King's Bounty at Gencon 2008

When we were at Gencon late last week we stopped by and had a chat with the folks from Atari and took a look at one of their most interesting upcoming titles, King's Bounty: The Legend.

King's Bounty: The Legend is a followup to one of New World Computing's earliest games, King's Bounty. While the latter was published almost two decades ago on the PC and later on the Genesis, King's Bounty: The Legend appears to have retained many of the core aspects of gameplay that made its predecessor, a forerunner to the Heroes of Might and Magic series, so much fun. After an impromptu demo and play through on the Gencon exhibitor's hall floor here are our impressions.

The game is divided into two phases just like the original King's Bounty. The first is a real time "adventuring" phase where you explore the map, meet people and visit places. The second is a traditional, hex mapped turn based combat system detailed in the video above.

The basic concept is that as an adventurer or hero in the King's service you travel around the world assembling an army to fight for you. What types of soldiers fill your army is determined by your actions in game. For example if you are a crusading slayer of Orcs you are unlikely to be able to recruit any of them into your army. Don't worry about your lack of Orcish cannon fodder however as there are over 60 different recruitable units in the game. Your actions in the name of the King will also play into your recruitment - someone who consorts with demons, even though he is doing the king's work, may reflect poorly on him. As you gain experience and win battles you also will slowly develop a leadership score that determines the size of your army and changes with your successes or failures in battle. The company you keep in your army will also determine what kind of side quests will be available to you. For example keeping lots of elves in your army means that you will have a lot of elf-related side quests while you might not see any of the dwarven ones.

The inventory is a basic-paper doll system allowing you to drag and drop equipment onto your hero from your inventory. An interesting addition is the sentient artifact . In the demo we watched the character had a "dragon smite sword" that actually rebelled and tried to leave the player's inventory when dragons were put into the army. Another thing we saw was an intelligent dwarven hammer that had issues with the character's elven wife.

Combat, as shown in the video above, is a simple turn based proposition played out on a hex map. Like in the original and in the Heroes of Might and Magic system soldiers are grouped up by their types. Each soldier has special abilities while the hero supports with spells, magic and attacks.

Most of the game is played in the "adventure phase" in real time. During this you will travel across the land with your army and seek out side quests, more soldiers to recruit and explore the map. Failure to pause the game can be treacherous as enemies do patrol the map and will seek you out.

Graphics are DX9 based. They are very bright, colorful and almost radiant at times, giving King's Bounty a very nice high fantasy, cartoonish feel. We did not get a chance to really test out the sound unfortunately but the adventuring music was standard fantasy, pseudo-medieval or pseudo-renaissance background music while the battle music was filled with brass and bass.

The upshot is that Atari is bringing us a light, fun adventure RPG with some great real time combat elements. King's Bounty was one of my first loves on the Genesis and I am glad to see that the name is finally alive and well again. Anyone who enjoyed the original will find themselves able to jump right in while fans of games like Heroes of Might and Magic will also find something they can enjoy. It looks to have multiple possible paths for a good degree of replayability. King's Bounty has already been released in Europe to high reviews so we will see how it is received here in the US.

King's Bounty: The Legend was developed by Russian developer Katauri Interactive, published by 1C Publishing and localized for the United States by Atari. The release date is slated as late September with a street price of $39.99. The system requirements are not yet available but the game is DirectX9 based.

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