lacking. No central place to recruit units means a lot of boring backtracking and wandering around the maps to get replacement armies.
King's Bounty: The Legend will feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played any of the various "Heroes of Might and Magic" style games in the past and it would be tempting to end the review right now and simply state that it is a clone of those style of games and leave it at that.
It would also be misleading and inaccurate, and do a disservice to a very fun and entertaining gaming experience.
While it is true that King's Bounty looks, feels, and even plays, very similar to that game series in particular and several other imitators in general, it has plenty of its own features, quirks, and ideas that do more than enough to differentiate it and create its own unique gaming experience.
The first thing you need to do is select between one of three character classes. This is actually a critically important decision as the classes play very differently and the game is quite long. This is one choice that will have a large scale impact on your gaming experience for dozens of hours.
Your three choices are between "Warrior", "Paladin" and "Mage". A Warrior builds Leadership and Rage (more on this in a minute) the fastest, a Mage (you guessed it) has the best spell casting capabilities and a Paladin attempts to split the difference between the two. No matter which class you choose, you CAN do many of the same things that the other classes would do, but just not as well.
Each class has its own unique abilities that differentiate it from the other two. A Paladin, for example, is exceptionally skilled in putting down the forces of the undead whereas a Mage gains the ability to cast multiple spells per turn to offset its smaller armies and a Warrior accumulates Rage faster than other classes and obtains larger armies.
Once the selection is made, the game opens with you preparing to graduate from your training school. You're given the opportunity to take a test to determine your aptitude and what your new position in life is going to be or just have your teacher select something for you. Like many of the future "choices" beyond your initial character creation, this one is pretty much a mirage. If you choose to take the test you get some extra early goodies by going through an optional dungeon, but either way you end up with the designation "Royal Treasure Searcher" when all is said and done.
Your title is indicative of the type of humor that you'll see a lot of in the game. It is explained to you that since the principle source of income for the kingdom is, of course, finding and raiding old crypts and tombs the position of "Royal Treasure Searcher" was created. In reality, you're pretty much a glorified, all-purpose errand boy for the king.
The rest of the game will involve you wandering around the world battling a lot of different types of monsters as the plot slowly - verrrry slowly - unfolds around you. The plot is not particularly in-depth or important. It exists to give you a valid reason for fighting lots and lots of battles filled with various type of enemy units as you slowly take on more and more challenging tasks for the king and rise up the ranks of the nobility.
It is a good thing, then, that the combat system is as fun as it is, because you'll be spending many hours involved in it. Combat takes place in a grid style layout similar to a chess board. And combat can be influenced by other factors. Sometimes there are helpful (or harmful) items on the board that will influence the units that get close to them. Other times there are natural obstacles that create barriers that must be moved around or destroyed. Awareness and best use of the terrain by playing to your own unit's advantages is critical to winning battles with minimal losses.
Each unit has different strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of combining units together are as varied as the units themselves. For example, some units are immune from retaliation when they launch an attack. Others have ranged capabilities, or the ability to resurrect others. Some are extremely fast moving but fragile whereas others can take amazing amounts of punishment and keep on fighting. A particular unit might be very strong in a fiery setting and weak in a cold one.
With five unit stacks to choose from, finding the right combination to your own particular play style can be a great deal of fun. Since each unit has its own "Leadership" requirements, sometimes even the lowliest of units can be devastatingly effective if used correctly. How many soldiers of a particular type are willing to join your army depends on how high your leadership score vs. their requirement is. If a unit requires 100 leadership and your total score is 1000, you can only hire ten of them. Would you rather have 1000 fast, light-hitting but immune to retaliation Lake Fairies or 10 slow moving, hard hitting, damage soaking Giants? The answer may surprise you at times.
The other two elements that will dictate your choices are Mana and Rage. Mana is, simply put, the amount of energy that you have at your disposal to cast spells from your spellbook. Spells can be upgraded up twice for increased impact at the cost of magic crystals and additional mana requirements. Warriors and Paladins can cast up to one spell per turn to tip the course of battle in their favor. Mages obtain the special ability to cast multiple spells per turn.
Rage is an ability whose use is not immediately apparent. During the course of the main adventure, you'll eventually gain ownership of a magical item containing four different "spirits of rage". They're the approximate equivalent of magical "summons" from the Final Fantasy games that grow in power the more that you use them and function somewhat similarly to "Limit Breaks". Essentially, either dealing or receiving damage in combat builds up your Rage meter. Using the Spirits of Rage reduces it.
Obtaining their services and making good use of them is a key element of the game that is not adequately explained in the sparse tutorial. If you dawdle and get them late, they can impact you for the rest of the game.
While the enemies are all visible on the map, and many can be avoided as you choose, voluntarily attacking various stacks of enemies is essential to surviving the various pre-scripted and plot-driven battles that the game has in store for you. Note: This does not mean that you should blindly charge into any enemy stack you see as you are wandering around the various beautiful settings that range from idyllic "Hobbit" style grasslands to magical elven forests to mountainous dwarven strongholds as you're listening to the game's beautiful soundtrack.
It will also surprise some people to learn that you don't completely clear one setting before going onto the next, but instead will be forced to defer some battles until you are stronger before returning to the same map. Hence, scouting an enemy stack by right-clicking on it to see it's strength is essential to the survival of your army. The game has resource limitations. Put another way, once you use up all of a particular type of unit that one of the game's building generates there may not be anymore of that unit for the duration of the game.
This design decision is both frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. On the one hand, having a limited number of a particular type of unit randomly generated when you start a new game preserves a unique game experience every time and incents you to be very conscious of losing too many units in the battles you fight. It forces you to experiment with different unit combinations to build up your forces which in turn dictates different combat strategies.
It also further adds to the customization of each playthrough. Units are not the only thing that are randomly generated. Most of the equipment that is for sale or is found in the field is also randomized. As is, ironically, your "family" life.
There are a half-dozen or so different "wives" available in the game. Each comes with their own unique equipment slots and bonuses. Whereas one wife may have a couple of slots to place weapons, another might have multiple artifact slots. One wife may give bonuses to human units and another to dwarven ones. Each wife can also have up to three children that come with their own bonuses and use up their own equipment slots.
Some of the bonuses the children give, such as boosting your defense score by 20%, are exceptional. Others are not as good as the slots that they take up. Since which children each wife will have are determined at the start of the game, you take a gamble if you choose to have children because they'll be permanently using up a valuable equipment slot.
Of course if you end up with children that give bad bonuses relative to your playstyle or find equipment that doesn't match your wife's available slots, you're free to divorce your wife...at a cost. She'll take 1/5th of your gold, all your children, and any equipment that she may be wearing at the time in the settlement.
Add it all up and you have a game that manages to be a great deal of fun and have a surprising amount of depth that can be had at a very low bargain price. If strategy games are at all your thing and you're looking for a single player one that will grant you hundreds of hours of enjoyment, the King's Bounty games may well be worth a look.