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Reviewed: King's Bounty: Armored Princess
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: April 3rd, 2010
Page: 2

In the "original" King's Bounty: The Legend (itself a revival of a somewhat older series, and definitely showing off the "what if" for an intriguing case of the gameplay mechanics showcased in the Heroes of Might and Magic series), players took on the starring role of a lone knight, hiring forces to lead into battle, exploring a semi-persistent world, and generally working to save it from evil.

In Armored Princess, the same mechanic returns, with full force. While most of the prior game's enemies and allies are present, a few new races - like lizardmen - add some twists. Just like before, the game's a combination of questing and simply running around the world to kill enemies; for players who hate random encounters, the King's Bounty experience is quite different, as the entire world is pre-generated and persistent. Once an enemy group's been killed, hired, or otherwise taken off the board, they're gone pretty much for good. With very few exceptions, the hiring of forces for the player's army is likewise limited - a few places may have an "infinite" amount of certain troops, but especially for very powerful troops, once they're all dead, there may be no more around to hire.

What this says about the extinction of creatures due to the warring of callous player characters, is left as a moral exercise for the player.

Just as in the first, players can choose from three possible roles - a very battle-heavy Warrior role, balanced Paladin, or the Mage, who excels in combat by hitting enemies with indepent spellcasting. The mechanic of the demon box, four summonable and slowly upgradable allies that essentially were a second magic-casting system, has been removed. In its place, a small pet dragon, to be raised and trained and turned into a powerful ally, with abilities fueled by the game's alternate magic source ("Rage"). The dragon also doesn't require the player to remember to use them, which is an important tweak; players of The Legend could, on occasion, "forget" about the demon-box allies until far too late in the game, leaving them underpowered and next to useless.

King's Bounty: The Legend players may need to rethink some of their strategies for the game, as much of the balance has been tweaked. In much of the prior game, ranged units had tended to be overpowering - a force of five different types of archers, combined with some mage-ly area defense spells, could quickly spell doom for what were supposed to be powerful forces of foes if only they could get in close. The balance for Armored Princess changes this dynamic; fail to protect your archer-style troops adequately, and you'll find your army short-lived indeed.

Despite having a play time approximately 20-25% shorter than the first title, Armored Princess offers plenty of quests and sidequest mayhem. There's plenty to do, and plenty to keep the player busy. Just like in the last title, there's the occasional quest with "consequences" and mutually-exclusive questing options, too. And for fans of the "wife" mechanic of the prior title... well, welcome the "travel companions", who fulfill much the same role, without all the marriage-fluffery and requisite kissing of the frog every so often.

If there's one downside to King's Bounty: Armored Princess, it's that the engine left most of the plot and dialogue up to walls upon walls of text. Not that the text isn't interesting, for those who want to delve into the world's backstory, but clicking through the game's introduction section for the first time, I was very hard-pressed to keep going. I actually wound up running through, getting into the game properly, and then reloading a new game later to go back and read it all. A "record of dialogue" option might have been very handy, and perhaps 1C will consider it if/when they decide to do a third game in the series.

Still, as a standalone expansion, or a sequel, however you choose to view it, Armored Princess is definitely worth picking up. Of course, if you're a die-hard for RPG fans, it's also available in a multi-pack deal along with the first game.

Added:  Saturday, April 03, 2010
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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