Tuesday, 4 February 2014

King's Bounty (Amiga)

Super Adventures in Gaming Replay 2014 - Game 5

King's Bounty Amiga title screen
Long long ago in the year of 2011, I took a look at a game called King's Bounty. It wasn't a long look though; in fact I only made it to four screenshots before I realised that it wasn't my kind of thing and turned it off. I think I just wanted to show off the character select screen really and that was about the limit of my interest.

But since then I've learned that this game is actually a precursor to the long running Heroes of Might and Magic series as well as a new King's Bounty franchise. It even got a PS2 remake called Heroes of Might and Magic: Quest of the Dragon Bone staff. I know even less about HoMM than I do about King's Bounty so it's not like I can compare the games, but it's triggered my curiosity now; I want to know what this actually is.

So I present to you an idiot's guide to playing King's Bounty. Uh, I mean a guide to how an idiot plays King's Bounty. The game came out on PC, Genesis/Mega Drive, C64 and Amiga, and I'll be playing the Amiga game as I've heard that it's the better looking one.

I'm getting the worst kind of deja-vu here. The WORST kind. This time though I've decided to give you extra value and show off how this character select screen looks on four different versions of the game.

But do I pick the bloke with the beard, the man with the moustache, the badass barbarian with black bin bags on his feet, or the dude with the dress?

I have no idea which one I went with the first time around but this time I'm choosing... 'D'. The Sega version gave each hero a predefined unchangeable name like Sir Crimsaun the Knight and Tynnestra the Sorceress, but on the Amiga version I can call them whatever I like, so I'm going to name my barbarian 'Christopher J. Axslaughterer III'.

It didn't fit so I called him Murray instead.

I don't know if I should be relieved or concerned that they're performing godlike actions to make the game playable. I mean sure I love playable games, but the fact that it takes the intervention of the gods to make the thing even work is definitely raising a red flag.

Hey it looks just like the Sega version. I'm on a horse, surrounded by castles and cryptic icons. Oh, and a frame. I've never liked it when games put a frame around the game screen like this, makes me feel like I'm looking at a TV inside a TV.

Okay, I'm going to try something right now that apparently didn't even occur to me back in 2011, an advanced trick that I've picked up over my three years of being a rogue game critic. I'm going to CLICK on the buttons and see what they all do.
  • The first one tells me that I have no contract, which seems to be something I'd want to have.
  • Second button tells me that I command an army of 20 Wolves. Better than 0 Wolves for sure, but I think that's something I want to expand upon.
  • Third button informs me that I have no magic and that I need to go visit the Archmage Aurange at 11,19 to learn spellcasting. Hopefully I'll be able to travel more than two steps without being told I need to learn horse riding as well.
  • Fourth option brings up a grid of animated faces. I may never know why.
  • And the last option shows my stats. I have leadership 100, 7500 gold, and I've got a current score of 0.
So now I have four goals: 1. Save the Kingdom within 600 days. 2. Get a contract. 3. Raise an army. 4. Become a badass magician. I suppose the first thing to do though is ride into town and see what I can do with all this gold I'm dragging around.

Awesome, well there's one goal sorted out right away. I'll hire 10 Pikemen and 10 Archers, and get rid of 5500 gold in one fell swoop.

I requested an audience with the King to try to get some information about this whole '600 days left to save the Kingdom' thing, but he's refusing to help me until I catch a villain.

After leaving the big castle to the north, I travelled to the tiny castle in the south east and discovered it was a separate town, with separate menu options. I've no idea what the deal with that skeleton is, but it doesn't seem to be bothering anyone and there's no quests here asking me to kill it. I guess if the townsfolk are happy to leave it stabbing at the invisible membrane separating our dimension from the rest of the multiverse, then it's none of my business.

Well I can't afford the siege weapons any more after splashing out on troops, I can't cast spells and I've got no need of a boat, but I sure would like to get a nice new contract.

You're shitting me, the first contract in the game is called Murray? I swear to you I did not know about this when I named my barbarian, this is pure coincidence.

Alright then, a 5000 gold bounty sounds awesome. That's almost as much cash as I just spent on troops! Hey if this guy's wanted for treason, maybe this is the King's bounty. Well I don't see how capturing this guy is going to help me save the Kingdom, but it's something to do.

Right, now I'm back out on the world map, searching for treasonous misers. I remember from the Sega game that the other characters on the map are enemies, but in that game they'd come and chase me in real time. In these other versions they seems to be following roguelike rules: only taking a step when I do.

