King's Bounty II Gamescom Preview
With some anticipation I was going to spent some hands-on time with King's Bounty II at the 1C booth and it turned out to be an experience that didn't completely match my anticipation, but it was well worth the hour I spent on the game.
There is no escaping comparing King's Bounty II with its predecessor and from what I've learned while playing the game, King's Bounty II has several of the elements that its predecessor have, or at least the elements I've tried, but it changes the way how these elements come to you.
I started the game with an existing character, but in the final game you can select from one of three heroes, each with their own background story.
I was told that the story of the game can be influenced by your actions. These actions will also influence how NPCs react to you and will have an impact on the world and the quests you are able to do, as sometimes you have to take sides. This sounds familiar as it is something that could be done in the previous King's Bounty games as well. The obvious difference with King's Bounty is that it now plays out in 3D using a 3rd person camera, just like many other RPGs and that the story is told via cut-scenes and interactions with the NPCs, where you get to see the NPC talking to you. The graphics are not on the level of a game like Kingdom Come, but they are good enough. At least they are to me. They are however very different from the colorful graphics we got to know from the previous games.
The King's Bounty games are open world games, but that doesn't mean I could go in any direction I wanted. I could go everywhere but was basically confined to the paths. If I tried to leave the path, I found myself blocked by natural objects, such as trees, rocks or a cliff that stopped me from going any further. On some occasions when i tried that, something odd happened, resulting in my character being shifted and rotated a bit, which was somewhat disorienting.
In the version I've played, I had no horse, but there will be one in the final game. The character sheet even showed my character with a horse.
At various spots there are also chests to be found that contain some goodies. The chests I saw all look the same, so you won't miss them. Next to the main story quests there are also side quests. The quest givers for these quests are marked with a question mark above them, which is something I personally hope you can turn off. But even if you could, just like in the previous games, the mini map shows quite a lot of information, like where you have to go for each of the quests you have received, quest givers and other points of interest.
From what I could try of the role-playing and exploration part, it resembles what I remember of the previous King's Bounty game, but with a very different look.
Combat has changed quite a bit from King's Bounty, although some things are similar. First of all, the combat now takes place at the same location as where the encounter started. In the 3D world a hex grid map is placed on the existing terrain and all the units are placed on one side of the grid. After that I could move my units around, so that they were located where I wanted them to be. That presented something of an issue though. The number of soldiers each unit has, are now also present on the grid. This means that if you have six archers in your unit, there are six figures on the grid. The advantage was that I could quickly see what the strength of each unit was, as a unit with a lower strength has less than six figures. However all the soldiers in the units are dressed the same. In one way that makes sense as they are all soldiers of the same army, but they are rather small, as otherwise the tiles in the grid would probably become too big and would need a lot of screen space. But as I like to zoom out to get an overview of the entire battlefield, the soldiers in the units get a size that makes it even more difficult to discriminate between each unit. It is possible to zoom in to get a closer look, or select the unit to get feedback on what type of unit it is, but it somehow diminishes the advantage of showing unit sizes in a more visual way. It is actually more of a problem when facing an army of soldiers, as they all look alike as well. That said, I must say that at my third battle I noticed, because the soldiers are moving a bit, that some had spears, some had bows and some had swords, but it could also be due to the fact that my units were a bit smaller because of the unfortunate dead of some of them. Also the larger size of the grid results in less tiles being available in that grid and could potentially result in less tactical options to place the units. although there is a strategically bonus in using the existing terrain for combat as it also makes it possible to use parts of that terrain to your advantage, like height difference and natural obstacles. Next to that, line of sight, now also plays a role.
All this is a big change from the game's predecessors where the soldiers in a unit were all combined into one figure, with a number indicating the size of the unit. Also in hose games, they were larger and more colorful, so it was easier to distinguish units. This change also means that in King's Bounty II the size of the units is limited, as in the previous games I could have units that were much larger than what can be represented on a tile in King's Bounty II. Then again, with the proper balance this could be made to work as well.
I also haven't seen some of the more weirder creatures that were in the previous games. All I had to fight now in that area are trolls and some angelic creatures. These were so big that only one of them could be placed on a tile. Somehow I doubt we are going to see something like a T-Rex or a droid in this game, or some of the other weird things the previous King's Bounty games had. Neither does it look like we are going to have a companion, like Drako, helping out in combat. This new King's Bounty game looks to be a fantasy RPG with a more realistic and serious note.
With all that said, I should also say that the combat itself behaved, for the large part, like I remember it from the previous King's Bounty games, which is a good thing. Next to that, I was also told that none of the encounters will be random, which is a good thing as well.
King's Bounty II is graphically a very different game and it comes with quite a bit of changes. Some of those changes I personally think are fine, but some of the changes, especially in combat, appear to me to be sub-optimal and I do hope they improve before release. Also the added realism, for a fantasy game, takes away some of the charm the previous King's Bounty games had. That said, if I would have been unaware of its predecessors, I might have valued some things differently.
I've only spent an hour on the game and there are quite a lot of things I could not try out in that hour, like character development, but I did enjoy the time I've played it and would definitely like to try it out again at a later stage as it does, at times, feel like a King's Bounty game.