King's Bounty is an ancient NWCi franchise rebooted by Nivalii for the tablet market. In this function it works splendily, incredibly well. It is in fact the first and as far as I know only game yet that makes the tablet market actually exist.iii
The basics you're familiar with from the old PC King's Bounties are present : 5 creature slots, hex grid battlefield, army count limits based on your leadership, quest-driven progression, scroll based player casting. Even the neutral item is there.iv
The points of excellence of the original franchise, which is to say gorgeous graphics and excellent writing quality of the questlines is preserved. There's no talking rockv, of course, but you still actually want to read the text - in stark contrast with the vast majority of games even for the PC, and each and every other tablet gamevi out there.
Here's a list of innovations that make this a great game in its current setting :
- Army tiering. Four "domains" so to speakvii are split into three tiers. The central slot in your army may carry any tier unit, the two slots next to it tier 1 or 2, and finally the two outermost slots tier 1 exclusively. This adds untold, unexpected flavours to the strategy involved in deploying troops effectively.
- Excellent implementation of ERPSviii. The game uses five categoriesix and their interplay with unit domains and tiers is well thought out - that old "interplay of fulls and hollows" that underpins all good games that ever were, or ever will be.
- Very strict limits on unit acquisition. Most low tier units can be acquired from the various towns you visit, paying gold. The cost for one is roughly speaking the loot you get in any one quest, and you need hundreds of them. Mid and high tier units are rare, and that means RARE! Which means that when you do manage to get some, you feel like a million bucks. I tell you, my second Emerald Dragon was two grams of endorphins right there.
- Clever morale system. Unit morale moves from +3 to -3. Units at -3 can not be used in battle, units over 0 get 10% deployment bonus (you can use more of them). Morale replenishes slowly over time (about one an hour I think) and there's a rare item (bread) which allows you to reset any unit to +3 (the lower the tier, the less bread needed), which I imagine is one avenue they expect to pay for the serversx. This approach gives a great benefit to the flexible strategist, because if you only keep "your army", ie, five units, then you can play about a battle an hour, on average. If however you keep a stable of various units, you can practically speaking play as much as you want - in fact I've not yet encountered the situation where I felt like playing but couldn't because "stamina"xi.
- Well thought-out quest system. All sideline quests are repeatable once a day. This gives you an incentive to advance the quest line (more quests to do each day), and gives you an excellent way to use your incomplete stacksxii. The payments, mostly craft resources and small stacks of low level units (saving you thus 1000s in gold) are exactly what they should be : plenty enough to keep you interested.
- Splendid PVP. King's Bounty : Legends has by far the best PVP system I have ever seen. It's implemented as two different lines, Raids and Duels. Raids consist of attacking a randomly chosen player's garnison (which is a special set of army he has to specifically provision), which is controlled by the AI. If you win, you get a set amount of gold, plus a fraction of his total stores.xiii Duels consist of fighting player-controlled enemies, and the payouts are quite significant (PVP-only craft reagents, lots of gold, various other goodies) and not too strictly related to victory. The way it works out, you want to return time and again, and the achievements in the battlefield against other players are both satisfying and a great driver of PvE, exactly as it should be.
- Interesting crafting system. Often you will find yourself fighting battles not for money, but for wooden sticks, Alchemist Jars and so on. The best part is that later items often take as an ingredient a couple earlier items, so nothing's really wasted. Also, crafted artefacts make the best donation to the guild by very far, and you can craft scrolls, runes and various licenses and even bread. It's very simple but quite well done in my estimation.
Together they amount to an impressive pile of win. It's difficult to capture just how well player experience can work into words, but let me just say you really have no good excuse to not try this finely multi-balanced clockwork of a game.
PS. As a bonus, it got me rapidly regaining conversance in junior high math, because really, are 5/17 Paladins more or less than 29 / 108 spiders ? So, if your junior is bright but not interested in fractions because "whatever" or "they're stupid", you might as well introduce him to iPad King's Bounty. I'm ready to bet that a month later you'll be struggling to keep up.———
- New World Computing, founded in the 80s by God's Own Gift to Gaming, Jon Van Caneghem (plus his wife Michaela, and Mark Caldwell), the mother and father of everything ever worth playing, including Heroes and so on.