Walking into him triggered a yes/no screen asking me if I'd like to attack and giving me some info on his forces. My scouts assure me that he's got many Sprites, a few Wolves and a few Zombies. I'm hoping 'a few' is less than a hundred or else this fight is going to be kinda one-sided.

Okay, those seem like numbers I can work with. My guys are on the left, their guys are on the right, we're taking turns one unit at a time, and my Wolves go first.


SOON.


I've chosen to move each of my units as far forward as they can go, but now I'm kinda regretting it as I've just remembered that Archers tend to shoot at enemies from a distance. Not that it matters much to the 20 Sprites, who spent their first action point teleporting behind me and their second killing one of my Pikemen!

But in a shocking turn of events, my Pikemen then retaliated during the enemy's turn, killing ALL TWENTY SPRITES in one hit. It wasn't even my move! I'm going to have to think very carefully about who I send my men to hit if it always leads to a instant free counter-attack like this.

AHA, I've figured out how to shoot arrows at people! There's a drop down menu hidden up here. Very sneaky, New World Computing, but it'll take more than that to force me to read the manual. I can also just press S on the keyboard though.

Only 325 gold? I'll need that just to replace the Pikeman I lost! What a total waste of my time.

Beyond the enemy troops I've found another town and a wagon. Pretty exciting.

Well the town here is pretty similar to the last one I found, so that's not much use to me, but the wagon is offering me 100 peasants for 10 gold each. Hmm, 100 troops for the price of 3 Pikemen? Why I'd be mad to pass up such a deal! Wait, what's the opposite of mad? I meant sane... I'd be sane to pass up such a deal, because those soldiers will probably have the less combat effectiveness than a pile of 100 Styrofoam cups. At least those could contain scolding hot coffee, or bees, or something.

Though if I could convince them to march out into the battlefield, then drop their pitchforks on the ground as a line of morale-destroying comedy traps and make a run for it, I think that could work. It'd be like a cross between Lord of the Rings and that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps walking into rakes. Epic.


BUT THEN, A FEW STEPS ACROSS THE WORLD MAP LATER.


Alright, this is ridiculous. I'm against just two Trolls here, but the bastards just won't die! All my attacks are worse than futile, they give the Trolls a free attack on me. Aside from firing arrows, every move I can make will only hurt my own troops, and the arrows are useless. It's only the second fight in the game! 

Well quitting the fight didn't make me lose the game at least. Wait, my character got a lesson in tactics, but not me? Well I sure hope he lets me in on some of things he was taught or else my next fight is likely going to go just as badly.

I've got 20 free Peasants and 2325 gold to buy other troops, which means I can afford a fighting force less than half as powerful as my last one. So basically just 8 Archers then.


LATER, IN THE NEXT FIGHT.


The enemy Sprites wiped out my entire squad of 20 Peasants in their first move... but then the dead Peasants retaliated and killed 15 Sprites. It seems that not even death can stand in the way of the automatic counter-attack.

My Archers are far more resilient than peasants, but they're getting hammered by three enemy units at once here and they can't fire arrows when an enemy is in an adjacent tile. They have a backup melee attack though fortunately, so I'm not out of the fight.

Well I survived the battle with 7 Archers left and got a massive 375 gold for my trouble. I'll be rebuilding my army in no time! Except I won't, because I've gotten myself trapped between two enemy squads on the world map and it doesn't look like I'll be talking my way out of this.

Unfortunately the enemy army this time contained four Dwarves, who weren't quite as unstoppable as the Trolls, but were more than a match for my handful of Archers. The King wasn't happy when he found me back at the castle without my army again, but he reissued my commission regardless, the dumb fool.

I spent my last few coins on four Militia, ran back out, got them slaughtered, then quit the game. Ain't no glory left in Murray the Barbarian's future.


A FEW MINUTES LATER.


Ragequit the Barbarian here on the other hand is a fucking god of war, taking on every enemy effortlessly using a combination of advanced tactics like 'sending the Pikemen in' and 'not fighting Trolls'.

He's even found a Ring of Heroism and a piece of the map to the stolen sceptre! Though I have to admit, this is the first I've heard about a sceptre being stolen.

King's Bounty Commodore 64 title screen
Commodore 64
The C64 version's title screen is making a whole lot more sense to me now though. That dragon isn't coming out of a portal to bust out some sick rhymes on the mic, he's stealing a sceptre! Well that's killed all my hopes of the last fight being an epic fantasy rap battle then.

Hang on, I think the map piece has gotten me something at least.

