The King’s Bounty series started life many years ago, eventually maturing to the likes of Heroes of Might & Magic, classic games that are still talked of to this day. This King’s Bounty is basically a pack containing the Armoured Princess stand-alone game with Champion of the Arena, Defender of the Crown, Orcs on the March and a bundled game editor.
To bring those who aren’t familiar with the Armoured Princess storyline up to date, and because upon installing and loading it’s the first of the Crossworlds pack to be highlighted, the story goes something like this:
Amelie, a princess, a warrior, defender of her kingdom, scantily clad and a very well proportioned young lady is embarking on a quest to find her long lost mentor and all round good-guy, Bill Gilbert. With his help and knowledge, she can stop the attack of the Arch-Demon Baal, who as you can gather, isn’t a very nice chap. To cut a long, and very tedious, story short the Princess travels through a portal into the uncharted world of Teana, which would be a very nice place if it weren’t for the armies of terrible creatures, monsters, lizardmen, the undead, wolves, bears and odd plants that look like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, why is this always the case? Anyway, Amelie has to raise an army and level up enough to solve the various mini-quests that scatter the land so she can go back and defeat Baal. Did I mention that she is scantily clad and well proportioned?
One cold shower later and you get to pick what kind of young lady Amelie is. A warrior? A paladin? Or a mage? I won’t go into what each character definition does, but I think it’s fairly safe to say, they speak for themselves. A brief introduction and chat with old Dad (the King), followed by the basic tutorial and we go through the portal and end up in Teana, where you get to choose your first companion, a young pet dragon. Choose him well, as different dragons have different abilities. Don’t be fooled by his (or her) Pokemon-cute-appearance, this dragon levels up incredibly quickly and will sway the battle in your favour when in combat. You control the princess as she rides around the islands that make up the world of Teana in a bird’s eye view RTS-style.
These different islands are teeming with quests and hidden treasures as well as the aforementioned unpleasant nasties. Come across a quest and you enter a dialogue with the quest character. This is lead by reading huge amounts of text and responding with a set of pre-defined questions. Once you get what information you can from the character your quest log is updated and off you go in search of whatever it is he or she wanted. When you eventually run into an enemy (which won’t be long) you are given an icon above their head with some text indicating their strength compared to yours, weaker, equal, stronger all the way up to invincible. Deciding to go up against a stronger opponent will mean a nice amount of gold and experience points, but the chances of you winning become as slim as a supermodel.
Combat is quite a neat feature in the King’s Bounty set and is the same throughout the other expansions in Crossworlds. You don’t actually go into combat, meaning that you don’t see the princess getting her, ample, exposed flesh dirty. What you do instead is, during your travels, recruit various creatures, men, knights, pirates and so on. Buying more of these recruits will improve your defence and attack prowess, but you are limited to the number by the level of your leadership. Riding head long into an enemy will trigger a turn-based tactical battle played over a set of hexagons. Each recruit has a limited amount of moves to ‘spend’ and most have special attacks or abilities to aid you in battle. Move your recruit towards the enemy and if they are in range they attack delivering, depending on their attack points versus the enemy defence points, an amount of damage inflicted on the opponent. Your pet dragon sits on the sidelines and stands ready to unleash a barrage of different abilities, such a dive bomb, crushing blow and the ability to make the enemy units boil in lava. Nice. Each hit on the enemy army, or your own, kills off members so after a victory it’s always best to return to a known supplier of recruits and hire some more. Although it sounds and looks daunting, it’s very Final Fantasy and doesn’t take too long to get into.
There are huge numbers of spells to learn, each will either decimate the enemy or replenish your own troops, so after a time you begin to consider the losses in battle and start to strategically employ any number of spells and dragon skills to considerably weaken the opponent to reduce the damage on your army.
KB:AP lasts for hours, with tons of quests, battles, gold collecting, levelling up… The list goes on, in a very nice RPG fashion. Reach the inner workings of the game and you eventually come across the obligatory bosses – who are satisfactorily huge and very difficult to beat – all, of course, leading up to old Baal himself.
That said, what about the other additions to Crossworlds? Well, to be fair, it’s much of the same, but with the additions of different monsters, story lines, spells and weapons. Champion of the Arena dispenses with the story and instead throws you into battle after battle with increasingly nightmarish creatures. The option of joining different guilds allows you to hire troops with various fighting styles and abilities, and believe me you’ll need them as the bosses are bigger and badder. Get through that lot and you become the champion of the arena – exactly what it says on the tin.
In Defender of the Crown, were back with Amelie again, still dressed in very little but victorious over the demon Baal. This time she’s fighting through her kingdom to achieve the title of Defender of the Crown (I guess that why they called it that?) Although much like KB:AP, it has a lot of the big fight scenes from KB:CotA – think of DotC as the finale to the Amelie story. It’s very good and immerses you for another good many hours of play. Fans of the KB:AP will love this epilogue and will no doubt be found in the wee hours tinkering away at the levelling up of the princess and her army.
The final addition to Crossworlds (apart from the map editor) is the Orcs on the March – which is basically an expansion pack for KB:AP. Teana is threatened by Red Scrounger, an orc leader who craves more power and will unleash a terrible force that can destroy the world. This expansion offers more units, better locales and improved graphics. It’s a worthy addition to KB:AP and will offer those who have just completed AP a reason to get back into the fray.
The game editor pretty much says it all really. You can edit your little heart out and turn the whole KB:AP upside down if you wish. It’s fairly easy to get into, with a decent enough help system, but as I’m about as artistic as a hippo I soon found myself making a mess of everything. Which is why I play games and not design them – I leave that for more clever people.
Graphically the KB:Crossworlds series is very good, with nicely drawn landscapes which would make World of Warcraft cast an envious glance over. The combat system is similarly pretty, with zoom-ins and action replays for killing strokes.
The music and sounds are matched nicely with the fantasy genre and blend into the background enough to be unnoticeable after a while but whilst still keeping the look and feel.
Overall, I enjoyed playing King’s Bounty: Crossworlds. The story was immense enough to keep me interested, and I must say that, despite the long dialogues to read, there were very few mistakes which, to me, is a mark of excellent quality control. There has been a lot of thought put into these games and expansions and it would be a shame for them to languish in obscurity, but as with most RPG type games of this ilk, there’s a lot of competition and a solid fan-base to attract. On the whole though, a very good compilation.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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