It was bought in 1994 by soon-to-be-bankrupt contender in the console wars of the 90s 3DO, and promptly buried (with the best intentions, of course). Most of its franchises met the sad fate of Ubisoft reboots (including Heroes, which suffered mightily in the hands of Nival itself as "Heroes V"). [↩]
- Moscow outfit of one Sergey Orlovskiy. Met some success originally as the makers of Allods (Rage of Mages outside the Russian speaking world), went through a dark period in the late 90s/early 00s, but with the founder back at the helm (in a very Apple-ish turn of events) maybe it's set for greatness. Speaking of which, anyone want to sell me warrants or some other form of exposure to Nival's equity for Bitcoin ? [↩]
- What I mean is, you know how qntra competition doesn't actually exist, because if there's something worth knowing you'll read it on the logs, or in qntra, whereas random shit Wired, Wall Street Journal, CoinSomething etc publish is just stupid and wrong ?
Or, you know how Africa doesn't exist, because if you want something, be it good food, or gorgeous women, or good Opera or whatever else you'll just go to Europe and forget about the ringworm infested shithole ? Or if you want empty space and minimal government and good food and gorgeous women etc you go to Argentina ?
Or, much more on point, how the Xbox never actually happened ?
Well, just so : if you want good games you sure as hell aren't going to look for them in the AppStore, among "SlotsWizard" and "Kings of Kingdom". Really, the list of iPad apps that are outrageously stupid, pointless, retarded and in any case a terrible waste of whatever meagre resources got thrown into their production would probably be worthy of another MST3K. Wading through the AppStore is like wading through a spam folder that was magically animated into code by a demented earthworm or something.
For the tablets to matter as a gaming platform, they need great games. And that does not mean "downgraded ports of good games from other platforms". King's Bounty is certainly an example of a great game, I would say the tablet reboot is actually better than the original franchise (and a different game, obviously). [↩]
- You recall, the statue of random blessing, the spire of lightning, the beehive... [↩]
- The reason I even found this thing is because I was looking for a write-out of the Speaking Stone questline in Castle Kronberg - still after all these years sticking in my memory as one of the best written quests of all time. Apparently such a thing does not exist on the Internet, so if you have a copy of King's Bounty do me the favour of firing it up, taking that thing down and leaving it here as a comment ? Thank you! [↩]
- Most of which are made by Chinese and Indian sweatshops, incidentally - the exact cause quests went to shit in mainstream gaming too. Those dudes can't write and apparently don't even understand they should. [↩]
- Knight, Inferno, Elves and Dungeon, roughly speaking - which somehow gives me the hope that further types may be added down the road, even if this is a 2011 release. [↩]
- Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors, that thing where fire beats wood etc. [↩]
- Healers, Mages, Defenders, Attackers, Archers, Healers. Each unit gets a large bonus attacking the one immediately following, and a smaller bonus attacking the one after that, so you generally want to engage Healers with Archers etc. [↩]
- It's a sound approach in my oppinion, so much so that it's what Eulora was going to use to work an equivalent of the subscription cost into the gameplay. Like there, here too that food is actually craftable, from items found by the player as part of his adventures. [↩]
- The fucking bane of tablet games, they're all built by the intellectually lazy on incognizant ripoffs of the old Utopia system. Which... whatever, you don't really need a tablet for that you know ? [↩]
- Suppose you could deploy seven Paladins, but only own two. Obviously if you try a battle your level with 2/7 sort of deployment you will get smoked. Nevertheless, back in starting village, the couple men in shining armor are more than enough to cut down through legions of lowly zombies and winged earthworms. They make a very satisfying splosh! hoe sound as they mow them down, too. [↩]
- Imagine my glee when, barely level 12, I hit a level 50 that had failed to properly provision his garrison and took him for ~50k. Oh happy days! [↩]