The bottom left block on my wall of animated heads has been replaced with a map piece! Now I get what this grid of faces means, it's a visual list of all the things I need to do to get the remaining map pieces! There's my old friend Murray the Miser down on the bottom right between the book and the anchor, so I'm guessing that the other faces are probably bounties too.


LATER.


As you can tell, battles have become a lot more exciting as I've gotten further into the game. Look, there's trees now!

I've held onto my three starting units a lot longer with this character, so I'm still commanding 10 Archers, 20 Wolves and 10 Pikemen... well almost. I'll need to remember to backtrack to the castle after this to heal them buy replacements to make up the numbers.

Generally speaking, the enemy units with less soldiers (like Dwarves) are the tougher ones, so I've been moving my tough Pikeman up to engage them, while my fragile Wolves keep the Peasants and Sprites away from the Archers. If I can get rid of these Barbarians, that'll free my Archers up to start taking shots at the enemy Orcs firing at me from the other side of the map. Then they can try (and probably fail) to help the Pikeman take down the Dwarves. It's gonna be a long slugging match between those guys.

1525 gold for winning though!

Hey, I've found a hidden treasure chest (it wasn't that hidden, you could probably see the thing from space.) I don't know what leadership does, but if 2 points of it is worth 100 gold then I probably want to be taking every opportunity to raise it. On the other hand, 100 gold...

Oh fine I'll take the points. I've always wanted to bribe peasants to respect me more.


SOON.


Hey, I've found an enemy castle and I've got the option to lay siege to it! I immediately chose to not do that, as it would be reckless and risk jeopardising all the progress I've made so far. Then I saved the game and chose 'yes'. Not that it mattered in the end, seeing as I need those 3000 gold siege weapons to break in.

Right, back to town then lads, I'm gonna spend all my precious money in one go like an idiot.


ONE TRIP TO THE TOWN AND BACK AGAIN LATER.


The King just gave me 2000 coin just for walking back and forth across the countryside for a week? I knew there was a reason I voted for that guy! Well, my soldiers have taken a good chunk of my cash away as salary, but what's left over should be be enough to pay for their replacements after I get half of them killed, so I'm happy.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, sieging a castle. The 'Gather information' option in towns gives me some advanced knowledge of what I'll be facing in one of the castles, but I don't think anyone's told me about what's in this particular one. As long as it's not Trolls though I'm sure I'll be fine.

Aw crap. I don't know what those guys with the clubs are called, but there's only two of them and that is a big warning sign.

My Wolves are first up, so I'll move them next to the enemy Wolves with my first two action points, then spend the final one engaging them in combat. 14 vs 5 seems like something I'll likely be walking away from. Then I'll shoot the Gnome wizards on the left with my Archers and send my Pikemen up to stand next to both them and the Orc archers, blocking them both from using ranged attacks.

Then my Wolves will inevitably get wiped out, while buying a little time for my Pikemen to kill everything else single-handedly. Either that or those two Ogres with the clubs will destroy the Pikemen and then it's over for me.

SUCCESS!

My arch-nemesis Murray wasn't here, but I did get 1450 gold for my trouble and a shiny new castle. No bloody clue what the castle gets me though. I'm starting to get the feeling I just threw away 3k and 20 soldiers for a 1.5k return.

I have the option to garrison some troops here, but I'm done with throwing good cash away on things I don't understand yet. I'll hold onto my 1800 gold's worth of Pikemen and 2500 gold's worth of Archers thanks.


LATER.


Okay I've done a bit more exploration, but it seems I'm running out of places to go on my little island. I've gotten a few more treasure chests but I haven't found any more map piece items (or misers called Murray for that matter). Though I have found out that this place is called the continent of Continentia.

Hmm, I'm at X=13 and Y=16 huh? What were the numbers for the Archmage again? X=11, Y=19... hey, I'm practically standing next to him.

Only 5000 gold, huh? How could I say no!

Oh fine I'll say yes. I didn't want all that hard earned money I've been saving up anyway.


SEVERAL HUNDRED MOMENTS LATER.


I found some Orc archers camp on my travels as well, so now I can recruit them as well. I would've rather had a second group of Pikemen, but anything's better than the Militia units. Anything is also better than the Peasants and Sprites that the other side has left, so this fight may well be over before they can even reach my units.

But that doesn't mean I can't break out some of my new sorcery to make things interesting!

Oh, I can't actually break out sorcery because I have no spells. They cost a fortune for just a single cast, so I haven't been buying any of the ones from the towns I've come across so far. What was I going to do with 'Bridge' and 'Raise Control' anyway? I mean seriously, what do they even do? The game isn't giving me any hints.

