King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North
In 2009 Square Go was one of the first UK outfits to review King’s Bounty: The Legend; a game that reinvented 1990 adventure RPG King’s Bounty for a new decade. Warriors of the North is the latest stand alone expansion to tinker with the gather troops, engage in grid based battles and complete quest formula of the series.
The initial stages of the game swap the series staple of generic fantasy countryside for frosty mountains and icy tundra by thrusting you into the shoes of a Viking complete with the accompanying Norse lore and mythology. However beyond these arguably cosmetic changes nothing much has really changed with the gameplay.
Tasked with defeating a mysterious, yet so predictable, undead blight you select from: viking, soothsayer & skald (the familiar warrior, mage and paladin classes but under a different name) and romp around the map recruiting troops, locating new valkyries (four heavenly maidens who bestow additional rage/combat powers) & spells and fulfilling quest objectives.
Quests boil down to fetch X from Y intertwined with kill X or Y and as previously combat unfolds on a grid based landscape where you control up to five different stacks of troops and attempt to defeat your opponent’s army.
It seems mean to be critical when a game offers 60+ hours of playtime with no end in sight but there’s really nothing new here. Although the familiar addictive gameplay is still present and the difficulty has been somewhat tempered by having a flying horse, which can help you bypass difficult battles, the comparative freedom of exploration compared to previous series iterations can make it difficult to really feel you’re progressing in any meaningful conflict.
New bosses are just repainted versions of old ones and for some strange reason some of your abilities are locked during these battles which makes beating these new foes without losses very difficult. The desire for loss-less victory isn’t some geeky attempt to one-up faceless forum trolls in a boasting war; it’s almost mandatory for certain classes as the troops that you can hire don’t reappear when killed.
You can’t deny that excellent strategy is required to win battles but sometimes it feels like you’re just delaying the enemy so that you can unleash overpowered spells or abilities. Capping it off is the end of battle calculation (gold earned>cost of replenishing army) If not then it’s reload and retry.
Sadly the presentation is starting to look a little ropey too, four years is a long time to keep using essentially the same development tools. There’s nothing really wrong with how the game looks but the audio needed further polish: music gets repetitive and sound effects don’t seem to work correctly. The localisation of the game also means that there are frequent grammatical errors in text and there’s less charm to the storyline.
This lack of care also carries over to some game stopping bugs with the game regularly crashing and fixes only applying to fresh save files; who would be willing to start a new game after 60 hours of play when more thorough testing would have negated the necessity?
I’m torn by King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North, on the one hand why would I have invested so much time if it was bad. It’s still got the same delicate balance of frustration and fun but the next release really has to up its game. Add in voice acting, ensure it’s given comprehensive testing prior to release and try to push the series more rather than relying on the tried and true.