Thursday, December 10, 2009

King's Bounty (PC)

In late January, I named King's Bounty my favorite game of 2008.

I was more than halfway through the game at that point (20+ hours). Within days, the game started crashing on me during battles. I wrote about that, too, and went through hell trying to figure out what was wrong.

All in all, I'm sure I put in as much or more time troubleshooting the game than I spent playing it, and if the game hadn't been developed by the same people who made Space Rangers 2 (one of my favorite games of the last decade), I wouldn't have bothered.

After finally giving up (in March, I think), I uninstalled the game, but kept my saves. A few months later, when I changed video cards, I tried it again. No change.

When I recently installed Windows 7, though, I thought I'd try it again. There was a Steam deal where I could get both the original game (version 1.7 as opposed to the 1.65 of the patched disc version I had) and the Armored Princess expansion for only $10 more than KB as a standalone purchase.

Like I said a few weeks ago, that was stupid, but I did it anyway. It worked, and I've been playing constantly since then. Two nights ago, Lord Enormous Bottom finished the game.

As a brief diversion, let me just mention that "Enormous Bottom" is my gold standard for character names now. I don't know why I originally thought of it--I probably don't want to remember, and you probably don't want me to--but it provides more laughs than you would believe when it's inserted into game dialogue.

It's difficult to compare King's Bounty to Space Rangers 2, because they're very different types of games, but I'm not sure a developer has ever put out two more entertaining games consecutively. They are both ridiculously, impossibly excellent, and combined, they represent 100+ hours of epic gaming.

Here's a brief summary of why King's Bounty is so remarkable (these aren't in any particular order):
1) It's overwhelmingly beautiful.
It's impossible to overstate just how gorgeous this game is, and how much detail the world contains. It's both bright and saturated with vivid color. It's particularly beautiful in motion, and the spell effects are stunning.
2) The music is beautiful, too.
The soundtrack for this game worms its way into your head and you will hear it constantly. It's one of the best game soundtracks I've ever heard.
3) The world is full of candy.
This is an important element in world exploration, and it works perfectly. The world is full of magic crystals and spells and runes and command flags--and you want to find them all. It makes the world as obsessively fun to explore as a Diablo-type game, but the gameplay is much, much deeper.
4) The battle system is superb.
The heart of this game is battle, and it takes place on a grid. On the grid, though, is terrain from your current area, and this can have a huge effect on the outcome, because in some places, the terrain creates natural choke points that will completely change your strategy. In other areas, the field is totally bare, and each layout requires strategic adjustments

Single battles in the later portion of the game can take a long time--10-15 minutes is not unusual--but they're so much fun that I never used the auto-combat option even once. I found myself replaying battles to see if I could win by losing fewer men, trying to perfect my strategy.

There's also a fantastic assortment of bizarre units and summons available. In one battle, there can be dragons, giants, knights, cannoneers, alchemists, demons, faeries, unicorns, shamans, giant ice orbs, skeletons--and believe me, that's only scratching the surface. Remarkably, they all have a strategic place, and they call can be useful.

5) The humor is wacky and it's everywhere.
Space Rangers 2 was a tremendously funny game, one of the funniest I've ever played, and it was sneaky (you could beat the final three bosses without firing a single shot). King's Bounty is every bit as wacky, even though it's considerably more polished. The dialogue is often genuinely funny, the situations are silly but engrossing, and the overarching story of the world and why it exists is both wacky and entirely wonderful. There's an element of playfulness in both King's Bounty and Space Rangers that's incredibly endearing.

So there you go. It's the end of 2009, and I only finally finished my favorite game of 2008. Even better, I haven't started the Armored Princess expansion pack yet, so after I wear out Solium Infernum (which will take quite a while), I get to return to this crazy world.

Site Meter