I mean okay I can probably make a educated guess at what Bridge might do, but who needs to waste a spell to cross a lake when I could just hire a ship? Actually there's a thought...

Well I guess I've exhausted my adventuring opportunities on this little corner of the world. The enemy units on the map don't seem to respawn and it's getting very quiet here. It's time for me to drop 500 coin on a boat and go travel the ocean in search of new lands to plunder. I mean save.

Look at those poor sailors row their little hearts out. I should probably give the raise anchor command already before they drop from exhaustion.


EVENTUALLY.


And so my valiant crew sailed the seas in search of new challenges and vaster sums of cash. We circumnavigated the world, won many battles, looted many treasure chests, found another piece of the sceptre map and even won the loyalty of an army of skeleton warriors. Still haven't found that bastard Murray though! But at least I understand the game a lot better now, so I think this is a good place to call it a day.


CONCLUSION

King's Bounty isn't really my kind of game, but I can see the appeal. If I didn't have to run back home after every fight or so to replace my dead soldiers I probably would've liked it more, but that's probably my own fault for lacking the numbers to crush my foes immediately. It also doesn't help that you really can show off this game with only four screenshots after all. There's the title screen, the town/castle, the world map, and the battle screen, and that's 90% of what you'll be seeing for the rest of the game.

The battles all take place on a similar 6x5 grid and that doesn't take long to get old, especially when there's no XP reward for success. I figured out that increasing my leadership stat lets me field more troops in each unit, but leadership is gained through finding treasure chests (or completing bounties apparently), so individual battles are only about money in the end, which I get automatically each week for doing absolutely nothing. Plus I ended up spending most of my victory earnings on replacing the troops I'd lost in the fight anyway, so most battles really were pointless.

At least the music isn't bad, though that's only because there isn't really any, not in the computer versions anyway. The Sega version has a soundtrack and listening to it again (youtube link) makes me realise why I quit so soon first time around.

For what it's worth I personally didn't dislike the game, but it didn't exactly draw me in either. I give out 'Gold Star For Not Being Crap' awards for games that I'd want to keep playing and this comes close to qualifying... but it fails at the cookie test. If someone offered me just one single chocolate chip cookie to quit the game forever and never turn it back on again, I would take the cookie and run. Sorry King's Bounty.

(I would also vow to quit the game forever for a Bounty chocolate bar).


There you go, another 32 hand picked screenshots and a hundred words for each, what more could you want? I mean that seriously, so leave a comment, let me know what you think about King's Bounty, the King's Bounty/Heroes of Might and Magic series, my site, etc. All feedback will be processed by a vast computer network and saved in a virtual data-safe for future generations to study and learn from.

7 comments:

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this, my favourite article this year so far! Your experience mirrors my own back in the day also, except for your logical deduction that standing still is the best course of action XD!

    Murray the Miser went free though, the kingdom is doomed :(.

    ReplyDelete
  2. It looks like King's Bounty has a fun formula going, so it's good to know that the HOMM games rebuilt it into something heftier. They added bigger battlefields, XP, stat-boosting landmarks, spells to cast in combat, building up the castles, and also they turned it into a strategy game with other sides to fight. You can still tell where the HOMMs game from, they have things like treasures that you can keep or distribute to the peasants.

    Then another group rebuilt the original game again. King's Bounty: The Legend is a strange RPG/strategy thing where there's no time limit to save the kingdom and you just run around solving quests and beating up unmoving monsters. It has oodles of that oddly-translated Eastern European quirkiness. The kind where you marry a woman who turns into a frog and go fight a gremlin inside your own belt.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I never played this back in the day so I was surprised to see how much of Heroes of Might and Magic I recognised in it. Or rather, how the series doesn't seem to have progressed very far in all those years!

    I'm intrigued by the C64 version. It's probably not very good but I'd be interested to see how it compares.

    ReplyDelete
  4. yer doing a great job this days with the replays! this is one of the funniest reviews here, you have an interesting perspective of whats going on the game

    ReplyDelete
  5. Aurange may be a powerful archmage, but we shouldn't forget about Raide the knight, or Bloo the rogue. And there's also Brauwn the wizard and Ielo the paladin. Truly forces to be reckoned with.

    And God, that Megadrive version's music is horrible!

    ReplyDelete
  6. w00t just managed to do impossible difficulty(200 days) with 2 days left!! (DOS ver.)

    ReplyDelete

Semi-Random Game Box